- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 10 hours and 57 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Random House Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: February 28, 2012
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007EJSMC8
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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While the 1st part is circumscribed to the individual level of analysis, on parts 2 and 3 the author takes the analysis from the micro to organizations (meso-level) and societies (macro-level). The author describes “the power of weak ties” of social networks, and claims that it helps understand the rise of social movements —which it clearly does. But in his explanation, networks are rebranded as “the habit of peer pressure”. Networks —as well as peer pressure, or culture— can be powerful forces for change, undoubtedly. But networks are not habits —as per his own definition. Different phenomena are conflated into the concept of habits, and in doing so the concept loses elegance and consistency.
Intellectually, the book is revealing. On a personal level, it is incredibly useful —and I’m thankful to the author for writing it. I would have limited the book claims to the phenomena it can explain beyond any reasonable doubt. By taking the concept of habits beyond what it can solidly explain, parts 2 & 3 detract a bit of value and credibility from the book. Were it not for that, I would have given 5 stars to the book. In balance, this is still a great book that --with the caveat expressed-- I strongly recommend.
Based on studies of animal behavior and human behavior, we (that is rats, monkeys and humans) form habits the same way. There is a cue of some kind that triggers a habit, followed by some form of routine that has been completed memorized and operates more or less automatically, followed by some form of reward that reinforces the habit. Whether it is buckling our seat belt, brushing out teeth, smoking a cigarette or using heroin, this same habit loop operates in all of us.
The brain creates habits because it simplifies our activities. If we had to consciously decide and think out everything we do every day throughout the day from scratch it would be overwhelming for the brain. Habits are little routines that automate aspects of our behavior. We are not usually conscious that the habit is being formed, and once it is in place we need not expend much thought to follow it. It is a very effective efficiency that our minds use to free us up to think about other things.
Since we now know how a habit is formed and how they function we can modify existing habits and create new ones. We must identify the right cue which leads to the desired routine which is then followed by the reward. We must know in advance, or expect, the reward to motivate us to engage in the routine. The reward generates endorphins in the brain which are powerful motivators. They motivate us to repeat the routine every time the cue occurs. It is a bit more complex than that, but that is the gist of it.
Duhigg goes on to explain in fascinating detail how studies have shown us how we can modify a habit and how to replace one habit with another. This is very important because we can learn from it how to replace a bad habit (smoking) with a good one (exercise).
Certain habits also develop in organizations and in societies and they come together to create a culture, whether it is the culture of a corporation or the culture of a society. Culture, it seems, is primarily driven by key habits.
What I found useful about this book:
This book helps us understand how habits are formed and how we can use them to our benefit, change them when we need to and replace them when necessary. Duhigg does warn the reader that although we understand the way habits are made and altered it is not always easy to do it. Determining the actual cue for example can take some experimentation and work.
The book is very well written. It is engaging. It contains lots of references to studies and science but not in a dry or boring way. It is a series of fascinating stories. It is very well organized.
Notes on Author:
Charles Duhigg is an award winning investigative reporter for the New York Times.
Other Books by This Author:
Smarter, Faster, Better
Three Great Ideas You Can Use:
1. Habits all function in the same basic way: a cue begins a behavior routine which ends in a reward. Once we understand this we can understand how habits work and how to change them or use them.
2. We are manipulated every day by business through habits. Marketing has become in many ways habit focused.
3. Once we know how to form and change a habit we can gain more real control over our own behaviors; we can replace bad habits and create good ones.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
The science is interesting, but shallowly covered. Basically the book is one big series of stories about how people changed habits to succeed in life.
If you are looking for help yourself in this area, look elsewhere. The author offers a small bit of useful advice:
Basically, you look for the cues/triggers that are starting the routine/habit that you are not happy with but cannot seem to stop. Then you determine what is the reward you are getting. Are you eating the candy because of low blood sugar or because you eat with friends and need a chat or because you are nervous and it calms you, etc.?
Discovering the triggers and rewards takes time and introspection--all left up to you. The book cannot help you there.
But once you do, you change the routine/habit by force of will every time you encounter the cue/trigger, making sure that the reward is the same. The cue and reward must be the same. So, instead of eating candy, you just go chat with friends on purpose, or you eat a better form of food to satisfy low blood sugar, or whatever.
When you feel like engaging in the "bad" habit, ask yourself what you get out of the habit beyond the superficial and obvious. Then replace that habit with a new one you desire to do that gives you the same type of reward/outcome/feeling. Do this over and over until it becomes . . . a habit.
So, there you go. Saved you money. Unless you enjoy random success stories. Then the book is a good read for you.
I wish I had not purchased this book, but you live and learn.