February’s Book: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Our habits—good and bad—shape our lives, and understanding how habits work is key to losing weight, being more productive, exercising regularly, and achieving success. In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg investigates the scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist, how they can be changed, and uncovers a new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation. He shows why some people and companies struggle and fail to change, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. He looks at the ways neuroscientists explore how habits work, and how the right habits were crucial to the success of people such as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and Martin Luther King, Jr.


Charles Duhigg

Comments [34]

Jane Gennaro

The author has a habit of ending declarative statements as if he's asking a question. What's the reward to the habit of question speak? Does it make the speaker feel more likable and less threatening?

Feb. 06 2013 05:34 PM

Mr. Duhigg comes across as a super friendly, high energy salesman, spilling out one anecdote on top of another but I have very little sense of what his narrative ultimately adds up to.

Feb. 05 2013 09:09 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Anonyme - Fascinating! Will definitely check out Eden's work.

Feb. 05 2013 04:55 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Very interesting. I'm going to listen again. I hope you'll have Duhigg on again, on other topics.

Feb. 05 2013 03:25 PM

Thatgirl from Manhattan
Yep - EFT is one of the Energy Psychology techniques - used a lot by soldiers for PTSD - There's a book called The Promise of Energy Psychology by David Feinstein, Donna Eden and Gary Craig (founder of EFT) - Also Donna Eden, David's wife, has an even more body based approach - and then there's CA acupuncturist Tapas Fleming (TAT) who healed her own stage 3 breast cancer with her technique, also helps PTSD for soldiers - - her technique came out on top as a weight loss strategy (though I use Donna's, which is about metabolic balance, not mental control or a behaviorist strategy - called Spleen-triple warmer balancing sequence - in Energy Medicine for Women. She lost 17 lbs in 7 weeks on it and I lost 15 painlessly in 8 weeks and my balance and thus my eating habits were forever changed.

Feb. 05 2013 02:23 PM

Naomi Grossman from Long Island City

There's a stress-busting acupressure point on the roof of the mouth - she's trying to deal with stress.

Feb. 05 2013 02:09 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

anonyme - I believe you're referring to what some call EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique. It's supposed to be very good for anxiety and energy; it could be a good practice to engage when finding oneself in one's "habit" to reinforce self-awareness.

Feb. 05 2013 01:38 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Pam from ny - I have worked with people whose voices are recorded for broadcast. Those who can hear their own vocal tics can correct them if they're not associated with some other disorder. As Mr. Duhigg says, acknowledgment of the issue is the first crucial step, so I suggest one record their own voice in conversation or presentation.

Feb. 05 2013 01:34 PM
Naomi Grossman from Long is city

My granddaughter sucks her thiumb. I remember how hard it was to stop sucking as a kid. Any suggestions for 3 year olds?

Feb. 05 2013 01:31 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Gambling & similar behavioral habits may not introduce a chemical into the body from outside, but they do cause chemical changes in the body that evoke a reward response--does that really mean they aren't addictions?

Feb. 05 2013 01:30 PM

Here is a wonderful help for habit changing of all kinds - an interesting take comes from Donna Eden and David Feinstein who see everything as energy habits. It involves the triple Warmer meridian (adrenal)

Check also David Feinstein's energy psychology

The energy people say tapping on the body (on certain points) doesn't get adrenals aroused, so it helps all kinds of issues

Feb. 05 2013 01:28 PM
John A

Willpower cannot change us but willpower habits can. OK, its NewSpeak I guess. Slavery is Freedom!

Feb. 05 2013 01:25 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I would think that habits and addictions are pretty much the same in terms of brain chemistry.

I freely admit to being a chocoholic, but, as you know, chocolate produces endorphins in the brain, which is the same as opiate addiction. But I can control this addiction simply by not buying it.

On the other hand, I have some bad habits (i.e., talking myself out of doing laundry until I run out of underwear), but am unable to develop good habits (i.e., entering receipts in Quicken the same day I get them).

On reflection, I think that bad habits are addictive and good habits may not be.

Feb. 05 2013 01:25 PM
Emmanuel from Bk

Can your guest please talk about political apathy and habits? Despite massive international protests against the invasion of Iraq, it took Obama being kicked out by the Iraqis themselves to leave.

Feb. 05 2013 01:25 PM
Millie from Weschester

Can your guest discuss the habit of procrastination?
Thank you.

Feb. 05 2013 01:24 PM
antonio from baySide

The guest is so right! I run and some of my dedication has spilled over to learning programming, being a more ambitious cook..etc. can i use this in anyway to stop anxiety?

