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676 of 736 people found the following review helpful
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.

PART ONE: THE HABITS OF INDIVIDUALS

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

PART TWO - THE HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONS

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

PART THREE - THE HABITS OF SOCIETIES

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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519 of 580 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine 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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1,932 of 2,306 people found the following review helpful
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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105 of 124 people found the following review helpful
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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71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
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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218 of 263 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 18, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The author tells so many interesting stories and I loved reading about them as I am fascinated about how marketing does and does not work. I had fun reading this book but then it seemed to end before I got what I was expecting. The author did talk on a very basic level about the brain and habits too but, just when I thought it was going to go more extensively into your brain and how it works and how to change it regarding habits, it was all over. As someone else stated, this although interesting, is not at all a step by step guide to mastering or changing habits. I think people need really extensive information to tackle such a topic that often illudes so many of us. I really enjoyed the book though.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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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77 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2012
The topic is definitely interesting and the book starts off with all the good questions about habits of people who have managed to change their lives, (this was the main reason for me to buy the book looking at the amazon reviews) the first few chapters about human habits and recent scientific studies on how the brain function is of some interest.
The majority of the book is full of chatter specially the topics around organizational habits, habits of societies etc, the author tries very hard to connect everything to some form of habit reasoning .. most of the examples and stories and the habit connections are just silly ..
After the first 30 mins of reading the rest of the book is a complete letdown.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
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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64 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 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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