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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Wall Street Journal • Financial Times
A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has
transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a
marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists
discover, have fundamentally changed.
Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are
desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track
to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a
nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes
on to earn a billion dollars a year.
An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first
order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they
approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in
the Dow Jones.
What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on
the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.
They succeeded by transforming habits.
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles
Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why
habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an
ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg
brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for
Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change,
despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We
visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where,
exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to
the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz,
and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target
superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s
largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn
billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.
At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to
exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more
productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving
success is understanding how habits work.
Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science,
we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
This is great book, and you need to read it. How is that for a definitive opening
line? The reason it’s such a good book is because it uses research to explain how
habits are formed and changed. Everyone knows someone who was out of shape,
or was a smoker, and then in what appeared as if almost overnight, changed
themselves in a short period of time. How did they do that? They formed new
habits and changed old ones, that’s how.
Do something enough and it becomes a habit, good or bad. This is explained in the
book by research on memory loss. For example, the research found that patients
suffering from memory loss could not show someone where the kitchen is when
asked, but once they got hungry the would get up and go to the kitchen
This is made possible by the habit loop of cue, routine, and reward. The cue
makes the brain find the routine as it anticipates the reward. A classic example is
stress and smoking, the cue is stress, the routine is smoking, the reward is the
feeling the cigarette brings.
I was most interested in how the book described changing a habit. Let’s face it, we
all have habits we want to change. To accomplish this we need to keep the cue
and reward, but change the routine. I’ll use an example from my own life to
illustrate. I love chocolate, and to make it worse I love to eat at it night. Well I
love to eat at night because that is how I formed the habit some time ago. I used
the guidance from this book to change that habit. I kept the cue and reward, but I
changed the routine to use apples instead of chocolate.
This logic flows into much larger problem sets such as organizations and
communities. Focus on changing one thing, the keystone habit from which a
cascade of other habits will form. The author illustrates this example by discussing
how the company Alcoa was transformed by the keystone habit of a singular focus
The book flows really well and uses research throughout to substantiate the
concepts presented. The audience who can benefit from this book is vast, from
individuals to corporates to governments.
What a great story teller! and these stories have been spreading. Every time I talk
with someone about this book, they've already heard one of the stories! (Is
Mr.Duhigg all over the airwaves or are his stories just re-tellable?)
In light of the recent rebuke of American nuns, I'd like to point out to the bishops
that these ladies pop up prophetically in remarkable places, including p.229 in this
text. (I misread my notes. The nuns show up earlier; this is a section where the
author underestimates the role and power of religious conviction.)
I checked this book out of the library but we just may buy it. Worth reading again,
Charles Duhigg curates various ideas and scientific studies on habit and presents
them in an entertaining and highly thought-provoking format.
However, this book isn't meant for academics. Some of the stories will feel familiar
to fans of the pop-sci genre. People who majored in or have read extensively in
the psychology arenas will be disappointed.
For people looking for motivation but aren't deeply versed in the protocols of
motivation and human habit, this book will be very fascinating. The stories will be
interesting and at a pace that allows the reader to truly take away something that
could make their life better.
Duhigg covers topics like the military, alcoholics anonymous, brain injuries, and
crowds. For people looking to improve health habits, Duhigg has done a lovely job
of framing why some people succeed at dieting and exercise plans and some don't.
While I have heard and read many of the stories Duhigg uses to detail his overall
thesis, he was still able to keep my attention and frame his presentation as his
Reading this book at the same time as reading TO SELL IS HUMAN proved to be
especially interesting since Daniel Pink reframes selling beyond the retail notion
and incorporates selling ideas to oneself. This idea complements Duhigg's
presentation of the three key factors of a habit and how people and groups can
manipulate them the to change habits.
Have you ever given much thought to all those little things (and bigger things)
that you do on a daily basis without even thinking much about them---your
habits? Probably not, but lots of other folks have given it lots of thought and
businesses spend big bucks every year figuring how to create products that they
hope will become part of your routine.
Habits are developed gradually and they all have a pattern. First there is a trigger
which causes your non-thinking brain to engage in its habit. We perform the habit
because we crave the reward we receive as a result. Duhigg uses the toothpaste
industry as an example. In the early 1900s, most folks didn't habitually brush their
teeth, much to the dismay of their dentists who tried without success to get their
patients to brush. It wasn't until a chemist working for a toothpaste company
thought to add a mint flavoring to their product that toothbrushing became more
prevalent. The author suggests that today we routinely brush our teeth because
we have come to associate that minty taste with clean teeth.
Reading this book really made me stop and think about some of the habits I've
developed over the years and whether or not they are worth keeping. Retailers
like Target do so much research on their customers that the author suggests that
they know more about our habits and livestyles than we do about ourselves. That
seems kind of creepy to me, so in addition to being an eye-opening and well-
written book, it has challenged me to think about what I chose to buy, eat, drink
and spend my time.
