A book about about habits


About halfway through The Power of Habit I was kind of upset. You know the way I get. I was not convinced by its arguments.

A main problem was that how this book defines habit and how I understand the concept—they’re just two different things. This book sticks pretty much anything into the habit concept, e.g. routines, that which you have learned (which, let’s face it, that’s pretty much everything…),willpower and friendship (???).

And with this in mind, it retells a number of events in human history, in painful detail, connected by this broad definition of habit.

I mean sure. I do appreciate that it’s trying to illustrate its points via stories, it makes it easier to read for those of us who struggle in the focus department when books are too abstract.

However. Do I want every tedious detail of a man I don’t know who suffered brain damage god-knows-when-and-where? I do not. Do I want every detail of some sports team and how they turned decades of losing around? I do not. Do I care about sales figures or any other kind of indication of success? Nope. I do not.

And obviously. I find the connections between these stories a stretch. At best.

Also. The frequent us of that word, however; it’s driving me insane! Might be the reader’s fault, but still. I just had to mention it. That’s how much it bothers me.

I’m usually pro simplistic. But even so, I think this book jumps to conclusions. It fails to see that maybe the outcome of an experiment is the result of many factors, i.e. the outcome can only be considered an indication rather than a truth.

I’m listening to this book thinking that the experiments they use to argue their point strike me as not always actually proving what they want them too. For example. That wonderful experiment on willpower. Two groups of people, one group are presented with cookies that they may eat. The other group also presented with the same cookies, but they can’t eat them. Following this, each group is asked to perform a task. Turns out the first group, fueled by cookies have more patience with the task than group two. The book argues it’s because group one didn’t have to use their willpower to stay away from the cookies, thus the participants have more willpower to spare. Oooorrrrr… Are you sure it wasn’t the fact that those who were allowed to eat the cookies got some extra fuel for their brains? And that was the reason they had more patience?

But then! This book wisely included a chapter on what songs people like and why. The short answer is: we like what is familiar. What we’re used to. Which, again, I find a bit simplistic, but interesting nonetheless. Not least: how does one become this type of researcher? More importantly, would I have to study physics for it??

I was under the impression this was a book people liked. That can’t be right? I honestly don’t know why I’m sticking it out. There are other books more deserving of a read.

Unfortunately for me, since typing this post I have finished this book. And this is why I’ve decided this book is for sure not worth reading:

The final two examples in this book talk about:

ONE. A woman with a gambling problem, who ends up gambling away all of her money, her inheritance and her house.

TWO. A man who suffers from a particular type of sleepwalking, who accidentally kills his wife in his sleep, thinking she’s an intruder.

Both of these people end up in court, the woman because she is trying to get out of paying her debts, arguing that the company to whom she owed money was aware of her gambling behavior and consciously preyed on her; the man, obviously because he committed a crime.

The woman does not only not get out of paying back her debts, despite clearly suffering from addiction, but is also sued by the company, who thinks she should pay them even more money, when she already is unable to pay back what she owes them.

The man is cleared of all charges.

This. Is obvious. And I shall tell you why: because we live in a capitalist patriarchal society.

In the case of the woman, it was obvious she was going to have to pay because she is a woman, and as such expected to take responsibility for everything. Also, the law protects companies, not people. Money, clearly, more in need of protection than people.

In the case of the man, well, he’s a man, he has no responsibility, poor soul, and there is no money involved in this scenario.

The author of this fabulous book thinks this is right. 

Which is obvious. It was all along obvious that this poor delusional man is impressed by success and money, and well, he’s a man, of course he’s a fan of the patriarchal order.

Yes, excellent, good, unethical behavior on behalf of companies, of course they should be allowed to keep that up. They should not be held accountable, nono! It must be up to the individual. The woman should have made sure to get help to deal with her addiction. Note that she did move to a different state where gambling was prohibited. The company, however, managed to seek her out and payed her to travel to their casinos. Yes, it all seems to be her fault…

The man knew of his condition and took no precaution. Clearly, it was not within the man’s responsibility.

It’s obvious and I expected exactly this outcome when he started telling these two final stories, but it still pisses me the hell off.

What the author of this book calls habit, I would call human behavior. This is exactly why they keep telling you to define concepts used when you write essays at uni. It’s so you don’t end up where the author of this book ends up. He needed to define his goddamn concept, because his definition is different from the general definition of the word.

I still wouldn’t agree, but there should have been a definition.

At this point, I’d go as far as to say, I’d sooner recommend anyone to read Fieldy’s Got the Life over The Power of Habit. Because, at least, Fieldy has no grand delusions. He doesn’t think he’s writing anything profound. He hasn’t read science and drawn daft conclusions. He shouldn’t know better. This guy though, he is familiar with science and is still completely blind to forces behind his conclusions.

I don’t approve.


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