Feb. 05 2013 01:24 PM
Pam from ny

How may one break the habit of talking with an upward inflection?

Feb. 05 2013 01:24 PM
Anonymous from Morristown

Has anyone studied whether depressed patients respond in the same way to habits, since their experience of reward may be dulled?

Feb. 05 2013 01:24 PM
Ed from Larchmont

This has a parallel in the idea of dogma: because we accept dogma, we don't have to reinvent the wheel, but can use creativity on new questions.

Feb. 05 2013 01:23 PM

How to find the cue for a sporadic habit, like playing a computer game, that wastes time.

Or, decrease a habit that reinforces procrastination.

Feb. 05 2013 01:22 PM

I quit smoking after many tries, but not till I found a reason to breathe - i was a skater as a kid - I wanted my breath back! Also I became a real rollerblading fanatic - two loops a day.

Feb. 05 2013 01:20 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Biting nails delivers a pain sensation? And that's why "intelligent" people do it?...

Feb. 05 2013 01:19 PM

I am a MAJOR hair twirler. I've done it ever since I can remember, in fact, my mother says I even did it as a toddler. Not sure why but I am always doing it no matter the mood I'm in or what I'm doing. As long as I'm sitting I'm twirling my hair.

Feb. 05 2013 01:19 PM


Feb. 05 2013 01:18 PM
gs from morristown

From what you are describing it's similar to when you are an addict and you just change your addiction.

Feb. 05 2013 01:16 PM
Dan Winckler from Williamsburg

Could you talk about the efficacy of the tiny habits approach (

Feb. 05 2013 01:16 PM
Nicole Peaks from Montclair, NJ

I was a classmate of Charlie at Yale. I'm very proud that he has become an "expert" and author. One "habit" that I have adopted is using subtle cues on my teen. If I want him to practice his guitar instead of saying "why don't you practice?" I just go practice my own instrument and he will come upstairs and play with me.

Feb. 05 2013 01:13 PM
Juan from Mount Vernon

What about habits that have only negative outcomes? (Biting nails, cutting, etc.)

Feb. 05 2013 01:12 PM
Wick Smith from Bridgewater, NJ

A little bit of an mixture of pop science and self help. The well-worn technique of explaining the habits of highly effective people with a simple diagram that seems to explain why it all works is common to the self-help genre. I'm enjoying it, but I wonder how much is really new here?

Also: Downy is the fabric softener and Bounce is the brand of dryer sheets. Not vice versa. Mr. Duhigg probably does not do his own laundry.

Feb. 05 2013 12:19 PM
safarisue from Midtown

I was riveted by this book although (I cheated), I listened to the audible version. It's fascinating and the narrator is very good. My question is: At around 6:30 PM every evening, I have a mad craving for an alcoholic beverage. It's crazy! I don't have the urge at any other time! I really don't want to drink but I usually cave in and have a glass of wine. I know that sounds like a little but since my family has the alcoholic gene, (please don't mention my name) excessive drinking can grow into a big problem not unlike that poor lady gambler. Any ideas how to change this craving to a no booze win? Thanks.

Feb. 04 2013 05:01 PM
Ronald Gross from Columbia University

From: Ron Gross at Columbia University

We'll have a Conversation about this topic/book on Thursday, Jan. 24th from 3:45-5:00 pm on the campus at 120th Street (116th street stop on the #1 subway).

There'll be light refreshments, a display of other relevant books, etc.

RSVP required to attend and to receive exact address/location -- to me at

Jan. 17 2013 06:59 AM
Elena Brunn from Hell's Kitchen

Just what I need! And if I can get around to powering up the iPod I got as a Christmas gift, I'll tune in between classes. I'm writing this at a desk that is a cross between the contents of an emptied wastepaper basket and a time capsule of MMXII. Today is the day I must start bringing order out of chaos. Really. I mean it.

Jan. 16 2013 03:26 PM
Rich Bee from Huntington, NY

I have the book on reserve and if Mr. Duhigg can help me get organized and stay focused I'll be a happy man. I'll be away on Feb. 5th so I'll listen on line. Looking forward to getting started.

Jan. 15 2013 06:25 PM
Wendy from Highland Park, NJ

Awesome! I was wanting to read this book. What better way than with a whole community, on my favorite radio station, with one of my favorite hosts. Downloading the Kindle book now... See you back here soon!

Jan. 15 2013 02:19 PM

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