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Book Review: ‘The Power of Habit’

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The key to breaking a habit is to first identify a cue. Maybe.

The Details

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg, $28

Cue, routine, reward. That’s how New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg sees the world. All habits, Duhigg says, can be broken up into those three components. We drive by the Golden Arches; we imagine fries in our mouths; we stuff our faces. In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg argues that the key to breaking a habit is to first identify the cue—sometimes that’s harder than it seems—and then substitute the routine for another. So instead of buying a cookie from the cafeteria every day, we should socialize with our friends sans dessert. Maybe we’re not really hungry; maybe we’re just bored.

Duhigg applies this formula to everything from Pepsodent toothpaste sales to Alcoholics Anonymous success rates. He does so in entertaining fashion. He’s an engaging writer … and that’s why it took me so long to realize I didn’t really like the book. The writing is great, but the actual information is old news. Try chewing gum every time you want a cigarette? I knew that. We all knew that.

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