By: Martin Grunburg
While reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (book info below, Random House, February, 2012) with, of course, some intimate knowledge of The Habit Factor® (above left) as a background, I had a strange feeling during certain sections. In fact, there was one section in particular where things felt a little (or a lot) forced, almost like they didn’t fit. I found myself saying, “Did the publishers force Chuck (Charles Duhigg) to insert this paragraph, or did they just do it themselves?”
First, I hope I’m not breaking any written or unwritten code about reviewing a seemingly “competitive” work. For the record, this is NOT a review and I’d like to think the books complement each other fairly nicely. Also, as an aside, I must say what a terrific promotional job Random House has done to bring attention to their book and ultimately the significance of HABIT, which was my mission from the start (see final chapter of The Habit Factor).
One of the main reasons I wrote The Habit Factor® (which was released 15 months before The Power of Habit) was to draw attention to the spectacular, supernatural force of HABIT, which has been either overlooked or is tragically misunderstood in modern society. If you don’t believe that is the case, I encourage you to try this: Find any middle school or high-school student and play a little word-association game. You say to them, “HABIT,” and ask them to say the first thing that comes to their mind. Typically, and, again, tragically, their response is likely to be “smoking,” “drinking,” or “drugs”—associating habit with negative, destructive behaviors.
Chances are nearly 100% they will NOT say, “Habit is my ultimate weapon of achievement. If I consciously forge my habits and deliberately align them with my goals, I’ll be able to achieve nearly any goal I desire.” If you hear anything remotely close to that, drop everything and call or email me right away. I want to know. And, this little exercise isn’t exclusive to youth; feel free to test this among your adult friends and colleagues.
So, The Power of Habit does help in this educational effort. Not as much as I’d like, since there is so little development of the important relationship between habits and goals (achievement theory), but that is just one aspect that makes The Habit Factor® unique by comparison. The Power of Habit does a brilliant job sharing mounds of research and one anecdote after another as well as a well-rounded analysis of exactly how the power of habit impacts our life, our societies and business— all of which provide a startling wake-up-call to the reader.
First, for the record, when it comes to Duhigg and the book, I’m a fan not a hater.
In fact, I am such a fan that I flew up to San Francisco to meet Duhigg at one of his early pre-release book promo events (February 2012) and, upon meeting, I said to him enthusiastically, “Great to meet you! It’s incredible to think there are only two people I know who’ve dedicated years to writing about the subject of HABIT.”
His reply was classic, “Who’s the other?”
Funny stuff, right? Now, mind you, I just assumed he knew me (I did not introduce myself) and/or The Habit Factor (based upon his Twitter account finding/following @TheHabitFactor) months earlier. It sounds like he wasn’t the one who “Followed” (@TheHabitFactor) perhaps his PR team? Hence, my confusion. So, I have to take him for his word that he had no clue about The Habit Factor®.
I will say, it was somewhat hard to believe at the time, since, when anyone comes out with a book on any topic they scour the competitive landscape just to know/understand what is already out there. Which reminds me, it didn’t seem to bother Charles or Random House that there was already a little handbook/guidebook (barely 100 pages) already titled, The Power of Habit (2003) by Jack Hodge. By the way, Jack is pretty happy with the number of accidental purchases (see reviews).
Where The Power of Habit appears to have left many a reader short, comes at the end of the book, when they wonder, “Okay, this is terrific info. So, how can I apply this to build some good habits of my own?” To that end, Duhigg shares his own story in the Appendix (the Appendix?) as though this too was some after-thought by the publisher. [ For a great illustration, check this blog post (Canada’s online legal magazine). She read two books and when it came time to take action she followed THF methodology]
So, there, in the Appendix you will find “A reader’s guide to using these ideas”. After nearly 300 pages of The Power of Habit, the reader receives an example of Duhigg himself mastering his “cookie-in-the-afternoon” habit and just 11 pages in the Appendix about how to “use these ideas”.
He shares that by applying his new found awareness of habit and the “habit loop” which looks like this; cue -> routine ->reward he was able to overcome this habit and lose some weight in the process. So he suggests that the reader too can apply the same awareness and he provides a “framework” which consists of: *Identify the routine * Experiment with rewards *Isolate the cue *Have a plan .
It’s interesting that the only real mention of behavior tracking with the intention of modifying or developing new habits is for the reader to to “take notes”.
*NOTE*: For those looking to modify behavior please know that our experience reveals that the heavily emphasized importance for a “reward” within The Power of Habit (part of the habit loop) is all but negated by the act of tracking itself— which seemingly becomes it’s own reward! Test for yourself!
So, as you might guess, with the absence of any real connection between goal achievement and habit and the lack of any substantial application process/methodology to achieve goals, you begin to wonder just how many people finish The Power of Habit and say, “Huh, I wonder if there are any great HABIT apps to help me build some positive habits?” To which I’d reply, “Why yes, yes there is.”
