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review 2020-06-13 04:11
A Compelling Look at Why We Do What We Do
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg, Read by Mike Chamberlain

In Part One, Duhigg sketches the science behind habit by looking at a case study of someone who made radical changes to their health and lifestyle by choice, and one who made similar changes as a result of a disease that damaged his brain and removed choice from the equation. It was simply fascinating as he both related the cases and explored the science behind it.


Part Two shifts to the habits of organizations—how some megacorporations changed from within because they intentionally created institutional habits, which then spill over (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) into the lives of their employees. Alcoholics Anonymous also serves as an example of intentional change here. The section's last chapter focuses on how companies can study the purchasing and browsing activities of customers to predict and manipulate spending habits. Some of this last chapter is truly disturbing and makes me want to read Qualityland again—and make more people read it.


In Part Three, his focus is on "Societies" and he shows how the Montgomery Bus Boycott illustrates the ideas he's been describing—and how Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is an intentional use of the same ideas (quick digression: I have less respect for Warren's ecclesiology now, although some of what bothered me could be an unbeliever's description of his actions and theory rather than Warren's). The last chapter discusses the case of someone with night terrors who commits a crime and a gambling addict's actions—are either responsible for what happens when their behaviors are mandated by habit rather than a conscious decision? I found this last chapter problematic and a bit simplistic in the way it dealt with the ethical questions. But it's still very thought-provoking.


As far as the audiobook-ness of this goes, it was okay. Chamberlin did a fine job with the material he was given. Yeah, occasionally, I felt like I was listening to a super-long podcast episode, but I'm not sure that's a flaw. And if it is, it's probably due to the text, not a problem on Chamberlin's part. Like with a lot of Non-Fiction audiobooks, it's hard to separate the authorial "I" from the voice saying "I," so I have this cockamamie impression that I've gotten to know Duhigg a little bit. Am I the only one who has that problem?


The subtitle is "Why We Do What We Do..." and that's what this book is about. Somewhere along the line, I'd gotten the idea that there'd be a little more "here's what to do with this information" to the book. But that was wrong—Duhigg sketches it in an appendix, but it's just a sketch. Yes (as he says himself), it's not that difficult to use a lot of what's covered (particularly in Part One) on your own. I'd have preferred a little more application to go with the theory, but that wasn't his point, so I shouldn't quibble.


This is a fascinating book. That's all I have to say on that front. But I'm not sure what to do with the information. I'm not against learning things to learn them, but this seems to be begging for practical applications—in personal or business life. But I just don't know how. Maybe that's because I lack the imagination to apply it, or maybe it's a shortcoming from the book in not doing a better job in pointing to it. I'm leaning to the latter, but expect it's the former.


2020 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/06/11/the-power-of-habit-audiobook-by-charles-duhigg-mike-chamberlain-a-compelling-look-at-why-we-do-what-we-do
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review 2018-10-06 11:45
Chi Kung Ritual: "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg

(original review, 2012)

I was just thinking earlier this week about the 4 dimensions of rituals that Mervin Verbit, a sociologist, wrote about: content, frequency, intensity and centrality. And, although he was talking more about religious rituals, I think they apply to most other kinds of rituals in our lives too. And, I think that if our everyday rituals include these 4 dimensions in the right proportions, they can allow us pay more attention to what we’re doing and give us the space to be more creative. Note that I'm not suggesting that rituals, in themselves, can make anyone more creative - rather that they enable some of the right conditions for creativity.



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2017-08-16 17:32
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg

I recently went to Barnes & Noble to buy some books for my birthday.  I found a table that had a buy 2 get 1 free deal, but you had to pick books on the table.  Immediately I knew two books I wanted.  I had no idea what I wanted for the third book.  So I meandered around, picked up a few different books, read a few different pages, and stumbled across this book.  I had never heard of it before, never heard of the author, and had no idea what it was about.  But I've always been interested in cognitive science (science of the brain) and a "why we do the things we do" study of psychology.  It peaked my interest enough where I picked it up and brought it home.  As soon as I started reading it, I realized I would need a highlighter for all of the morsels of knowledge Duhigg provides along the way.

The book covers three different sections.  The first section explains how habits form as part of every day life.  It breaks down the science behind the formation of habits and how we can change them.  The second part of the book shows how to focus on successful habits to grow an organization or company.  The third part looks at large society groups, like churches or the civil rights movement, and how they respond to habits.  Throughout each section, it continually reminds you how the habits are formed.

As I'm finishing the book, my group of friends has decided to go on a diet starting August 1st.  Here I am reading a book about understanding your habits (both good and bad), learning how to change bad habits and create new habits, and finding the insight to recognize why I may have failed before.  What wonderful insight it has provided for me!  I still have to put in the hard work, but at least I feel like I know what to look for now.  I can follow some of the advice and plans in the book to set myself up for a better chance at success.  I really am intrigued to know if my diet will be more successful now that I've read this book.

