Customer Reviews: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
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on October 22, 2013
Only three chapters are both interesting and useful, but they all slow down when the author drags us through stories that could have been condensed into a few sentences or a couple paragraphs. Frustrating.

The science is interesting, but shallowly covered. Basically the book is one big series of stories about how people changed habits to succeed in life.

If you are looking for help yourself in this area, look elsewhere. The author offers a small bit of useful advice:

Basically, you look for the cues/triggers that are starting the routine/habit that you are not happy with but cannot seem to stop. Then you determine what is the reward you are getting. Are you eating the candy because of low blood sugar or because you eat with friends and need a chat or because you are nervous and it calms you, etc.?

Discovering the triggers and rewards takes time and introspection--all left up to you. The book cannot help you there.

But once you do, you change the routine/habit by force of will every time you encounter the cue/trigger, making sure that the reward is the same. The cue and reward must be the same. So, instead of eating candy, you just go chat with friends on purpose, or you eat a better form of food to satisfy low blood sugar, or whatever.

When you feel like engaging in the "bad" habit, ask yourself what you get out of the habit beyond the superficial and obvious. Then replace that habit with a new one you desire to do that gives you the same type of reward/outcome/feeling. Do this over and over until it becomes . . . a habit.

So, there you go. Saved you money. Unless you enjoy random success stories. Then the book is a good read for you.

I wish I had not purchased this book, but you live and learn.
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on March 19, 2012
In this wonderful book, Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, tackles an important reality head on. That is, people succeed when they identify patterns that shape their lives--and learn how to change them. This idea--that you can indeed change your habits--draws on recent research in experimental psychology, neurology, and applied psychology.

As you can see from the TOC below, Duhigg really goes after a broad range of topics. He looks at the habits of individuals, how habits operate in the brain, how companies use them, and how retailers use habits to manipulate buying habits. This provides some fascinating research and stories, such as the fact that grocery stores put fruits and vegetables at the front of the store because people who put these healthy items in their carts are more apt to buy junk food as well before they leave the store. The author's main contention is that "you have the freedom and responsibility" to remake your habits. He says "the most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager." He makes a convincing case for all this. The only problem is that's all he does. He doesn't show you how to do it.


1. The Habit Loop - How Habits Work
2. The Craving Brain - How to Create New Habits
3. The Golden Rule of Habit Change - Why Transformation Occurs


4. Keystone Habits, or The Ballad of Paul O'Neill - Which Habits Matter Most
5. Starbucks and the Habit of Success - When Willpower Becomes Automatic
6. The Power of a Crisis - How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
7. How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do - When Companies Predict (and manipulate) Habits


8. Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott - How Movements Happen
9. The Neurology of Free Will - Are We Responsible for Our Habits?

My chief complaint is he doesn't really show you how to break bad habits. For this you should consider Emotional Intelligence 2.0. That book was great for my self-control.
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VINE VOICEon January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a great book about the power of habit and what we can do to change our habits in business, life, and society. The book is divided into three sections, first focusing on the individual, then companies, and finally societies.

The first three chapters are my favorite, and really make up the heart of the book.

Chapter 1, "The Habit Loop" explains exactly what a habit is. Some estimate, according to the author, that habits make up 40% of our daily routine. Favorite quote from this chapter: "This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which behavior to use. The there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward . . ." (19)

Chapter 2, "The Craving Brain" includes the story of Pepsodent and lays out a simple formula for creating new habits in others. "First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the reward." (37) The rest of the chapter will fill you in on the missing part of this formula and you will learn how Febreze went from near bust to a product bringing in over a billion dollars a year.

Chapter 3, "The Golden Rule of Habit Change" is my favorite chapter. In this chapter you will learn what part of the habit loop to modify and how you should go about doing it. You will also learn how Tony Dungee reinvented the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts by instilling habits into his teams. Very good information, if you read one chapter in this book, make sure it is this one. Of interest to everyone, from smokers to businessmen to nail-biters to football coaches.