My primary purpose in writing The Habit Factor® was to deeply explore this seemingly “magical” force—HABIT— and to ensure that, with this understanding, people would be empowered by this new, innovative process to achieve their goals. In fact, The Habit Factor® book was put on hold, so that we could introduce the mobile app (iOS and Android) into this new and exciting marketplace.
Understanding the power of habit, from my perspective, has always been simply a first step toward the real reward which is, of course, “applying” that knowledge in a concrete way to improve our lives. It seems that understanding how to apply and develop positive habits in a methodical way (Habit Alignment) and tracking that progress (Tracking Periods) is too valuable to be relegated to an Appendix. In fact, one could argue, it is the REAL power of habit and the sole purpose of understanding habit.
By the way, this is why I think the two books complement each other so well: If after reading The Habit Factor® you’re still looking for more data to understand just how powerful habits are, read The Power of Habit. If however, you’re looking to understand how to APPLY that power to achieve your own goals and develop new habits, read The Habit Factor®.
This app review of The Habit Factor® Pro, (above) is a perfect example. It appears to come from a reader of The Power of Habit who notes that The Habit Factor app is “the power of habits captured in a very friendly and useful way…”
Notice the reviewer alludes to the Power of “Habits” vs Habit —(plural vs. singular) fairly common “mistake” even among competitive apps (starts with an “L”) trying to capitalize on the books popularity. Too bad those apps don’t appear to understand that subtle and important distinction. Just how important is somewhat subjective of course, but I like to refer to the following Chinese Proverb, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their correct name.”
More “Mindless Trackers”
Today (three years after The Habit Factor® app was released) there are dozens of habit trackers and habit-tracking websites. The irony is that they all actually appear to understand the tracking part of the equation of positive habit development (or, get it just enough to have tried to copy it), but all of them (that would be 100%) are still missing two other critical components to make behavior change really work— education and a methodology. The fact is, none of these trackers (new to the app marketplace) have any educational component, and you’d be hard pressed to find any tied to any proven process or methodology (let alone a bestselling book).
A tech blog recently reviewed The Habit Factor® app and her analysis underscores this point, ( I love her powers of observation!), describing the app as having, “a great pedigree and outstanding tracking abilities.”
The Power of Habit Mystery Tour
So, back to the extremely forced part of The Power of Habit. What’s “funny” is I’m fairly sure it’s likely to only appear forced to about one person on earth, me. If you’re familiar with The Habit Factor®, you know I set up the opening with a “dumb” question – in fact, I pose that it’s so “dumb,” it’s never been asked, at least not according to Google. In fact, I demonstrate its uniqueness with a screen shot of my query within Google (Note: this screen shot is from 2008, somehow I knew I should take one).
“No results found for “Why do habits exist?”
Excerpt from The Habit Factor®: WHY DO HABITS EXIST
That question apparently has never been asked, or maybe just hasn’t been asked enough. If you Google, “Why do humans exist?” you will at least get some search results that will link you to some interesting speculations, but what about the question, “Why do habits exist?”
Enter, The Power of Habit
Note: It is worth reading the proceeding paragraphs in The Power of Habit to get a feel for the flow (in the Introduction)— I’m not going to share those paragraphs here, but that “flow” comes to a grinding halt when this paragraph is introduced (dare I say, inserted). What’s fun is, notice how they managed to interject nearly that exact phrase/search terminology, “Why habits exist?” (“do” is missing) without actually addressing the question itself. Dare I say, brilliant?
[From The Power of Habit-excerpt]
“William James— like countless others, from Aristotle to Oprah—spent much of his life trying to understand WHY HABITS EXIST. But, only in the past two decades have scientists and marketers really begun understanding how habits work— and more important, how they change.” [my caps for effect]
Back to me
Really? They spent their lives trying to understand WHY HABITS EXIST? Somebody, please share with me where in Williams James’, Oprah’s or Aristotle’s published works did they ever ask that exact question? Where did they muse about why do habits exist? Certainly they studied habit; William James could be considered the “father” of the study of habit, much like he is considered the “father” of modern psychology. But, show me where he or they pondered or ever asked, WHY HABITS EXIST?
Trust me — that question is just peculiar enough to stand out as so singular that Google produced ZERO results for that query. Today, with that exact query, you now of course get The Habit Factor® with some “The Power of Habit” conveniently sprinkled in. The “interesting” thing is, other blogs will use that terminology when describing The Power of Habit (book) because Random House has managed to work it into their PR — so even though the book never addresses the question directly, they’ve managed to promote this unique and really “dumb” question. Nicely done.
Now, should YOU be wondering, “Why do habits exist?” there is an answer and, of course, you can find it within The Habit Factor®.
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