Friday, March 30, 2012

book review: the Power of Habit

This is how much I liked The Power of Habit:  I borrowed it from the library, and I took notes.  I decided notes are not enough, so I bought a copy for myself.  I've been enthusiastically sharing this book with friends, and I'm making my husband read it.  This book melds two things that I love:  science  and translating that science into life.  

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, is a book about habits-- what they are, how they are formed, the consequences of habits, and (most interesting to me) how you can change habits and create new ones. I came across an excerpt of this book for this online NYT article about how Target uses statistics to figure out the exact buying habits of each customer, and then predicts future buying habits.  This sounds dry, but Duhigg makes it fascinating.   It is quite eye-opening as to how much humans are creatures of habits-- Duhigg says one study found "more than 40% of actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits."   40%.  That is a lot of life to be floating through on automatic. Habits can be little things, such as always turning right when you enter a store, or more complex, such as backing your car from the driveway.  They can be harmless, such as always buying the same toothepaste, or destroy your life, such as gambling. Habits shape our individual lives, public lives, and lives in a community.  Sometimes, changing even one habit (called a keystone habit) can influence everything else we do in our lives without our conscious effort.  The point of this book is to teach us to recognize the huge impact habits have on our lives.  Duhigg emphasizes although we might not consciously perform our habits, once we learn about them, we are no longer blind and we can choose to change them.  

This book is just good. It is an interesting subject, well researched and supported by studies.  Duhigg provides fascinating case studies and examples to illustrate each point.  Most of all, it is a useful book.  I  love the last chapter, in which Duhigg provides a step by step plan to change habits, summarizing all the points throughout the book.  I am a person who loves my routines (which is not necessarily bad), but it is too easy for me to fall into familiar patterns and never try anything new or fix things that need work.  This book opened my eyes to how many things in my life have fallen into routines-- especially things such as how I interact with others, or what I do when I have free time.  I've taken notes and plan on using the methods he explains to create better habits for myself... up first-- a clean house! 

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