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The Power of Habit

In ancient times they used to say that consuetudo est altera natura. This means that a person usually has the second nature created by a custom of doing something and turning routine into a set of habits. Presently, Charles Duhigg, says that habits are important as they have a great influence on an individual, however, an individual may change habits. Duhigg published a book under the title The Power of Habit: Why We Do in Life and Business(2014). The reporter for The New York Times studies the subject of habits and states that habits may determine the way people live.

Charles Duhigg employs a number of scientific studies and interviews. He gives examples of personal stories that illustrate how habits work. According to the material, the author regards a habit as an action that brain does automatically as a result of accepted patterns. A hypothesis presented in the book explain that habits evolve with people during the whole life and are considered to be an instrument of improvement. Scientists share an opinion that habits “emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort” (Duhigg, 2014, p. 12). The learns to develop practically any routine into a habit because it allows decreasing the number of things that may be performed without conscious thoughts. These measures are undertaken by the brain for the purpose of saving mental energy. Practice turns complex tasks such as driving a car into the second nature. This is an advantage. However, the science of habits is based on analyses of different routines. The focus is often placed on disadvantages of habits because the latter may have such an influence on people’s lives that sometimes destruction of ambitions or characters may happen. For instance, habits of smoking and overeating present danger. Many people would be glad to break bad habits and acquire good ones. In his book, Duhigg states that this may be done successfully. He guides people to experiment with their habits, explaining the main framework of actions.

This concept partly finds its realization in the description of the structure of habits. The structure is particularized in a cue, routine, and reward. A cue may be perceived as a trigger that determines which habit is used in every situation. When the brain recognizes circumstances and switches to the automatic mode, the routine is done. For instance, one may automatically drink a cup of coffee, go for a walk, drive or do other things. There is also the third element that is a reward. A reward is crucially important because this is a stimulus that the brain needs in order to remember a habit in the future. The loop may also be used to undo a habit.

Duhigg (2014) claims that one can change habits and improve some individual features. It is noted that a habit can be reshaped within its framework. With some effort and time that require recognizing a routine, experiments with rewards, and isolation of a cue, almost any habit may be modified. Furthermore, when one changes a habit, the brain adapts to this. When a sequence of actions is converted into an automatic response, the process known as chunking occurs. There may be hundreds of simple and complex behavioral chunks. All of them are incorporated in neurons of the brain. Duhigg illustrates how signals related to automatization may be intercepted on the examples of patients with habitual problems and experiments on rats. These different schematic representations and descriptions emphasize that there is a direct link between habits, brain, and life in general. The author pays close attention to habits. This partly shows a habit of his thoughts.

The book is thoroughly structured. It is divided into specific sections which relate to habitual scenarios of individuals, enterprises, and societies. Each chapter of the book is devoted to different cases. According to the information given by the author, “the reporting in this book is based on hundreds of interviews, and thousands more papers and studies” (Duhigg, 2014, p. 119). This is one of the book’s strengths. This research is conducted to see the concept of habit from every possible aspect. Unfortunately, too many stories make it rather difficult to grasp the meaning and concentrate on the topic. The rubric of habits serves as an umbrella for the story of Lisa who managed to change her life when she broke her habit of smoking, and a man whose life was broken when habits were the only thing his mind could perform. Here, one may also read about the way coffee is served in Starbucks and how the brain of a mouse responds to chocolate as a reward during the process of a new habit construction. Apart from the compilation of information from different fields, there is also a certain discrepancy in the level of data. The audience may not be prepared to read about experiments on neurology, for example. Obviously, such an approach gives an opportunity to gather a structure of habits and their models. Thus, the inside and outside look is a strength of the book.

On the whole, Duhigg is optimistic about changing habits. His attitude and work may serve as lessons for people who struggle with their habits. Then main message of the book finds its particularization in the idea that life should be more educational. Generally, this implies that people have a set of habits which they follow unconsciously. If one pays attention to those habits, one is able to collect the errors in mind and learn to change bad habits into associates of the future success. The theory may be followed at the example of Starbucks Coffee Company and their behavior policy, for example, a latte habit. Thus, habits are applied in everyday life just as a mode and range in statistics. In this case, a habit is an element that appears most frequently in a set of daily actions. Habit is an important measure for people as it identifies the items that are most common, such as a mode. This information may be used, for instance, in order to anticipate the behavior patterns of an individual and societies.

It is necessary to emphasize that there are many habits and ways to manipulate them and turn into an advantage. One should take into consideration that more than two hundred pages that include a description of mechanism of a habit formation and change do not mean that the process is easy. Hard work is required to accomplish a change. What the book says is that the task is possible and sometimes necessary. Self-destructive habits should be replaced with alternatives. Determination is needed and it is worth the effort.

The book The Power of Habit: Why We Do in Life and Business is both entertaining and helpful. Charles Duhigg shows that understanding habits is a subtle science. The importance of the work is in the analysis of habits and further prognosis regarding the matter of their change. Habits are not monumental elements of a person. The main lesson of the book is that habits should be embraced as instruments of saving mental energy and in some cases reshaped into the means of improving life.

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