This book had been on my wish list for a while. I write about "smart habits for rich
living" on my blog, and have been studying habits for a long time. And this book is
exceptional in what it offers, compared to all that I've read and learned so far
about habits. I happen to love Duhigg's writing voice and style: funny, engaging,
and clear, with a little bit of "freakonomics" or "hidden side of everything"
attached to his case studies, but not too much that it turns it into a Malcolm
Gladwell kinda book and while I love Gladwell, I didn't want too many case
studies. This book has the right balance and they are all fascinating stories that
break down Duhigg's concept of the habit loop.
I am sure it is still work - YES work - to break bad habits and build good ones. It's
not a walk in the park, and we are humans so even the habit loop can fail us on
some days but the approach to habits is smart. It is not this forced disciplined
style that I've used all my life, which has not worked all that well. It is not a
manipulation of the brain or anything like that. It is an understanding into our own
psyche and then using that information in a logical way, even if it does not seem
intuitive at all.
The habit loop is at the center of this book, as you may know: The cues that lead
us to the routines that get us to the reward. Identifying those cues correctly is the
first step of the process and the examples here help me understand how to apply
the habit loop not just to my own life, but to that of my wonderful husband and
who knows, maybe even to a few of my willing clients.
Build smart habits, break old habits that no longer serve you and use the habit
loop that Duhigg teaches here. It works!
Although this book, "The Power of Habit," by Charles Duhigg was published over a
year ago, and although I received a pre-publication copy even before it came out,
I am only now getting around to reviewing it. The reason is not that I have a
terrible habit of procrastinating (well, okay, I do) and it's also not that I never get
around to writing blog posts (well, okay, that's true, too).
The reason I am only now reviewing this book is simple: I started reading it and
was so inspired by what I was learning, that I stopped reading and started putting
its lessons to the test in my own life. The book got laid aside, except for occasional
dips in to remind me how it is that people change old habits and start new ones,
and I only recently picked it up again and read through to the end.
I know it's a horrible cliche to say this, but it's true: this book changed my life. For
the better. With the insight provided by this book, I was able to break some old
habits I didn't want anymore and also to start some new good habits that are now
firmly established as part of my day-to-day life.
This is not a small thing. I'm a person who has always been very good at
establishing good habits and sticking with a new program of activity I want to add
to my life. I believe I inherently understood the habit loop of
"Routine/Reward/Cue" that Duhigg so clearly describes in this book. And, yet,
having his explanation, in both language and diagrams, for what I already knew
how to do helped me refine my own process and understand myself better. It also
helped me see why it was that I was a pro at establishing good habits, but not
very good at breaking bad ones, even ones I wanted to change.
When this book came out last year along with great media coverage and dozens of
reviews in prominent places, I wondered if I was reading the same book
everybody else was talking about. The angle taken in almost all these publicity
pitches was almost exclusively about marketing and understanding how business
has exploited the new scientific understanding of habit formation to persuade
(some might say manipulate) us to buy their stuff.
Since Duhigg is a business reporter for the New York Times, I suppose this
explains the bias in the coverage. The business world knows his work and his
"platform," as they call it in the publishing biz, is squarely in this area.
While the coverage by the media may have done its job for the publisher and
pushed up sales of the book, it seems to me that it's done the book, and its
author, a disservice. Although "The Power of Habit" includes plenty of stories and
examples taken from the business world, it is primarily a book about the science
behind habit formation and change. I don't know where bookstores shelve it, but it
ought to be in the "popular science" section.
This book is a good, excellent even, piece of science writing. I am no expert on the
neuroscience that Duhigg so deftly explains, but he has clearly done his homework
in this area. The book is filled with extensive notes and references to the original
literature and the explanations within the chapters themselves are clear and
informative. He's visited the labs, met with the scientists and their patients, and
explained all this work in an entertaining way. The book also has a valuable
appendix with a detailed explanation of how an empirical approach can be used to
figure out the roots of one's own bad habits.
I highly recommend this book to anybody struggling to break some bad habits or
wishing to establish new good habits. But beware: it might very well change your
This book was one of the most fascinating,engrossing, and interesting books I
have ever read. It is not only an instructive guide to changing your own habits,
but it shows how habits can control every situation, and that when you isolate and
define the cue to your habit, you can adjust your routine, reward, and lifestyle.
The book cites how habits define your behaviors, and the BASIC steps to change
any undesirable ones. Charles Duhigg recounts chronicle after chronicle about how
businesses,communities, and individuals, use the power of habit for transforming
potential for failure or success.
I especially was intrigued by the chapter on self-discipline. Scientists have found
that "will-power is not just a skill,it's a muscle, ...and it gets tired as it works
harder, so there's less power left over for other things." But, like a muscle, will-
power can be strengthened with exercise, mentally and/or physically which shows
up in the rest of your life. When you bring pressure on yourself to work your self-
discipline mentally or physically, you start building will-power muscle,which
cascades into all aspects of your life.
I highly recommend this book.
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