book review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

book review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I recently ordered an interesting selection of books from Amazon: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

Each of these books seems to have a discussion of samskara at its core. Samskara are the impressions that unconscious (or even conscious) living leaves on our minds, our bodies, our being as we repeat behaviors, tasks, thoughts. Doing the same things over and over again creates grooves and eventually ruts in our consciousness.  One of the tasks of yoga is to shine a light on our conditioning so that we can recognize when we’re living in a robotic state and perhaps decide to change our behavior, to get out of the rut, and change our habits.

Written by Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, The Power of Habit discusses how individuals form habits (samskara), the role the brain has in forming and maintaining our habits, and the means by which we can change our habits. It then pulls out in scope to look at the habits of successful organizations and the habits of societies. It seems to be exhaustingly researched (50 pages of end notes detail Duhigg’s research), but ever-so-easy to read, grasp and use as an inspirational tool (even though I don’t think Duhigg had that intention, per se). At the core of his research is the idea that for every habit there is a cue that triggers the habit, the habit itself, a reward that comes from doing the habit, and a correlative craving that gets established once we receive a certain amount of rewards. Once the craving cycle forms, we’ve got a conditioned habit, a samskara.

Check out the video to hear Duhigg talk about how he shifted a samskara using the information he uncovered about how the brain forms habits. And look through his website to learn more about how he got interested in habits in the first place. If knowing how your brain works in forming habits interests you, I highly recommend his book. I’ve found it to be an engrossing read.

What habit would you like to change?

Letitia Walker
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