The remaining two sections of the book were not quite as strong as the first. They consist mainly of anecdotes and examples of how companies and societies (and a church) changed habits in others successfully. They are worth reading, but not as good as the first third of the book. The Starbucks story of instilling willpower in their employees and the story of Rosa Parks and Saddleback church were the most interesting.

All in all, this book is definitely worth picking up. I was a little disappointed by the last couple of sections of the book and thought that one of the anecdotes the author used in the first chapter was overused (same story, same person covered thoroughly in Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything if you have read it). The core of the book that explains what habits are and how to change them make this book a valuable read. Recommended.
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on May 4, 2012
The first two chapters weren't bad. They made me think that the succeeding chapters would be even more interesting. They weren't. The book fell off a cliff at that point. Chapters on companies that turned around -- I thought I was watching CNBC. The science, which is what I was interested in, apparently is only enough to fill one or two chapters. Then the author manufactured a bunch of filler to make it book-length, most of which only seemed to relate to the topic marginally. And if you're looking for a self-help book to help you break bad habits, go somewhere else. The advice is: find out what reward you get out of the habit, then do something else to get that same reward. There, you don't have to read the book.

If the book is intended as an advertisement for Febreze, it's fairly effective. I found myself actually wanting to buy a bottle, but then realized I was probably being manipulated. (Years ago, I read the label on a Febreze bottle. It said make sure the fabric you're spraying is clean first. If my couch was clean, I wouldn't be spraying it with something to remove odors! Give me a break.)

And woven throughout the book, you have to suffer through the author's admonitions about the habits that *he* thinks *you* ought to practice: the usual boring, politically correct, cultural-narrative-approved, scientifically unproven advice like eat more vegetables, cut down on fat consumption, and wear sunscreen just to go outside. What a hack. I see why he's won some "journalism" awards -- he pushes the cultural narrative of the news media.

It made me realize that one habit I could try to break is buying books on Amazon based on other people's reviews.
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on January 6, 2013
The first two chapters would be a good introduction if the book pursued and developed the topic. It doesn't. The author can certainly paint a picture but that is about all he can do. He never clearly defines what a habit is and then in later chapters begins to call anything and everything a habit (in one chapter he calls friendship a habit). Mr. Duhigg does nothing more than string together dozens of unrelated but slightly hooking stories. Each one is interesting in its own right, but useless to prove or help his point. I read this book thinking it would be an insightful scientific discussion of habits and habit forming behaviors, but it is nothing more than a self-help book (and a pretty lousy one at that). Every other paragraph is just filler attempting to suggest that what you are about to read is something that shocked the scientific community and could bring businesses to their knees. The instructions at the end about how to put the ideas presented in the book into practice are laughable. In the end there is little more than a pamphlet's worth of information here (and a rather dry one at that). Please save your money and do not buy. There is nothing fascinating or groundbreaking here and certainly nothing that will help you positively effect your life/behavior.
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on July 25, 2012
Even the simple minded would get bored with this book. Too much reiterating of ideas, long stories that bring us to a very small conclusion. Once it delved into the AA stuff . . . the whole story etc ... I decided to stop listening. I think that was towards the end anyway. I have to say, this is a very interesting topic, I'm amazed how poorly presented this is, for 4th graders it seemed.
I'm also surprised that so many people gave it so many stars. All I can think is that we're hungry for what the book could be about, so we're asking for more complete and informative books by voting with our ratings?
If you want a lot of relevant information about habits - look for another book - when you find one please let me know.
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on August 19, 2012
I was absorbed by the premise and found "The Power of Habit" to be a primer for understanding the basal ganglia. What I found was something entirely different.

I read on and was struck by the author's phrase: "Habit loops." At first these seemed unique and new. As a counseling psychology graduate student, this was novel territory - exciting! Psychology, habitual behavior, marketing, and the whys were all present. Duhigg breaks down a few marketing successes from: Starbucks, McDonald's, Pepsodent, and Febreeze. All of these companies exploited (or used) psychological tactics to sell more product. I wasn't getting habits as much as case studies in marketing behavior, but that was okay - I assumed Duhigg would get back to individual habits.

