Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, April 29, 2012: The Power of Habit

"The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business," by Charles Duhigg, is NOT just another book that will make you discouraged about how hard you're finding it to break your bad habits.

You know what Madame L means, right, Dear Readers? You've all read these books or articles, explaining how the latest scientific discovery shows how hard, or maybe impossible, it is to change habits, and why you might as well just give up now because you're never going to be able to lose weight, stop smoking, or whatever it is you're trying to do or stop doing.

This book explores, as the subtitle promises, WHY and HOW we develop our bad (and good) habits, which leads us to understand WHY and HOW we can change those habits.

"Since starting work on this book, I've lost about 30 pounds, I run every other morning (I'm training for the NY Marathon later this year), and I'm much more productive. And the reason why is because I've learned to diagnose my habits, and how to change them.

"Take, for instance, a bad habit I had of eating a cookie every afternoon. By learning how to analyze my habit, I figured out that the reason I walked to the cafeteria each day wasn't because I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. It was because I was craving socialization, the company of talking to my colleagues while munching. That was the habit's real reward. And the cue for my behavior - the trigger that caused me to automatically stand up and wander to the cafeteria, was a certain time of day.

"So, I reconstructed the habit: now, at about 3:30 each day, I absentmindedly stand up from my desk, look around for someone to talk with, and then gossip for about 10 minutes. I don't even think about it at this point. It's automatic. It's a habit. I haven't had a cookie in six months."

The appendix gives the details: Identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, and have a plan.

There's more to it, of course, including the kinds of anecdotes you and Madame L have all come to expect in such self-help books; but these are combined with actual information (a novel idea for such books!); and the last 85 pages of the book is made up of helpful comments on the text, information about where to find more information, and a very thorough index.

Madame L checked the book out of her local library (though she had to wait three weeks for it, since the waiting list was so long). If you don't want to wait, the book is available new at for $16.00.

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