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Lovers of knowledge and wisdom periodically get an opportunity to read a book that delivers particularly valuable insights.

Such a well-written book is “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg.

Mr. Duhigg uses his talents as a story teller to explain case studies and fascinating research into habits.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessWritten in 2012, he adroitly explains how our habits affect us; and how we can change our habits for success in our lives, businesses and communities.

“A habit is a behavior that starts as a choice, and then nearly becomes a nearly unconscious pattern,” writes Mr. Duhigg, who is also a reporter for The New York Times. He explains how some people have productive habits that lead to positive results.

“Every habit – no matter how simple or complex – has the same structure, a ‘habit loop’,” he explains. “There is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode. Then there is routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional behavior.”

He says we then experience the resulting “reward.”

He skillfully shows if we understand how habit loops work, we can go about the business of changing them for the better.

This means even seemingly insignificant “keystone habits” make a difference for success or failure in a multitude of ways.

“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they often start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives,” Mr. Duhigg writes.

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and getting to work earlier. They smoke less, and show more patience,” he adds.

His book provides such informative principles that are illustrated in case studies, such as:

  • Why a habit of “grit” is more important than any other attribute
  • Why dental hygiene was so problematic early in World War I, it was a national security risk – but how Pepsodent’s advertising agent was a catalyst for solving the problem
  • How Starbucks profits by innovating in human resources
  • Why Alcoholics Anonymous is so successful in helping people recover from alcoholism
  • How Target as a retailer knows how to influence consumer spending

Predictive analytics

“At Target, for instance, executives build sophisticated computer programs to analyze shoppers’ habits, and then use that information to figure out what they want to buy,” he explains. “If you use your Target credit card to purchase a box of Popsicles once a week, usually around 6:30 p.m. on a weekday, and mega-sized trash bags every July and October, Target will determine that you have kids at home, tend to shop for groceries on your way back from work, and have a house with a lawn.

“It will look at your other shopping patterns, and notice that you sometimes buy cereal, but never purchase milk – which means that you must be buying it somewhere else,” he writes. “So Target will mail you coupons for 2% milk, as well as for chocolate sprinkles, school supplies, lawn furniture, rakes, and – since it’s likely you’ll want to relax after a long day at work – beer.”

In other words, Target will sense what you want to purchase and take steps to persuade you to buy more products. Target isn’t alone. All big companies use such sophistication to get you to buy products. That’s interesting to people who aren’t familiar with such concepts in this digital age.

Moreover, it’s the comprehensive explanations of habits and how others have transformed themselves that provide hope to people who are struggling to succeed. Just to know it’s possible to develop the right habits for a makeover makes this book noteworthy.

In addition, nonprofits, businesses, and communities falter because of destructive choices and habits of people. They unknowingly give away their power. This book about the power of habit shows how to get it back.

Here’s a Biz Coach tip of the cap to Mr. Duhigg. His book is an excellent resource for you, your employees, family and friends.

The 371-page book is available here.

From the Coach’s Corner, as a student of human nature, I concur with Mr. Duhigg’s insights. What he writes is true. In 1992, I noticed very quickly after I bought a marketing firm how the employee behavior of my new clients could make or break their employers’ advertising campaigns.

It motivated me to expand my services to include proprietary human resources training and other programs. By altering employee habits via training programs to solve the issues impeding the control of costs and quality, the marketing was successful.

Here are resource links:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.



Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.