Book #29: The Power of Habit

I didn’t pick up The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg at first because it sounded like a self-help book. But after hearing a guest talk about it on my favorite book podcast, I realized it’s more in the vein of The Shallows (though not as good) looking at the science and how our brain works with regard to habits, the actions we do without thinking. Duhigg walks through the neuroscience of how habits are formed, how they’re changed, and how some habits can cause a ripple effect on the others in our lives, looking at the habits of individuals, organizations, and societies. The anecdotes he uses to explain habits in these three spheres were so very interesting. The most fascinating was how marketing for large organizations manipulate buyers’ spending habits in order to get them to buy more. He lost me a little some on the habits of societies – it seems a bit simplistic to dwindle down the cause of the Civil Rights Movement to habits, which he does admit himself though to even attempt it seems far-fetched. His last chapter briefly poses a question of ethics (are people responsible for habits they’re not in control of?), and I would have appreciated him delving into that more. It does get a little self-helpy at the end, plus an Appendix that discusses how to apply the principles of habits to change your own. Overall, it was a very compelling book. It’s always enjoyable to understand more of how our complex brains work.

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