NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
With a new Afterword by the author
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Wall Street Journal • Financial Times
“Sharp, provocative, and useful.”—Jim Collins
“Few [books] become essential manuals for business and living. The Power of Habit is an exception. Charles Duhigg not only explains how habits are formed but how to kick bad ones and hang on to the good.”—Financial Times
“A flat-out great read.”—David Allen, bestselling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
“You’ll never look at yourself, your organization, or your world quite the same way.”—Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Entertaining . . . enjoyable . . . fascinating . . . a serious look at the science of habit formation and change.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Cue: see cover. Routine: read book. Reward: fully comprehend the art of manipulation.”—Bloomberg Businessweek
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
THE HABIT LOOP
How Habits Work
In the fall of 1993, a man who would upend much of what we know about habits walked into a laboratory in San Diego for a scheduled appointment. He was elderly, a shade over six feet tall, and neatly dressed in a blue button-down shirt. His thick white hair would have inspired envy at any fiftieth high school reunion. Arthritis caused him to limp slightly as he paced the laboratory's hallways, and he held his wife's hand, walking slowly, as if unsure about what each new step would bring.
About a year earlier, Eugene Pauly, or "E.P." as he would come to be known in medical literature, had been at home in Playa del Rey, preparing for dinner, when his wife mentioned that their son, Michael, was coming over.
"Who's Michael?" Eugene asked.
"Your child," said his wife, Beverly. "You know, the one we raised?"
Eugene looked at her blankly. "Who is that?" he asked.
The next day, Eugene started vomiting and writhing with stomach cramps. Within twenty-four hours, his dehydration was so pronounced that a panicked Beverly took him to the emergency room. His temperature started rising, hitting 105 degrees as he sweated a yellow halo of perspiration onto the hospital's sheets. He became delirious, then violent, yelling and pushing when nurses tried to insert an IV into his arm. Only after sedation was a physician able to slide a long needle between two vertebra in the small of his back and extract a few drops of cerebrospinal fluid.
The doctor performing the procedure sensed trouble immediately. The fluid surrounding the brain and spinal nerves is a barrier against infection and injury. In healthy individuals, it is clear and quick flowing, moving with an almost silky rush through a needle. The sample from Eugene's spine was cloudy and dripped out sluggishly, as if filled with microscopic grit. When the results came back from the laboratory, Eugene's physicians learned why he was ill: He was suffering from viral encephalitis, a relatively common disease that produces cold sores, fever blisters, and mild infections on the skin. In rare cases, however, the virus can make its way into the brain, inflicting catastrophic damage as it chews through the delicate folds of tissue where our thoughts, dreams-and according to some, souls- reside.
Eugene's doctors told Beverly there was nothing they could do to counter the damage already done, but a large dose of antiviral drugs might prevent it from spreading. Eugene slipped into a coma and for ten days was close to death. Gradually, as the drugs fought the disease, his fever receded and the virus disappeared. When he finally awoke, he was weak and disoriented and couldn't swallow properly. He couldn't form sentences and would sometimes gasp, as if he had momentarily forgotten how to breathe. But he was alive.
Eventually, Eugene was well enough for a battery of tests. The doctors were amazed to find that his body-including his nervous system- appeared largely unscathed. He could move his limbs and was responsive to noise and light. Scans of his head, though, revealed ominous shadows near the center of his brain. The virus had destroyed an oval of tissue close to where his cranium and spinal column met. "He might not be the person you remember," one doctor warned Beverly. "You need to be ready if your husband is gone."
Eugene was moved to a different wing of the hospital. Within a week, he was swallowing easily. Another week, and he started talking normally, asking for Jell-O and salt, flipping through television channels and complaining about boring soap operas. By the time he was discharged to a rehabilitation center five weeks later, Eugene was walking down hallways and offering nurses unsolicited advice about their weekend plans.
"I don't think I've ever seen anyone come back like this," a doctor told Beverly. "I don't want to raise your hopes, but this is amazing."
Beverly, however, remained concerned. In the rehab hospital it became clear that the disease had changed her husband in unsettling ways. Eugene couldn't remember which day of the week it was, for instance, or the names of his doctors and nurses, no matter how many times they introduced themselves. "Why do they keep asking me all these questions?" he asked Beverly one day after a physician left his room. When he finally returned home, things got even stranger. Eugene didn't seem to remember their friends. He had trouble following conversations. Some mornings, he would get out of bed, walk into the kitchen, cook himself bacon and eggs, then climb back under the covers and turn on the radio. Forty minutes later, he would do the same thing: get up, cook bacon and eggs, climb back into bed, and fiddle with the radio. Then he would do it again.
Alarmed, Beverly reached out to specialists, including a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who specialized in memory loss. Which is how, on a sunny fall day, Beverly and Eugene found themselves in a nondescript building on the university's campus, holding hands as they walked slowly down a hallway. They were shown into a small exam room. Eugene began chatting with a young woman who was using a computer.
"Having been in electronics over the years, I'm amazed at all this," he said, gesturing at the machine she was typing on. "When I was younger, that thing would have been in a couple of six-foot racks and taken up this whole room."
The woman continued pecking at the keyboard. Eugene chuckled.
"That is incredible," he said. "All those printed circuits and diodes and triodes. When I was in electronics, there would have been a couple of six-foot racks holding that thing."
A scientist entered the room and introduced himself. He asked Eugene how old he was.
"Oh, let's see, fifty-nine or sixty?" Eugene replied. He was seventy- one years old.
The scientist started typing on the computer. Eugene smiled and pointed at it. "That is really something," he said. "You know, when I was in electronics there would have been a couple of six-foot racks holding that thing!"
The scientist was fifty-two-year-old Larry Squire, a professor who had spent the past three decades studying the neuroanatomy of memory. His specialty was exploring how the brain stores events. His work with Eugene, however, would soon open a new world to him and hundreds of other researchers who have reshaped our understanding of how habits function. Squire's studies would show that even someone who can't remember his own age or almost anything else can develop habits that seem inconceivably complex-until you realize that everyone relies on similar neurological processes every day. His and others' research would help reveal the subconscious mechanisms that impact the countless choices that seem as if they're the products of well- reasoned thought, but actually are influenced by urges most of us barely recognize or understand.
By the time Squire met Eugene, he had already been studying images of his brain for weeks. The scans indicated that almost all the damage within Eugene's skull was limited to a five-centimeter area near the center of his head. The virus had almost entirely destroyed his medial temporal lobe, a sliver of cells which scientists suspected was responsible for all sorts of cognitive tasks such as recall of the past and the regulation of some emotions. The completeness of the destruction didn't surprise Squire-viral encephalitis consumes tissue with a ruthless, almost surgical, precision. What shocked him was how familiar the images seemed.
Thirty years earlier, as a PhD student at MIT, Squire had worked alongside a group studying a man known as "H.M.," one of the most famous patients in medical history. When H.M.-his real name was Henry Molaison, but scientists shrouded his identity throughout his life-was seven years old, he was hit by a bicycle and landed hard on his head. Soon afterward, he developed seizures and started blacking out. At sixteen, he had his first grand mal seizure, the kind that affects the entire brain; soon, he was losing consciousness up to ten times a day.
By the time he turned twenty-seven, H.M. was desperate. Anticonvulsive drugs hadn't helped. He was smart, but couldn't hold a job. He still lived with his parents. H.M. wanted a normal existence. So he sought help from a physician whose tolerance for experimentation outweighed his fear of malpractice. Studies had suggested that an area of the brain called the hippocampus might play a role in seizures. When the doctor proposed cutting into H.M.'s head, lifting up the front portion of his brain, and, with a small straw, sucking out the hippocampus and some surrounding tissue from the interior of his skull, H.M. gave his consent.
The surgery occurred in 1953, and as H.M. healed, his seizures slowed. Almost immediately, however, it became clear that his brain had been radically altered. H.M. knew his name and that his mother was from Ireland. He could remember the 1929 stock market crash and news reports about the invasion of Normandy. But almost everything that came afterward-all the memories, experiences, and struggles from most of the decade before his surgery-had been erased. When a doctor began testing H.M.'s memory by showing him playing cards and lists of numbers, he discovered that H.M. couldn't retain any new information for more than twenty seconds or so.
From the day of his surgery until his death in 2008, every person H.M. met, every song he heard, every room he entered, was a completely fresh experience. His brain was frozen in time. Each day, he was befuddled by the fact that someone could change the television channel by pointing a black rectangle of plastic at the screen. He introduced himself to his doctors and nurses over and over, dozens of times each day.
"I loved learning about H.M., because memory seemed like such a tangible, exciting way to study the brain," Squire told me. "I grew up in Ohio, and I can remember, in first grade, my teacher handing everyone crayons, and I started mixing all the colors together to see if it would make black. Why have I kept that memory, but I can't remember what my teacher looked like? Why does my brain decide that one memory is more important than another?"
When Squire received the images of Eugene's brain, he marveled at how similar it seemed to H.M.'s. There were empty, walnut-sized chunks in the middle of both their heads. Eugene's memory-just like H.M.'s-had been removed.
As Squire began examining Eugene, though, he saw that this patient was different from H.M. in some profound ways. Whereas almost everyone knew within minutes of meeting H.M. that something was amiss, Eugene could carry on conversations and perform tasks that wouldn't alert a casual observer that anything was wrong. The effects of H.M.'s surgery had been so debilitating that he was institutionalized for the remainder of his life. Eugene, on the other hand, lived at home with his wife. H.M. couldn't really carry on conversations. Eugene, in contrast, had an amazing knack for guiding almost any discussion to a topic he was comfortable talking about at length, such as satellites- he had worked as a technician for an aerospace company-or the weather.
Squire started his exam of Eugene by asking him about his youth. Eugene talked about the town where he had grown up in central California, his time in the merchant marines, a trip he had taken to Australia as a young man. He could remember most of the events in his life that had occurred prior to about 1960. When Squire asked about later decades, Eugene politely changed the topic and said he had trouble recollecting some recent events.
Squire conducted a few intelligence tests and found that Eugene's intellect was still sharp for a man who couldn't remember the last three decades. What's more, Eugene still had all the habits he had formed in his youth, so whenever Squire gave him a cup of water or complimented him on a particularly detailed answer, Eugene would thank him and offer a compliment in return. Whenever someone entered the room, Eugene would introduce himself and ask about their day.
But when Squire asked Eugene to memorize a string of numbers or describe the hallway outside the laboratory's door, the doctor found his patient couldn't retain any new information for more than a minute or so. When someone showed Eugene photos of his grandchildren, he had no idea who they were. When Squire asked if he remembered getting sick, Eugene said he had no recollection of his illness or the hospital stay. In fact, Eugene almost never recalled that he was suffering from amnesia. His mental image of himself didn't include memory loss, and since he couldn't remember the injury, he couldn't conceive of anything being wrong.
In the months after meeting Eugene, Squire conducted experiments that tested the limits of his memory. By then, Eugene and Beverly had moved from Playa del Rey to San Diego to be closer to their daughter, and Squire often visited their home for his exams. One day, Squire asked Eugene to sketch a layout of his house. Eugene couldn't draw a rudimentary map showing where the kitchen or bedroom was located. "When you get out of bed in the morning, how do you leave your room?" Squire asked.
"You know," Eugene said, "I'm not really sure."
Squire took notes on his laptop, and as the scientist typed, Eugene became distracted. He glanced across the room and then stood up, walked into a hallway, and opened the door to the bathroom. A few minutes later, the toilet flushed, the faucet ran, and Eugene, wiping his hands on his pants, walked back into the living room and sat down again in his chair next to Squire. He waited patiently for the next question.
At the time, no one wondered how a man who couldn't draw a map of his home was able to find the bathroom without hesitation. But that question, and others like it, would eventually lead to a trail of discoveries that has transformed our understanding of habits' power. It would help spark a scientific revolution that today involves hundreds of researchers who are learning, for the first time, to understand all the habits that influence our lives.
As Eugene sat at the table, he looked at Squire's laptop.
"That's amazing," he said, gesturing at the computer. "You know, when I was in electronics, there would have been a couple of six-foot racks holding that thing."
Table of Contents
The Habit Cure xi
Part 1 The Habits of Individuals
1 The Habit Loop
How Habits Work 3
2 The Craving Brain
How to Create New Habits 31
3 The Golden Rule of Habit Change
Why Transformation Occurs 60
Part 2 The Habits of Successful Organizations
4 Keystone Habits, or the Ballad of Paul O'neill
Which Habits Matter Most 97
5 Starbucks and the Habit of Success
When Willpower Becomes Automatic 1 27
6 The Power of a Crisis
How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design 154
7 How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do
When Companies Predict (and Manipulate) Habits 182
Part 3 The Habits of Societies
8 Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
How Movements Happen 215
9 The Neurology of Free Will
Are We Responsible for Our Habits? 245
A Reader's Guide to Using These Ideas 275
A Note on Sources 291
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My usual habit is to pick up a mystery novel and engross myself in the imagined problems of nonfiction characters. I decided to change this habit and try this nonfiction book with the rather intriguing title that professed to help identify our habits and show us how to change them. Habits are those things we initially choose to do, which have evolved, through repeated use into things we do without thinking. Written in language even I can understand, the book breaks down the pattern of habits into three parts that we can recognize and change. The author illustrates that by first identifying components of a habit, we can then work to change them. This is a self help book that may actually be of some help, if we want to change. This book was provided for review by Random House. Now, where did I put that mystery novel?
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. 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. 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?
Although it was well written, I was disappointed because I thought I would be getting hands-in practical advise on how to create new habits within a more structured environment and not stories about other people's habits and how they overcame them. It was so boring to read story after story with the same diagrams over and over. Just wasn't what I expected.
This book provided amazing insight and advice, and kept my interest throughout the entire read. Also, it DOES talk about changing habits in a realistic working environment. Great read.
It is often said that we are creatures of habit, in that many of our daily activities end up being a matter of routine rather than direct deliberation. While this is no doubt true, author Charles Duhigg insists that this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact that habits have on our daily lives. Indeed, in his new book `The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business' Duhigg argues that habits not only pervade our personal lives, but that they have an integral role to play in the businesses and other organizations of which we are a part, and that they are also at the heart of successful social movements. The first part of the book focuses on the role that habits play in our personal lives. Here we learn about the habit loop consisting of cue, routine, and reward, and how the elements in this loop can be manipulated to help modify our habits. We also learn about the power of particular habits called keystone habits (which include exercise, as well as eating together as a family) that help initiate a domino effect that touches all of the other aspects of our lives. Also, we learn about the power of belief--and the importance of social groups in helping create this belief--that stands behind successful habit transformation programs. The second part of the book concentrates on how habits help shape businesses and organizations. Here we learn that the formation of habits and routines within organizations is unavoidable; what's more, that it is always best for the leadership of a group to make a deliberate effort to shape the habits of their organizations, and in a way that ensures a high degree of equality and fairness for its various members, while nonetheless making it clear who is ultimately in charge of each particular aspect of the operation. Second, we learn that keystone habits--which are at the center of our personal lives--are also pivotal when it comes to larger organizations. We also learn about the greatest keystone habit of all: willpower, and how this habit can best be cultivated (and how companies are employing these lessons to help train employees successfully). Finally, we learn about how companies instill habits in their customers. The third and final part of the book examines the importance of habits in social movements. Here we learn that movements tend to follow a three-part process. To start with, a movement tends to begin with a group of close friends. The movement tends to grow when these people spread it to the broader communities of which they are a part. Finally, in order to really take hold and spread, the movement must be guided forward by an effective leader who lays down new habits for the movement's adherents in a way that allows them to gain a sense of identity. On the negative side, the organization of the book is somewhat muddled, as there is significant overlap in the parts on individuals and organizations. Also, the section on social movements rests on a precious few examples, and therefore, the theory seems less convincing than it might otherwise be. Still, though, there are many things to be learned here and the book is well worth the read. For a full summary of the book, as well as many of the juicier details and anecdotes to be found therein, visit the website at newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com, and click on article #9. The information in the article will also be available in a condensed version as a podcast on the same site soon.
I first heard about this book on NPR. I knew that others had written about habits before Mr. Duhigg, but when I heard his interview, I was intrigued and decided to buy it. I'm glad I did. The Power of Habit contains laymen-friendly explanations drawn from case studies (though presented in a friendly style, not the dry "case study" approach of so many business, legal, and medical textbooks) of how habits form, work, affect our behaviors both as individuals and as corporate bodies, and can change. The information in the book is well-researched; the end notes (grouped by chapter and page) are very much worth reading concurrently with the main text. The information is clearly presented, providing depth of coverage while keeping the presentation friendly and the mental strain not overly burdensome. It is a fine book for the educated layman, but I suspect that experts in the field of habits research will find this book rather elementary. I have learned that certain habits of mine ARE habits. I've never thought of them that way, but now that I can see them for habits and not inborn parts of my personality, I am in the process of evaluating how to change them to be what I want them to be. We can change our habits; the old, ingrained patterns of behavior don't disappear, and that is what makes habits so hard to break/change, but we can create and ingrain new patterns of behavior in our brains that override or trump the old patterns, thus effectively breaking our habits and creating new ones. I have already given away one copy of this book to an acquaintance, and I plan to give a few more to friends and relatives.
I thought that this was a very interesting read. It is does a good job as an explanatory book examining habits of people, organizations, and societies. The case studies were well chosen and varied. Some may not like the format, which jumps between different examples, then back again, which I found distracting, rather than helpful. This does not focus on changing your personal habits, though there is an appendix detailing how a reader may try to change their own habits. I plan on trying out the framework myself. Well worth reading, I am purchasing a second copy to send to a relative.
This is one of the few books that has changed my life. It has helped me to understand my choices and I have figured out how to change them. I have lost 70 lbs and I was fat all my life. I have also changed smaller things which has improved my life. This book will not give you the exact way to change your life however it will show you how you made decisions in the first place. You simply don't fight to change those decisions but, the routines involved. I really got this one. Excellent
The book has interesting stories that very well present the power of habits, however, I feel that it has it's tangents. I skipped a lot of pages due to the author's sometime obessive rants regarding one subject.. These rants show a bit of desperation in terms of trying to prove that habits ARE powerful. Honestly, I haven't even finished the book. I stopped reading it because I simply lost interest. It starts off strong, but the thirsty horse was only led to a dry lake. In terms of the power of habits, I do agree with some of the author's main points. Habits create who you are and how you are. The ideas did not require an entire book to be presented though, maybe just a few articles could have done the job.
I love these kind of books. It explains how advertisers trick your mind to get you to buy something.
Worth your while, unless you are mentally negligible. He has a nice section at the end that explains how one can change habits.
This book makes it so easy to understand how habits really work in your brain as well as how to identify the circle of a habit and how you can effectively modify it. Totally recommendable!
This book is great and you will learn a lot but if you don't get in the groove of reading it, you will fall off. It can get "boring". But overall I enjoyed it
The Power Of Habit claims to be a book that is key for the reader to learn how to make good habits. Such as habits to help a person to exercise, lose weight, raise children, and build a business. Author Charles Duhigg describes that making smaller good habits will help change the bad ones. I listened to the audio version of The Power Of Habit. I thought maybe listening to the audiobook my brain would able to absorb what needs to be done to create some good habits. Some of the stories were interesting including the one about Starbucks and others. As I listened I realized that most of the book was really talking about examples of how others changed or already had habits and how they kept or change them. Which was sadly not what I was looking for. I guess what I wanted was a workbook with The Power Of Habit. I wanted to know where I begin not how someone else did. I needed a little more guidance. This was the first self help book I listened to on audio and I think I will be doing more non-fiction by audio. Even though this is not what I was looking for it was still a interesting book.
I was able to apply this book to my personal life as well as my career. Very good template for finding and breaking habits.
The author describes many instances where behaviors were changed. He calls these behaviors habits. The examples are interesting but the analysis of cause and effect seems shallow.
this novel is very captivating. i was shocked about that as it was a non-fiction read but honestly it was a very motivating and realistic approach to life situations. gread read, props to the author!!
Great read! Perfect for purposes of self help or improving management skills.
This book kept me interested page after page. It was really fascinating to read about how habits are formed. Great read!
Interesting and revealing. Shows how habits are made so you can replace or change them. Excellent reading.
Informative like a textbook, but written to be entertaining like a novel.
Very informative with practical steps on how to isolate a habit and start to change it.
The author manages to convey brain studies and case studies in almost a story form. It was fascinating and inspiring. I bought a copy for one friend, and another bought it for her Nook. My husband was fascinated, too. It isn't intended as a book specific to ADHD, but it gives me hope.
An interesting mix of science, research, and real life application. Thos book helps you understand why we do the things we do. The section on how retailers use customer habits to grow their business also intrigued me.
This is the most fascinating book I have read in years, I only hope there is a followup/continuation. Very well done, great research.