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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great anecdotes, interesting data and theories, but the material could be more fully thought through, 10 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change (Paperback)
This book opens with a great anecdote - you can turn round your whole life but you need to start with some particular habit and kick that. Doing so probably means bringing your conscious planning faculties to the fore - if you successfully diet, food stimulates those parts of the brain more. But old habits die hard and are still somewhere in there. And can break through under temptation. Unless, like alcoholics anonymous, you believe in something - such as God.

Moving onto businesses, much the same story. Start somewhere, perhaps with safety. And you can change everything like profitability. (Not in this book but in Rudy Giuliani's book on Leadership, in NY the first point of attack on reducing crime was to eliminate graffiti on the metro - a surprising way to tackle homicide, but this book says something about how that could have worked). Then for me the book somewhat went off the boil with discussions of how a 'good crisis' can be the springboard for change, the Montgomery bus boycott and a discussion of whether murders committed while sleepwalking are like gambling from a legal and moral perspective.

What the book doesn't cover but I wish it had done - and as it's written by a science journalist, I think it might have done - is the relation to other studies in this area. This book give us a picture of habits as like a deeply grooved channel. Other books, such as Thinking Fast and Slow and books on self-control, give us an 'energy' model - whereby we fall back into 'fast' thinking or lose self-control when, for example, our glucose levels are depleted. Then there's the idea of self-control as like a muscle that grows with exercise - not much trace of that idea here, but how does changing one habit lead to total changes in lifestyle, exactly? And finally, there are the views of philosophers. There's a bit of William James here. But Aristotle thought we led the good life only through habituation. We don't get much about habits and moral character, except fleetingly and unsatisfactorily, in the last chapter.

Still, there's much here to interest and to hold the attention - even in the weaker sections.
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