Since grade school, I have always enjoyed reading. But every life has a season, and over the years there have been those where my life didn’t allow for any more than a magazine at the doctor’s office.
Several years ago, when my kids reached grade school, I aimed to take my reading life back. I set a simple goal – one book per month for a full year. I decided the way to meet my goal was simple math –read at least 10 pages per day. It wasn’t always easy, I found myself squeezing it in while brushing my teeth, sitting at my son’s baseball practice, and right before bed when my eyes were begging to close.
What I didn’t realize, was that I was creating a habit. Now several years later, I often get asked how I am able to read 60-75 books per year. The answer is simple: it’s habit.
The power of habit
What makes Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, so rich is that it puts science to the very scenario I experienced with my reading; but in an incredibly accessible and enjoyable way. Duhigg weaves findings from sociological and psychological research studies with examples from the corporate world. He uses stories of real people to paint a picture about how habits are formed, why they are important and the power they have to change their life, business, or team.
“I give decaf to people who are rude to me”
Starbucks, NASA, Harrah’s Entertainment—these stories are real and impactful. The executives of Starbucks realized that outside of consistent coffee, good service is what kept their customers coming back. Their employees encountered many different kinds of customers and situations on a daily basis, and they recognized the need for consistency in dealing with them. They started training their employees on repeatable “habit loops” on how to deal with conflict, master their emotions and gain willpower – rather than reciprocate anger at upset customers. The executives could then scale across all stores to create a similar experience as they expanded worldwide.
Lighting the fire of change
The thing I will carry most from the book is the idea that once you create small “keystone” habits in your life or team, it will spill over and create widespread change. Duhigg relates that people who start exercising more, start eating healthier and smoke less, go to bed earlier and use credit cards less frequently. Changing one keystone habit is like starting a fire, it spreads—and as Duhigg proves, all habits are malleable; we both choose our habits and have the choice to change them.
Let this book be your spark
The best books tell stories, and what Duhigg has done here is just that. It is excellent non-fiction storytelling around a topic that impacts all of us. If you are a parent, you should read this to help create healthy habits for your children. If you are a leader at work, you should read this to maximize the efficiency of your team. But most importantly, if you are simply someone that wants to make a change in your life – exercise, diet, reading, smoking – you should put this book at the top of your reading list for the holiday season.
Form a new habit and join us next month
In December, Tectonic Advisor’s Managing Director Brad Sanders will review Daniel Kahneman’s 2011 award winning, Thinking, Fast and Slow. In the international bestseller, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.
Click here to meet all the Advisors Shelf book reviewers.