Reading notes: How to Change

Recommended. Behavior change is one of the most practically important subjects, and this is its best summary I know of. She also did an excellent interview with Russ Roberts.

The book is too wordy for me, and generally conforms too closely to the airport-bookstore-pop-science genre. But it's better written than most, and others will enjoy the structure more than I did. And despite being too long, it's very short. Again, recommended.

Misc. notes:

  1. Triggers seem to be underrated as a self-improvement tool. See the "Cue-based planning" in How to Change; this blog post has more detail.
  2. How to Change doesn't talk much about memory, but I do wonder about the possible connection between spaced-repetition drilling (e.g., with Anki) and trigger-based behavior change. This post is provocative. (Hat tip to an anonymous reader.)
  3. A hard part of reading this book is resisting the temptation to passively nod through the sections with material you've heard about before--in my case, the value of breaking goals into small chunks. I should do more to make goals small, yet it took some effort to really focus on that section because the idea seemed so familiar. A lot of the book felt like that.
  4. The "Want some advice?" section recommends advice-giving in at least two ways: as more beneficial generally (for oneself) than advice-getting and as a good way to take a third-personal perspective on one's problems. I'd love to see more philosophical work on the relationship between the third-person perspective, advice-giving, and beneficial effects (or, at least, durable effects) on the person adopting that perspective.

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