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on January 5, 2017
Two halves coexist within this book’s covers. One is outstanding; the other is a bit sloppy. Part one is the heart of the book; it explains what habits are about, where they come from, how they’re hard-wired into our brains, and how they can be enormously powerful —both to enslave us and to free us if we only we learn how to handle them well (the book’s mission). I found this part of the book to be truly outstanding: well-researched, engagingly written and extremely persuasive. It combines scientific research, personal life-stories and journalistic interviews to great effect.

While the 1st part is circumscribed to the individual level of analysis, on parts 2 and 3 the author takes the analysis from the micro to organizations (meso-level) and societies (macro-level). The author describes “the power of weak ties” of social networks, and claims that it helps understand the rise of social movements —which it clearly does. But in his explanation, networks are rebranded as “the habit of peer pressure”. Networks —as well as peer pressure, or culture— can be powerful forces for change, undoubtedly. But networks are not habits —as per his own definition. Different phenomena are conflated into the concept of habits, and in doing so the concept loses elegance and consistency.

Intellectually, the book is revealing. On a personal level, it is incredibly useful —and I’m thankful to the author for writing it. I would have limited the book claims to the phenomena it can explain beyond any reasonable doubt. By taking the concept of habits beyond what it can solidly explain, parts 2 & 3 detract a bit of value and credibility from the book. Were it not for that, I would have given 5 stars to the book. In balance, this is still a great book that --with the caveat expressed-- I strongly recommend.
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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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The stated purpose of The Power of Habit is to explain how habits work and, hopefully when armed with this information, the reader will be able to devise methods to go about changing their habits for good. Along the way New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg takes the reader on an informative, lively tour of personal, organizational and societal habits.

Clearly based on extensive research and interviews (check the 60 pages of Notes for confirmation), Duhigg has taken a small idea from a Major fighting in Iraq who quelled rioting in the city of Kufa by simply keeping food vendors away from growing mobs and turned it into an extensive narrative on how habits work, how we create new ones and how we can change them.

In this regard Duhigg shines. In the habits of individuals section we learn about the three-step "habit loop" and how our brain looks for ways to save effort by first looking for "cues" or triggers, followed by a "routine" to follow that is physical, mental or emotional and finally a "reward" that determines if the loop is memorable enough to become a habit. Duhigg does a fine job of explaining habits, how they work and indeed how to change them.

Like many bestsellers based on social science research (Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney, Redirect by Tim Wilson and Change Anything by Kerry Patterson for example) Duhigg tells great stories, many with a surprising twist that engages the reader and seem to further his argument. However, at times he seems to overreach in estimating the power of habits and gives them credit for everything from Super Bowl victories, the amazing turnaround of Fortune 500 companies and the gains of the Civil Rights Movement.

While Tony Dungy as coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Paul O'Neill at Alcoa and Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott make for amazing stories in Duhigg's capable hands, to attribute their successes to habits and habits alone seems to make the error that Phil Rosenzweig highlights in his seminal work The Halo Effect.

Could having a Hall of Fame quarterback at the most important position in sports have helped Dungy's team as much, if not more than, simple habit change? Did rising aluminum prices in the late 1980's and 1990's account for some, if not most, of Alcoa's financial success beyond O'Neill's focus on worker safety? And after years and years of struggle before 1955 did the Civil Rights Movement finally reach its tipping point in Montgomery?

Make no mistake, Duhigg is very persuasive with these and many more stories, but beyond his explanation of habit formation and change and especially his own habit change process found in the Appendix (which I found very helpful), I feel he used his habit model as a hammer and every story he tells was a nail.

I still highly recommend this book, but beyond studies that were independently verified and research based more on causation than correlation, I would take some of Duhigg's stories with a grain of salt. For the reader looking to change personal habits however I can think of no better place to start.
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on October 27, 2014
An insightful look into some of the current thinking about habits. It is both disturbing and comforting at the same time to learn that once a habit is formed, we may not be in conscious control of our actions at all. Once the cue or trigger is received, the habit follows, pretty much like clockwork. The author presents the results from a number of studies and the arguments are pretty convincing. It is good to get this deeper understanding into our habits, but ultimately we all want to know how we can break an existing habit and how we can create new ones, that are presumably more desirable. The author does have some thoughts along these lines, but it seems to come down to deliberate action - make a plan to do something and stick to it until it becomes a habit. If you want to break a habit, find something else to take the place of the "habitual" response to the cue. I am obviously simplifying a great deal, but I did find these parts less insightful.

The last third or so of the book are about how habits influence events at a larger scale - be it a company or society itself. These sections made for great reading, but I am less convinced about the practical implications.

Overall, the book is very a interesting read with well placed stories and inferences that seem convincing in the most part.
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on June 24, 2017
What a pleasure. Many well told stories to reinforce the concept that habits rule us. It may have been a little light on info and I'm still not clear on how to change my own habits, but loved a book with so many interesting tales.
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on January 26, 2016
A couple years ago, one of my friends was reading this book and recommended it to me. I then proceeded to read a billion books in between but didn't forget. He was right - this is a great book! I have a hard time paying attention, and can be very scattery, yet over the years, I figured out that things need to be done by habit, and that keeps me, and everyone around me at work and even often in real life, organized. Even though I've been mostly consciously doing this the bulk of my adult life, if not longer, I didn't know much about the mechanics. Why does it work, and how does it affect things in a bigger picture? This book helped me learn, and I've been telling people about it ever since. I even sent a copy to my family. Both the writing style and content are interesting and easily accessible. Read this book
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on September 14, 2017
One of the most fascinating, helpful and accessible books I've read lately. If you enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's books, you'll like this. With apologies to Gladwell, I describe this book as a Gladwell book that you'll actually be interested in until the end. Each part builds upon the last, describing how habits form, how they're changed, what factors impact their development and how those elements apply not just to an individual, but also to a company, a whole culture or a political movement. Cannot recommend highly enough!
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on March 8, 2017
A friend recommended this book to me, I'm an addiction counselor and have been for 25 years. It's been a long time since I read any fresh material on addictions and habits. I was very pleasantly surprised by the authors well done and documented research. A great read for anyone interested in the *how and why* of all our habits. I guess I didn't know it all after all :)
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on September 30, 2016
As a procrastinator trying to get my life in order, I am now going with self-help books. This one was pretty good, and easy read, with lots of entertaining anecdotes. I wish there was more scientific basis, like in the first section, then so much anecdotal evidence for how habits work.

In the end though, I now think about habits daily. I especially appreciate how changing a small, key habit can spread into many other aspects of your life. I am starting to really believe that and I am starting to see it in my own life. And making small habits is actually pretty easy. It becomes a tiny success that can snowball into some major changes in your life.
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on August 6, 2017
What a great book!! Exciting to read, from start to finish. Once through won't be enough for me. Some of the concepts are deep and require thought. He gives great examples that inspire, encourage, and motivate. Wonderfully written!!!
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