In this book, the author studies people from different fields: sportspersons, football managers, shoppers, statisticians, compulsive gamblers, army men, advertising and marketing people, patients with neurological disorders, children of drug addicts, pop musicians, psychologists, doctors and nurses, employees of Starbucks, gay activists, civil rights activists, spiritual leaders, CEO of an Aluminium company and many more. There are people like the Olympic champion Michael Phelps, who has achieved excellence by cultivating good habits from childhood and there are others who messed up their lives due to bad habits. And then there are those, who almost destroyed their lives due to bad habits but turned their lives around, not by positive thinking or miracles but by doing small things everyday, which eventually changed their lives in a big way.
The research in the book is really good. To research so deeply across so many fields requires a lot of passion and intelligence. The writing style is pretty good too…Charles doesn’t preach or talk about impractical stuff. He has a big idea which is actually very simple but quite profound.
Coming to the idea itself: Charles says that we can change a lot in our lives if we change our habits. He has developed a scientific method which is again quite simple. He recommends a technique to understand the nature of habits. For example: If you have a habit of eating junk food frequently then after you finish eating, just write down what you feel. Fifteen minutes after eating, ask yourself this question: Do you want more? If the answer is yes, then it’s not junk food that you want…you are probably bored or you are depressed or maybe it’s something else. Apply this to everything. Do you actually crave the thing you are addicted to? Or is it something else that you want?
He gives an example of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that helps alcoholics in getting sober. One thing that alcoholics like about getting drunk is the socializing that happens at bars. So Alcoholics Anonymous strongly focuses on building bonds. Charles says that to beat a bad habit, you have to restructure the new habit in such a way that you get a reward that is similar to what you got from the old one. The best part about this book is that Charles doesn’t stop here. He even analyzes the patterns of social habits!
If you are keen on understanding your behavior, your organization, or the society at large, then this book is for you. It will give you some amazing insights into something that controls your life, without your awareness.