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Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick

by Jeremy Dean

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7382-1598-3
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong

Self-help on establishing new daily routines.

"The strange thing about habits," writes PsyBlog creator Dean (How to Be Creative, 2011) "is that because we perform them unconsciously, we aren't always aware exactly what they are." Using research on the subconscious as well as personal stories, the author demonstrates how we perform habits under three circumstances: in vagueness, which frees our minds to think about other, more important decisions; without emotion, as the more routine the habit, the less emotionally attached we are to the act; and as a rut, as we tend to repeat the same actions in the same situations, perpetuating the habit. Placing ourselves in new situations (a new job, school or home, for instance) helps break patterns, whether reaching for that extra cookie or lighting a cigarette with a cup of morning coffee. Acknowledging that not all habits are bad for us—e.g., implementing an exercise program into our week or eating healthier foods—Dean shows that self-control, a change in environment, and rethinking how we talk to ourselves about our likes and dislikes leads to permanent changes in our routine practices. "The challenge is to work out which habits keep leading to dead-ends and which habits lead to interesting new experiences, happiness, and a sense of personal satisfaction,” he writes.

Making changes does take longer than we may expect—no 30-day, 30-pounds-lighter quick fix—but by following the guidelines laid out by Dean, readers have a decent chance at establishing fulfilling, new patterns.