Review: The Power of Habit


Quick: What did you do this morning? Chances are that you did the same thing you did yesterday. We are creatures of routine. “All of our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,” wrote William James in 1892. In many ways, we are the product of the habits we’ve created.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

has a central argument: “Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.” The rest of the book shows how habits work, how to create new habits, and how to change habits. It then applies these lessons to individuals, organizations, and societies in general.

I’ll say one thing about this book: it’s a fun read. I read this book on vacation last week, and it was anything but a chore to read. The stories and insights are fascinating. You can tell a book is good when you want to talk about it with others. A book on habits could be boring; this one isn’t.

In short, habits consist of a cue, a routine, and a reward. Habits never really disappear, but, with work, the routine can be changed. Changing habits is relatively simple, but often very hard as well. It begins with understanding how habits work, and applying that knowledge to the habits that you want to change.

This book reminded me a lot of the teachings of BJ Fogg. If you’re only looking for information on how to change personal habits, that’s all you need. The Power of Habit gave me some new information on individual habits, and a lot of great stories, but the framework is basically the same.

It really was helpful to learn how habits apply to organizations and even societies. I noticed this on the long drive home from our vacation: even fast food establishments have habits, consistent throughout the chain. Some of the habits are a lot nicer than others. If you lead an organization, this part of the book provides valuable and unique insights.

The book uses Saddleback Church as an example of spreading habits throughout a society. In this case, it sees Saddleback as a movement. At first I bristled, but I came around. There are elements of a movement in what Saddleback has created. It was interesting to see a megachurch through the lens of a book like this one.

While this is a useful book, I think it’s important to think not only of habits but of what Jonathan Edwards called affections. The problem is not just our habits. The problem is that our desires are disordered. We want the wrong things. A book like this isn’t meant to deal with these deeper issues, but if you’re interested in really seeing someone change, you have to go there.

I enjoyed this book. Along with the work of BJ Fogg, I now have a greater understanding of habits and how to change them. I’ve read a lot of boring books on interesting topics. I was glad to read an interesting book on what could be a boring topic. Habits shape us; understanding how habits work is an important part of changing the habits we live with every day of our lives.

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Review: The Power of Habit
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada