Through the use of storytelling, academic studies, and interviews, Mr. Duhigg, a reporter for The New York Times, entered the world of habits, the impact of habits, the power of habits, and what it takes to change the habits that encase our lives and culture.
Duhigg considered the routine of habits from three large frameworks: (1) how habits emerge within individual lives, (2) habits of successful companies and organizations, and (3) the habits of societies. Within the context of each chapter, he attempted to work from a central argument: “habits can be changed, if we understand how they work” (pp. 1, 2).
Whether you are a pastor, an administrator, an academic, or a layperson, life as we know it is a conglomeration of decisions, habits, and addictions. This process tends to be done somewhat mindlessly until we recognize that maybe the direction we are going needs to change (i.e., our devotional life, use of money, family time, diet, exercise, leadership model, organizational culture).
Mr. Duhigg provided a method of changing a habit. One must establish a “keystone habit” which involves “identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers” (p. 101). These priorities will help when willpower is weak. He suggested that if one could understand the cues that have established the sequence of a present habit, and then begin to establish a different sequence of “cravings” or “addictions” toward a desired outcome, the ability to create a new habit comes more easily.
The brain must cope with a voluminous amount of input every moment of every day. Habits form so that the brain can work on multiple stimuli simultaneously. But when a different outcome is desired, new habits must be formed. Understanding the “habit loop” becomes critical: “cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward” (p. 19). A habit loop establishes belief—belief that change can take place. “Belief seems crucial” to creating a craving for a new habit (p. 85).
The Power of Habit, however, neglects to address the breadth of literature on addictions versus habits, historical literature on habit formation and change, or a biblical perspective of habits. the author also used a shallow definition of “habits” and “addictions” (sometimes interchangeably), which seemed to lead more to opinion than fact.
It is important for any human to have an understanding of habits, how they are formed, the impact they have, and how to change unwanted or destructive habits. Duhigg underscores this by pointing out that a Duke University researcher found “that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits” (p. 2). can habits be changed? Yes. However, Duhigg’s remedies are not the “cure-all” for changing negative habits and addictions or creating positive ones.
Despite my reservations, i recommend this book for those looking to better understand the role of habit formation and the impact of habits on our lives and organizations.
PASTOR BILL MILLER is a Doctor of Ministry student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and serves as the President of the Potomac Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.