Review: Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Having read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and more recently, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, I was skeptical that there was much more I could discover about habit and motivation by reading another book. I was wrong. Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick by Wendy Wood is an insightful exploration of science behind how and why habits form, and how we can use this information to improve our work and personal lives, as well as our health, told from the perspective of someone who has studied the subject from a scientific and social perspective.
Wood describes habits as a kind of automation, which allows us to focus our mental energy on more “important” things, as well providing us for default behaviors in times of stress. In some cases the habits serve us well, in others our habit behavior can be the wrong thing for the moment. Wood Explores how habits help us move forward, how they can lead us into “ruts” and how to use our tendency to form habits to our benefit, and for growth rather than letting them keep us static.
A recurring theme in the book is the relationship between habit and “context”. Those who do well on avoiding distractions and deferring immediate, if not beneficial, rewards (“The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control) succeed less because they are actively ignoring the temptation, than because they are good at setting up contexts where they don’t notice temptation. The relationship between context and habit provides useful guidance in how we can create good habits and change bad ones; by setting maintaining (or changing) our contextual triggers, we can affect our automatic behavior.
With examples of how habits apply in the workplace, our personal lives, and in our relationships, Good Habits, Bad Habits is an engaging book that can help you think about how you do what you do, and how to influence yourself and others to form productive dynamics. For those who want to dig deeper, there are many end notes pointing to research, as well as a good bibliography. We all have habits, and our habits, and those of those around us affect the quality of our lives, so it is worth understanding how they work. Wendy Wood’s book gives you that information.