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Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick

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A landmark book about how we form habits, and what we can do with this knowledge to make positive change

We spend a shocking 43 percent of our day doing things without thinking about them. That means that almost half of our actions aren't conscious choices but the result of our non-conscious mind nudging our body to act along learned behaviors. How we respond to the people around us; the way we conduct ourselves in a meeting; what we buy; when and how we exercise, eat, and drink--a truly remarkable number of things we do every day, regardless of their complexity, operate outside of our awareness. We do them automatically. We do them by habit. And yet, whenever we want to change something about ourselves, we rely on willpower. We keep turning to our conscious selves, hoping that our determination and intention will be enough to effect positive change. And that is why almost all of us fail. But what if you could harness the extraordinary power of your unconscious mind, which already determines so much of what you do, to truly reach your goals?

Wendy Wood draws on three decades of original research to explain the fascinating science of how we form habits, and offers the key to unlocking our habitual mind in order to make the changes we seek. A potent mix of neuroscience, case studies, and experiments conducted in her lab, Good Habits, Bad Habits is a comprehensive, accessible, and above all deeply practical book that will change the way you think about almost every aspect of your life. By explaining how our brains are wired to respond to rewards, receive cues from our surroundings, and shut down when faced with too much friction, Wood skillfully dissects habit formation, demonstrating how we can take advantage of this knowledge to form better habits. Her clear and incisive work shows why willpower alone is woefully inadequate when we're working toward building the life we truly want, and offers real hope for those who want to make positive change.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2019

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Wendy Wood

26 books67 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 330 reviews
Profile Image for Michelle Arredondo.
478 reviews40 followers
June 19, 2019
I have been on a kick for these kind of books lately but sometimes it can get difficult to read anything non-fiction. Sometimes it is why I hesitate to spend the money and worry that I am going to get bogged down with a lot of jargon I don't understand and techniques that are not practical. NOT THE CASE WITH THIS BOOK. This book explores the Science behind positive habits that stick and what it does for you to eliminate bad habits. Author Wendy Wood has done her research and has shared all that extensive research with us. Chock full of information, I was pleased to find out so much about positive habits and the changes that need to be made in order to make that kind of healthy lifestyle. Her writing style screams she is a person that is innovative and relatable and knows what she writes about. I am looking forward to the public getting their hands on this great book. Essential reading for all those ready to make positive changes in their lives.

Thanks to the good people of goodreads, to Author Wendy Wood, and the publishers Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for my free copy of this book won via giveaway. I received. I read. I reviewed this book honestly and voluntarily.
Profile Image for Kevin.
1,427 reviews35 followers
October 19, 2019
I appreciated the science behind this book, it was explained and laid out clearly. The one concept that I'd never heard of before and will try to incorporate in my life is friction. It was best illustrated by the cooking example. If you want to learn a new recipe the best way to do that is to have everything needed prepared before starting the recipe, ingredients, tools, pans ect after that then you can just concentrate on the recipe. This would be easy to use in many aspects of life.
Profile Image for Dasha Slepenkina.
311 reviews11 followers
October 1, 2019
A big thank-you to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for giving me a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

Rating: 3.5/5, rounded up to 4 - Thoroughly enjoyed it, although I do wish that it had been more concise.

This is the book to read if you want to learn everything there is to know about habits.

And I mean everything.

Wood goes into great detail on what distinguishes a habit from conscious cognition, how the neurology of habit formation differs from that of active choice, why our intentions are often not in line with our habitual actions, which cognitive biases and popularized scientific frameworks prevent us from accurately identifying and working with our habits, the extent to which human behavior is a product of willpower vs. context, how our knowledge of what is good vs. bad for us aligns or misaligns with our habits, what the specific steps of habit formation are, how reward plays into habit, the context of addiction as it pertains to habits, and a plethora of other topics which would make this review far too lengthy.

The thoroughness with which she explores this topic is truly impressive, to the extent where the book sometimes reads like a conversation with a friend who has already gotten their point across, but still keeps going. Although some examples could have been edited out for brevity, overall this is still beneficial, as all of Wood’s claims are backed up with extensive research. Moreover, this research is based in a variety of fields – everything from psychology to neurology to the impacts of urban planning. The studies referenced also present a good mix of controlled lab experiments, as well as field research and observational studies. As a result, the book is a bit cluttered at times, but for the reader who is willing to slog through and adapt to Wood’s excitement for habit-formation, the reward is a fascinating read full of interesting insights.

My two favorite aspects of the book were the fact that it offers a neurological perspective to habit formation, and that it gives real-life applications without entering the self-help genre.

I am currently very interested in neurology, especially in terms of how it plays out in behavior. Wood presented a compelling neurological argument for why habits form and stick as they do, and how this process differs from conscious cognition. She goes into some detail on which parts of the brain are responsible for cognition vs. habits, and illustrates why conscious cognition is so exhausting relative to the formation of efficient habits.

She also provides specific guidelines on how individuals might use this science (as well as the psychology of habit) to create contexts in which positive habits might thrive. While there is some suggestion that the reader might want to employ these methods, she presents them more as an observation than a guide, which I really appreciated. In short, she focuses more on the science than on the how-tos. The result is that the reader gains insight and knowledge into the processes of habits, which she or he can apply at will.

