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December 31, 2013 > Bookworm Column: Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean

Bookworm Column: Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean

This year, youÕre really going to do it.

No more unfulfilled promises. No more embarrassment, explaining, or excuses. YouÕll never have to hide that bad habit again because youÕre going to quit smoking, stop gambling, be kinder, resist going online every ten minutes, lose weight, whatever it is youÕve been meaning to do for months.

YouÕre really going to do it. You are. And with ÒMaking Habits, Breaking HabitsÓ by Jeremy Dean by your side, you really might accomplish that goal.
Step into the self-help section of any bookstore or library, and you might think that Ò21Ó is a magic number: a lot of books claim that you can fix your life in that many days.
Jeremy Dean says establishing habits isnÕt that easy, however. Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days for a habit to be formed, depending on several factors. A Òreally strongÓ habit could take a year to create!

From the time we get up in the morning until the time we fall asleep, we follow habits without thinking about them, which is one of the main characteristics of a habit. Habits are also Òcuriously emotionlessÓ and are generally followed in connection with another situation: you get in the car and turn on the radio because, well, youÕre in the car.

ThatÕs a habit made in Òresponse to rewards from the environment.Ó Conversely, making habits can also be intentional but it depends on how worthwhile we find them. You may intend to get to the gym every day, for instance, but if youÕd really rather stay in bed, guess which activity wins.

ÒThere has to be an ultimate goal that is really worth achieving or the habit will be almost impossible to ingrain,Ó says Dean. Muster all the willpower your body possesses, visualize until your head hurts, but nothing works if thereÕs no internal reward. External rewards, Dean says, are Òlaced with danger.Ó

As for breaking habits, itÕs hard to stop doing something youÕre not aware youÕre doing. WhatÕs worse: studies show that trying to suppress a thought or action makes you want to do it all that much more. So forget about self-control, says Dean. Instead, change your cues, pay attention, know yourself, and learn some Òhappy habits.Ó

Looking for a quick-fix for those New YearÕs Resolutions? Nope, ÒMaking Habits, Breaking HabitsÓ ainÕt it.

By helping us understand what makes us tick and why, author Jeremy Dean avoids platitudes and misty advice to give his readers the tools they need to stop being frustrated by change and lack thereof. He advocates patience and dispels a lot of myths about why we do the things we do (or donÕt), explaining why our willpower fails us or why we find some habits easy to make.

ThatÕs helpful, and could make a fix that sticks.

While there are times when this book seemed smaller than its subject, I think it would be advantageous to anyone whoÕs serious about changing behavior. If thatÕs you, then find ÒMaking Habits, Breaking HabitsÓÉ. and then do it.


c.2013, DaCapo Lifelong
$26.00 / $29.00 Canada
256 pages

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