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Editorial Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - Change is hard, or is it? In The Power of Habit, New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg examines just how people and institutions undergo transformation: by changing habits. Narrator Mike Chamberlain (Moonwalking with Einstein) brings just the right mix of objectivity and conviction for a fascinating, life-changing look on how to change. —Diana M.

Publisher's Summary

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 transformation.

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.

©2012 Charles Duhigg (P)2012 Random House, Inc.

What members say

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  • Mehra
  • Cairo, Egypt
  • 04-22-12

Nice! A guide on how to change

At first I was hesitant to buy this book as I have read several self help books like Today Matters, Awaken the Giant Within, etc. And I just didnt want to buy another one as after a couple of books the information in them starts getting repetitive and the truth is if you actually do what is in one book it will be more than enough. The only problem is that we read a lot and do not persist in doing what we learned form the book...or at least thats the case for me.

But I bough this book anyway as it seemed different and the reviews on it were good. It was worth it.

In the book, the author talks about habits and how to create new ones and stick to them. He doesn't tell you do this and that to be more productive, rather he tells you how to craete habits and then start doing them naturally without effort or thinking...whatever that habit is. He provides scientific evidence that when an act becomes a habit, your brain does less work to do it!

He says for a certain action to become a habit, there are three things:
1. A cue that triggers the action
2. Repetition: You have to repeat the action everytime the cue happens
3. Reward: A reward at the end
And so to change the bad habits that you have, you will not ignore the cue that drove you to that old habit but rather you will act diffrently. In other words, you will satisfy your craving in another way as ignoring it will only solve the problem temporarily and after a while you will go back to your old habits again.
And so you will keep the cue and the reward but change the routine in the middle....but first you need to see what you were really craving. Was it really that chocolate bar you were craving or were you bored at work and wanted a distraction? If it was boredom, then go and socialize instead. Like this you didn't ignore the cue (boredom) or the reward (getting out of boredom) but you simple replaced the bad habit(chocolate) with a good one (socializing).
But he then states that usually people create habits and stick to them until a crisis or pressure comes. At that moment, people usually go back to their old habits mainly because they do not believe in the new system or the new habit. And that adds the fourth element of creating a habit which is belief - belief in the habit and in something bigger - like God. Believing that there is a God or that there is a higher power that will take you through this hard times is essential to keep you going on and not falling back. This will be specially usefull in bad habits like drinking.

He then states that people usually try to change everything at once and thus do that for a little while and then get overwhelmed and return back to all their old habits.
And so to stick to a habit and change your life, you need to select a key stone habit. A key stone habit is a habit that when you change it, all other habits will automatically change. For example, if you write a daily food journal - just writing what you eat, you have not decided to eat less or anything else - just writing what you eat down will eventually make you watch what you eat and change it. Consequently, by just focusing on this one habit you encourged other habits. However, you will not be overwhelmed by a sudden lot of change.

He then talks about grit - which is to keep walking towards your goal for years inspite of challenges and obstacles, and regardless of how long it takes you to achieve it. He says that will power and self discipline are the most important factors for success - not IQ or anything else. That will power is a habit too. That it is a muscle that can be excercised, that when you have will power you start to change how you think. That you have to practice focusing on goals, writing plans and identifying simple cues and obvious rewards. For example, you should write a plan on how one would act in a specific situation. Specifically what you would do when things go wrong or get tough.

He also talks about crisis and how people are more open to change during crisis and that this will be a good opportunity to change social habits.
As for the ingredients for social habits:
1. Protest
2. Peer pressure
3. Must be self prepelling. People have to be participants and not followers
He talks a lot more about social habits but that is just a summary

To sum up he says that to create new habits and to change you have to:
1. Decide to work hard. As it a lot of hard work and will not come easily.
2. Identify cue and reward
3. One has to have self control and be self conscious
That habits are what you choose them to be. That they are the unthinking choices that we make everyday. By making them visible we can change them.

Also, he backs up all this by providing examples and scientific evidence.

1341 of 1394 people found this review helpful

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  • Doug
  • Whitby, ON, Canada
  • 05-12-12

Great, real world stories that drive the point

What did you love best about The Power of Habit?

Really interesting biographies of actual professionals and athletes that have used habit to excel in their fields

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

You realize how effective habits and shaping,creating habits can be

What insight do you think you’ll apply from The Power of Habit?

I have begun creating routines and sticking to them. It's work at first, but the book provides inspiration and insight so that you keep at it.

Any additional comments?

Really enjoyed this book. Very different from the usual self-help books.

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

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You will learn something about yourself

What a marvelous book! My husband and I listened to it over about 7 days and each night we would discuss what we had heard the night before at length. We learned to observe our own habits and think about which ones we wanted to change. The story is engaging; at times funny and other times tragic but the effect keeps the listener interested.
The author builds each chapter and the listener is satisfied at the end. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about why we do the things that we do. Also, if you are a reader of Drs. Dan Arielly and Daniel Gilbert you will appreciate this book.
I always judge the value of something by what I have learned from it and I have learned a lot about my own habits after listening to and thinking critically about the points made in this book.

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

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1 hour of useful info, 9 hours of stories

After the first hour or so, everything useful had been said. After that it was literally 9 hours of stories that are examples of the principles. Thia book could have been cut in half and still had been too long.

68 of 76 people found this review helpful

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Good, but....

Some aspects of this book are great. It is a real discussion of habit, and techniques to change it. The anecdotes get extremely annoying. The author jumps from one story, to another, and then back again. It lacks a summary of the main point of each chapter, which would really help drive things home.

In one chapter I listened to a discussion of brain surgery and a a blow by blow detail of a big surgical error. This story was then displayed as an example of negative habits.

That sounds OK in theory, but it took the author twenty minutes to get to the point. I felt like most of the meaning of the book got buried in the examples, and there was no clarification on the meat of the information.

It's narrated well.

305 of 343 people found this review helpful

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Get in the Habit

Charles Duhigg is a reporter for the New York Times and author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. I picked this volume up out of sheer curiosity and was well rewarded for my reading time. This is an entertaining and informative book. The book falls into three major sections. In the first, Duhigg brings readers up to speed on current research about individual habits. Wait! Don’t let that discourage you from turning some pages in this book. It is really helpful material. In the next section, Duhigg applies what we are coming to understand about the development of habits to organizations. The most helpful chapter in this section concerns how Starbucks has institutionalized habits of success. In the final section, Habits of Societies, Duhigg describes how the Montgomery Bus Boycott came to be and how the pastor of Saddleback Church came to use habit to build his congregation. Both chapters are well worth the price of the book. Readers hoping to know how to break bad habits will not find direct advice. However, the book outlines how habits are formed and much can be gleaned from that perspective. I hope that Duhigg will follow this volume with others. His writing style is very good and his preparation is evident. The reading of Mike Chamberlain is excellent.

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Louis
  • Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • 05-14-12

Not Unabridged: "Using These Ideas" is Missing

Why one star? This is not unabridged. The eleven page Appendix, "A Reader's Guide to Using These Ideas" is missing. The Appendix *is* the conclusion, and without it, the book's lessons do not coalesce.

The performance is strong, if a bit chipper for a morning commute, and Mike Chamberlin is a good companion after a cup of coffee.

The story is strong. A clear, simple structure, but it may trick readers into skipping parts, especially the last section, in which a pivotal moment in American history is linked to the founding of the MegaChurch (and in the hands of lesser man than Rick Warren, it is a How To for founding a cult). The last chapter stumbles into lumpy epiphanies. One paragraph (p 271) begins, "That, in some ways, the point of the book."

(And I would have appreciated the Acknowledgements being included. Some can be tedious, like listening to the Best Man after too many drinks, but Duhigg's are genuine and insightful. Further, the endnotes are smart, thorough and enlightening. His expertise as an investigative journalist shines.)

311 of 354 people found this review helpful

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Please get to the point, already

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

By cutting out 80% of the "human interest" stories and sticking to the promised "Why we do what we do...". Illustrating by example is all well and good but I found myself deeply frustrated with the amount of time spent tangentially setting up the same points. Imagine a book on the civil engineering discipline of bridge building spending 20 minutes talking about how aunt Margie needed to drive to the market to get sugar for her pound cake .... blah blah blah. I'm half way through and I regularly have to breathe deeply and count to ten in frustration at the ridiculous lengths this author went to to bloat his couple of very interesting nuggets into a full length book.

Would you ever listen to anything by Charles Duhigg again?

Probably not

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Anger, frustration, disappointment.

31 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Not what I expected

What would have made The Power of Habit better?

The story never got going. It did not provide answers or even suggestions. Nothing more then a collection of semi interesting anecdotes.

Has The Power of Habit turned you off from other books in this genre?


Did the narration match the pace of the story?


What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?


8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Shannon
  • Discovery Bay, CA, United States
  • 04-09-12


Would you listen to The Power of Habit again? Why?

This book is so informational, interesting and well told it makes me not want to stop listening to it! Understanding how habits are formed and called upon, and used in business has been very valuable!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Power of Habit?

The Alcoa story

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?


47 of 59 people found this review helpful

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