“Charles Duhigg is an excellent writer. The book is well organized and the subject matter relevant. At work, we recently underwent a security inspection and personnel were reminded to leave cell phones, thumb drives and iPods at home. "It takes 30 days to change a habit" was the buzz phrase. According to Duhigg, to develop good habits takes four steps: 1) Identify the routine; 2)Experiment with rewards; 3) Isolate the event; and 4) Have a plan.
Easier said than done. Duhigg emphasizes 'to modify a habit, you must decide to change it'. I would argue that there are people who do not have the genetic disposition or inherent willpower to follow through. Many people are determined to break free from alcoholism, lose weight or stop smoking, decide to change the habit and join AA, Weight Watchers or slap a patch on.
Duhigg uses many high profile examples of how developing good habits have transformed people, how research groups study habits IOT better market products to consumers. What he doesn't do is discuss at length people who fail to maintain good habits nor highlight individuals who are habit-driven (people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).”
“anarresa said: 4 stars
A very readable and interesting look at habits. From neuroscience and psychology to business and religion, throughout recent history, an array of influences are covered. None in too much detail, but combined in a way to really make you think. Presented as stories and interviews interspersed with research summaries it was incredibly easy to read, but still felt informative. There is also a chapter on how to change your bad habits, or start good ones, so it has a splash of self-help with the science and sociology. I personally liked all the little cartoons that illustrated the central "cue, routine, reward" cycle, but that's just a bonus. There's plenty of references if a science-lover wants more information, but it's basic enough for any reader so I unreservedly recommend this.”
“Fascinating..”robyn f wrote this review Thursday, June 14, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“In order to accomplish all the goals I have set out for this year, I need to break some bad habits regarding time management.”A Book Driven Life wrote this review Saturday, June 9, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Joel G. is reading this book. Seems interesting and worth the read. ”Douglas Bray wrote this review Monday, June 4, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Very interesting! Lots of insight into habits and how to change them”Suzanne Scotten wrote this review Monday, June 4, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An easy-to-read combination of good story and helpful research summaries, this book looks at habits at the individual, organizational, and social levels. Understanding of the habit loop can help us alter even the deepest habits we'd like to change.”Bob Stocking wrote this review Sunday, June 3, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Very interesting!! Well worth the read!”Delainey Casey wrote this review Tuesday, May 29, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“interesting”stephanie w wrote this review Tuesday, May 22, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Similar to "FSTR", this book contained several very interesting points, but overall it meandered and was hard to get a concrete main point from. The overall take-home point was that habits can be changed, and that we should hold ourselves accountable for recognizing destructive habits in ourselves and changing them.
Habits can be changed by rewriting them, you just need to identify what triggers a habit and what reward you get from it. Identifying these correctly is essential for good marketing and for effective self-improvement.
Keystone habits are those that spill over and create positive synergies. For example, when safety was made the number of priority in a company called Alcoa, it had a number of unintended consequences (better teamwork, better use of email, etc). Exercise is another keystone habit. When people start exercising even as infrequently as once a week, they often change urrelated patterns in their lives - they tend to smoke less, eat better, work harder, show more patience, etc. Families who eat dinner together tend to have kids with better grades, emotional skills, etc. It's not that safety/exercise/family meals cause these changes, they just shift something in the brain so that other better habits take root more easily.
In a study, one group was told to sit in the room and kindly told not the eat cookies, as it was a measure of willpower. The other group was told bluntly not to the eat the cookies. The latter group scored much worse in an attention-span test after the cookie "test". Basically, being given autonomy over one's actions ("you can choose not to eat the cookies" vs. "don't eat the cookies!") improves one's willpower.
Willpower is not something you are necessarily born with, or taught. It is like a muscle with you must exercise and practice until having willpower becomes a habit.
Habits are shortcuts - people are really bundles of habits that regulate almost everything they do. Habits save us energy so we don't have to think and process everything every second of every day, but they can lead us astray.
