Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $26.00, 272 pages)
“…habits are both savior and curse.”
Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean is an interesting collection of 13 article-chapters. Each chapter would make for an engaging airline magazine article, but the whole simply doesn’t deliver on the promise of telling us how to “make any change (in habits) stick.” Most of what Dean tells us is common sense, such as the notion that bad habits lead to depression and good — what he calls happy — habits lead to self-satisfaction and happiness. Naturally, Dean offers the advice of replacing bad habits with happy habits, something much easier said than done; especially as even good habits tend to become boring and less than enjoyable with repetition.
“One reason habits are so hard to change is that we start performing them without conscious deliberation.”
The notion of what constitutes happiness in our lives just about overtakes the topic of human habits, and it’s no accident that Dean often cites Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert. Gilbert wrote the satisfying survey book, Stumbling on Happiness, which for most people would likely make a better choice than Making Habits.
It doesn’t help that Dean’s an Englishman who writes in a style that’s awkward for Americans to read, and poor editing results in words having been left out: “…Twitter, Facebook… and the rest reward us with little bits information…”.
A look at Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (Random House, $28.00, 400 pages)
Charles Duhigg is a highly educated (Harvard and Yale) business reporter (The New York Times), who is the epitome of the thorough investigative reporter. In past weeks, Duhigg and his publicist have been circulating a flurry of teaser articles and Twitter posts that include excerpts from his just-released book. The teasers are eye-catching because most folks in the USA shop at Target, buy household air fresheners (unless they are featured on A&E’s Hoarders) and like to think that the choices they make are acts of free will. He has also been travelling on an aggressive cross-country tour of major media outlets.
As to whether folks really have the ability to make their own choices, not really, according to Duhigg. His book supports a hypothesis that most, if not all, daily activities are the result of a habit loop consisting of a cue, routine and reward. This behavior loop is applicable at the personal as well as organizational and societal levels. Granted, the author has met and exceeded the burden of proof imposed by such a strong theme; however, too much of a good thing is not always the most pleasing event.
This reviewer was immediately interested in the book after reading an excerpt that focused on Target stores and the extensive shopper profiling that takes place thanks to a sophisticated computer program that slices and dices purchasing data. A quick glance at my to-be-read shelf revealed an advance reader’s edition (ARE) of this very book. A few chapters into the book, a familiar feeling arose. It was similar to the one you get after watching a movie that had fabulous trailers/coming attractions but left little for the actual theater experience. That’s how this reviewer felt – a bit let down, after reading The Power of Habit. All the catchy and engaging information was in the teaser articles. Absent these elements, the book became a traditional survey (overview) of the force of habit.
The sonorous, heavy tone of the text may have been lightened with the final editing process. It’s doubtful that the notes and sources section was reduced. It occupies nearly 20% of the book! Hopefully, the charming diagrams made it to the release version.
Recommended for readers who are extremely curious about the force of habit.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. The Power of Habit was released on February 28, 2012. The original title on the ARE was The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It.