Not only did the book make me think about my upcoming diet plans with my friends, but it opened up the thought process for a number of different habits I've formed.  To quote from the first chapter, "more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day" aren't actual decisions, but habits.  If we can become more observant and retrospective as to why we have created habits for ourselves, it is remarkable to think of the outcome we may be able to have.  Of course, there are positive habits.  Not all of them are negative.  I guess the point is to sit and understand why the habit exists, if it is a positive or negative habit, and if there is a way to change it for the better.  I may not want to change every habit I have ever formed, but I'm hoping that this book has at least given me the option to change some of my habits for the better.

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review 2017-03-27 20:52
An inspiring and enlightening book on the topic, not a fast read or a practical manual.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK/Cornerstone for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

I don’t read many self-help or how-to books although recently I’ve been reading some that intrigued me and this was one of them. After all, who doesn’t want to be smarter, go faster and do things better? We all want to be productive, so the title was a big hook for me, and I imagine I’m not alone.

Charles Duhigg is the author of a very popular, well-liked and positively reviewed book, the bestseller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change. Although I noticed that many of the reviewers mentioned his previous book and drew comparisons, I haven’t read it and I won’t be able to add to that debate. (In short, a few of the reviewers felt that this book wasn’t as good or as useful, from a practical point of view, as the previous one). After reading the comments, now I’m curious about his previous book.

But, as for Smarter Faster Better, it is a book where the author explains how he started wondering about the different levels of productivity people obtain. We all know individuals whose days seem to last more than 24 hours if we’re to judge by the amount of activities and achievements they manage to pack in. In an attempt at trying to find out how they do it, Duhigg collected studies, reviewed theories, interviewed people, checked stories… The book, which is divided into a series of chapters (Motivation, Team, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, Absorbing Data, Appendix and Notes), consists of the discussions of some cases that Duhigg then uses to illustrate a point or theory about the particular item and its importance. On talking about motivation, Duhigg uses the case of a young man who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and eventually decided to join the Marines. He explains how their training focuses on making them attach a meaning to their chores, ask questions that remind each other of what their goal is and what they are trying to achieve, and also the importance of feeling one has a choice. In the chapter about goal setting, he asserts the importance of having two types of goals, SMART goals (we’ve all read about those) but also stretch goals, overarching goals that look at something bigger, as, otherwise, we might end up with a list of tiny little achievable goals that don’t build up to anything. I enjoyed the examples used (that include, among other: the Toyota way of running a factory, focused on making people feel free to report mistakes and also share their ideas for innovations, teachers’ creative use of data about their students to transform a failing school into a successful one, and also include the use of mental images by airline pilots that help them make the right decisions when things go wrong), and the hypotheses and advice make sense to me. The book is well written, and although some examples and cases will feel more relevant to some people than others, there is a big variety and I personally thought they all made interesting points and some were fascinating, to say the least.

Some of the reviewers complained about the fact that the book is not very practical. The author includes, in the appendix ‘A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas’ (I wonder if this is in response to comments or it had always been there) that summarises the concepts in the book, and applies them to the author’s difficulties finishing this book. This summary sets up some of the points as more relevant to individuals, and some to companies or teams. I’ve noticed that there’s a summary of the book available for sale separately (here), and I wonder if it might consist mostly of this part of the book (as it says: ‘in less than 30 minutes’). Although I guess the advice can be found there, what makes the book memorable, at least for me, are the stories and that ties in with one of the points in the book about absorbing data. The absorption and understanding of data can be increased by creating disfluency, by having to work with it and making it less accessible. That obliges us to engage with the data and to make it ours, to make it matter to us and to find ways of using it that might not be evident or interesting to others. Therefore, if you have to read the book and go through the case studies, you might appreciate other points of the stories and remember the cases as they are relevant to you, rather than trying to remember a point as a headline with no context. So yes, if you can and are interested in the topic, I would advise reading the whole book (and it isn’t quite as long as it looks like, as there are detailed notes about the studies at the end that take up the last 33% of the book). If you have doubts, you can always check a sample of the book. But if you just want a taster, I share a quote:

Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the culture we establish among teammates; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently.

I’m not sure if this book will make a massive difference to my productivity, but it has made me reflect on a number of things and I’m sure I’ll keep thinking about it for a long time. If I had to choose a point in particular, I’d say  it has made me think about team and group dynamics, and I particularly liked the concept of ‘psychological safety’ (a “shared belief, held by members of a team, that the group is a safe place for taking risks”). If only…

In summary, an inspiring book, full of cases and stories that deserve to be read in their own right and concepts and suggestions that will mean different things to different people. It’s not a quick read or a ‘follow these few steps and you’ll be more productive’ kind of book, but it’s a well-written, researched and thought-out book that might help us understand better what makes us tick.



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review 2016-04-26 00:00
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg great book very informative (cue, routine ,reward
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