Companies have formal documents. Then they have tons of informal rules and social regulations. How things get done is more a habit ("don't run this by x department, never ask about this, always assume y") which often saves time, but can lead to problems. Learning how a company works is important! Rhode Island Hospital had a system of habits in the chain of command (nurses were subordinate to doctors and could never question them, certain topics were never to be raised by people in certain departments, etc). Then they had some medical errors, including a man with a hematoma in his brain getting a hole drilled into the wrong side of his head and dying, and were forced to reevaluate their system.
Why are fruits and veggies at the front of most stores? You would think they would be last, so they're not smushed by heavier things added later to the carts. However, most people buy more ice cream and Doritos after they've already loaded up on healthy foods and feel good about their choices.
Most people turn right after entering a store. So stores put more expensive stuff on the right hand side of the store. Cereal is usually sorted non alphabetically so people have to look through more options and are tempted to buy more.
Who buys third-party cookies? Well, some companies track your online activity to determine your political leanings, physical build, age, etc and sell it to, for example, Target, which already has loyalty programs and coupons to gather information on you.
Target's system was so good at profiling people it could determine the probability that a woman was pregnant, and send her flyers based on what trimester she was in. A man once walked into a store and yelled at the manager for sending his high school daughter coupons for baby supplies - later he found out she was in fact pregnant.
Polyphonic HMI is a company with a program that electronically analyzes a song and determines the probability that it will be a hit (the tempo, pitch, melody, and chord progression are compared against thousands of other existing hits).
When a new, edgy song is put on the top 40 radio, it is sandwiched between two sure-fire already-popular songs so people are inclined to keep listening. What makes a song a popular, sure hit? Familiarity. Maroon 5 and 3 Doors Down were singled out as bands derided by critics as being bland and formulaic. However, they are popular because they are easily digestible, so it takes very little energy to listen to them, and people think "I already know this song, I think". They songs are called 'sticky'. They all sounded exactly like what one would expect from what you'd expect from a particular genre, just a bit more polished, a bit closer to the golden mean of the perfect song of that genre. Interestingly, male listeners said in surveys they disliked Celine Dion, but they kept listening to her when she was on the radio. They consciously disliked it but their subconscious latched onto the familiar (unfamiliarity requires attention).
In WWII the government tried to make a push for people to eat more offal and organs so they could ship meat to the troops in Europe. Butchers handed out recipes for how to slip liver into meatloaf, how to prepare kidney to look like existing dishes, etc. Because this change was slipped into an already familiar, existing habit, it succeeded. The government's "5-a-Day" push for veggies and fruits and push for low-fat cheese and yogurts failed because the desired change in habits wasn't disguised in already-existing habits.
Aristotle in "Nicomachean Ethics" says good habits are formed by will, not by nature or instruction. So "just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand if it is to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things".
A man who had a history of intense sleep-walking strangled his wife in his sleep thinking she was an intruder. He had not control over his actions and felt guilty about it. Another man sleep-walking began raping a girl, then woke up halfway through and called the police in shock. Both were let off the hook because neither consciously committed a crime. What about compulsive gambler Angie Bachmann, who ruined her life and family's fortune? She had very little control over her actions (she acted out of a very strong subconscious habit to gamble when she felt stressed), felt a strong sense of guilt, etc. She was held accountable for her debts. The difference is that Thomas the strangler never had any idea that the patterns that drove him to kill existed in the first place. Angie was aware of her habits and yet was unable to curb them. If you know a bad habit exists, and that you have the power to remake a habit, you have a responsibility to change it.
William James was an underachiever who was unhappy and wanted to commit suicide. Then he decided to conduct a yearlong experiment. He would spend twelve months believing that he had control over himself and his destiny, that he could become better, and that he had the free will to change. Later, he would famously write that the will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief to change, and that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits. Once we choose who we want to be, people grow "to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward into the same identical folds".