To change behavior, Duhigg suggests that people look at old habits. For improvement, new routines have to be made. The habit loop includes the: cue, routine, and reward. If you're tired (cue), a cup of coffee can be your routine, followed by the reward of energy. But no matter how strong your changed routine is, Duhigg stresses that belief in one's possibility for change is key.

Further along, willpower becomes the focus. The strength to continue on amidst fear, pain, or anxious conditions is willpower. I found this to be the best part of the book - wished the whole book was about this.

Unfortunately, by chapter 7, the book disintegrates from its original premise. A case study about Target is featured, and it's identical to the one featured here (published a year before "The Power of Habit"): Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. In fact, the similarities are so tremendous that the layout of stores becomes a focal point, which is exactly what Brandwashed talks about. Duhigg loosely relates these studies to habit, but it seemed weak and purposeless.

What sent me over the top was the claim that "sleep deactivates the prefrontal cortex and other high cognition areas." In all my years of psychology, this has never been shown. The brain doesn't "deactivate" upon sleep. Instead, the brain is constantly processing and organizing material. If the prefrontal cortex stopped working, it would likely mean a stroke or severe hemorrhage was occurring.

Not once - in all the learning and habit making dialogue - does Duhigg mention classical conditioning's role in learning new behaviors or aiding in habituation. This does a disservice to the reader and paints habit as its own field of study. A habit loop is merely a case of classical conditioning, repeated.

To conclude, the author claims, "You now know how to redirect the path." This is proceeded by, "...This book doesn't contain one prescription [for change]."

While I found it to be an interesting read, the power of our habits seemed to be muddled.
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on May 17, 2013
I had originally heard about the habit loop from Life Hacks. I was very excited about this as I thought this was going to illustrate some conditioning techniques. I was personally wanting to use this book coupled with other books to improve my studying, eating, and exercising habits. What I had hoped this nearly 300 page book would be about was how to achieve this. Instead it's a lot of anecdotal stories about who has good habits and who has bad habits. It's almost as if the author's idea was to list a name of famous people we've all heard of to validate his "technique" but left out the chapter where it really breaks it all down. Oh no wait...that was the appendix right? The 6 page instructional breakdown that's the equivalent of a Dick and Jane book.

Here let me break this down for you. We have literally 250 pages about Tony Dungy, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Target, Starbucks, and the successful people who run those places. What we don't have is a way help to help anyone create habits. If you want help with breaking bad habits look elsewhere.
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on April 16, 2012
It seems that the author prioritized his best material for the intro and first chapter, and then the material stalls. The key examples used (NFL Coach Tony Dungy; Alcoholics Anonymous) appear to only weakly support his thesis. This seems more appropriate for a New Yorker article than a full book.
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on April 14, 2012
I had high hopes for this book; understanding the neuroscience behind habit formation has obvious life changing potential. Helping you form good habits, breaking out of bad ones, gaining some self-awareness.

Unfortunately, after a promising start the book quickly veers sharply off topic and starts exploring a host of concepts that are, if at all, only very tangentially related to neuroscience or indeed "habits". Habits of organizations? of societies?

I decided to bear with it, hoping for everything to eventually come together.. but it never did. One is left suspecting that the author simply needed to find more material to fill the pages of his book and had to grasp at straws.

Then of course, there's the tone of the book. Some people may like the patronizing show-them-don't-tell-them narrative about successful sports coaches (everybody loves sports!), heart-warming anecdotes, heroic corporate turn-arounds, etc. Not me though.

I found that the constant stream of anecdotes obscured the main points that the author was trying to make.. to the extend that I'm not sure there actually were any.

The best thing about this book is probably that it will inspire somebody else to write a more tightly focused, less anecdotal and altogether more serious book about how habits are formed and how we may apply those insights.

That's what the book is lacking: insights.
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