Overall, I would say that this is a fascinating book that I would certainly re-read or recommend to my friends. However, as it focuses on such a specific topic in very finite detail, this may not be a good fit for those who are not already interested in psychology, neurology, or sociology at least to some extent.
Profile Image for Judith.
1,479 reviews71 followers
November 25, 2019
I really liked this book but at the same time it was a bit frustrating. The author illustrates hundreds of interesting studies that prove her point. It's unbelievable how much the power of habit controls our lives. And she proved to me that diets don't work, and worse that we always blame ourselves when a diet fails, pointing to our own lack of self control and weak willpower. Yet it's not our own willpower that failed us---it's the diet that failed us. There is a lot of money and resources that go into creating irresistible food. There are people who devote their whole careers to making us purchase food and drinks that are bad for us. Who do we think we are that we, of ordinary intelligence, and not in the business of making junk food for a living, are a match for the armies of people making Ben & Jerry's, Popeye's Chicken, and Krispy Kreme Donuts?

We simply need to establish healthy habits and let the power of habit carry us where the diets can't.
Yes, I said "simply" and therein lies the rub. The establishment of healthy habits is one of the hardest things in the world to do. In my opinion, it requires willpower to first get the habit started. While it's true, there are life-saving habits that we've all adopted: wearing seatbelts, brushing our teeth, they don't require any individual sacrifice in terms or time, effort or money. People often erroneous compare going to the gym (or any cardio exercise) to taking a pill. They say, "If you could take a pill that would guarantee you improved health, wouldn't you do it? Well, exercise is that pill." I find that argument ludicrous. Exercise is hard and generally boring work. There's nothing I love better than sitting on a comfy couch with a bag of popcorn reading a book in which the heroine is fanatically exercising.
Profile Image for Aaron Mikulsky.
Author 2 books20 followers
November 19, 2019
I liked this almost as much as James Clear's Atomic Habits. Here are a few of my random notes:
Mark Twain said, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
“Our own behavior springs from some of the most mysterious, deeply hidden, and unrecognized sources of irrationality.”
“Excuse making is a talent at which our conscious minds excel.”
The food industry has been investing in hyperstimulating foods with the power to keep us eating. Scientists have devised ways to get you to eat more than you naturally desire.
“If our noisy, egotistical consciousness takes all the credit for the actions of our silent habitual self, we’ll never learn how to properly exploit this hidden resource. Our conscious self’s intrusion is keeping us from taking advantage of our habits.”
William James published The Principles of Psychology in 1890. He stated, “The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their proper work.” James also suggested, people act on habit “without any consciously formed purpose, or anticipation of result. Our responses are no longer aimed at seeking outcomes; instead they are triggered automatically by the performance context.”
Our reasons for acting become unimportant for habits. Goals and rewards are critical for starting to do something repeatedly. They are what lead us to form many beneficial habits in the first place. Habit memories simplify our lives by solving the everyday challenges of making decisions in an environment stuffed with choices. Acting on habit frees our conscious mind to do the tasks it was designed for, like solving problems.
Goethe wrote, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Many times the change in awareness is real but the change of behavior was nonexistent. The striking disconnect between what we know and what we do has deep origins in the brain.
Almost half of food preparation and consumption is habitual. We eat out of habit.
The famous Marshmallow studies on pre-school children demonstrated that children who were able to demonstrate self-control (25% who delayed gratification for 15 minutes for 2 marshmallows - “delayer” vs. “grabber” (75% who succumbed to the temptation of a single marshmallow) at a young age would enjoy greater success later in life. The 25% developed distracting strategies. When the study changed a bit, children were able to wait about 10 minutes when the treat was hidden vs. when it was in plain view, they lasted only 6 minutes. Yet, only when the marshmallow was available, visible, and tempting did waiting signal resiliently high performance throughout life. Lesson: we can arrange our world in a way that enables our success.
People high in self-control are not living a life full of self-denial and deprivation. They just have good habits. “High self-controllers achieved desired outcomes by streamlining, not struggling.” They know how to form good habits by repeating the same things at the same times and in the same places.
Pilots like to say that “good landings are the result of good approaches.”
Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times.” In the 1950s, nearly 50% of the U.S. population smoked regularly (80% in the UK). Many doctors would tell you that smoking in moderation was perfectly fine. The turning point was in 1964 with the U.S. Surgeon General’s report. Warning labels were put on cigarette packs in 1966. In 1969, about 70% of Americans recognized that smoking was bad for health. Yet, knowledge did not translate into action. 40% of Americans were cigarette smokers in 1964 and 40% in 1973. Only about 15% of Americans and 28% of Europeans now smoke. The U.S. cut smoking prevalence by more than half in about 50 years. How? 68% of smokers say they want to quit completely but only 10% actually stop smoking for good. Most end up relapsing within a week, typically. To quit successfully can take 30 or more attempts. Nixon’s Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act took ads off of TV in 1970. Tobacco control laws changed the environment to be smaller and less contagious. Also, residents smoke less in states with higher taxes; for each 10% increase in taxes levied on a pack of cigarettes, adult smoking drops an average 4%. Tobacco control laws are restraining forces that increase the friction on smoking.
15% of our soldiers in Vietnam were addicted to heroin. Upon returning home, only 5% remained addicted. The context changed with greater friction – new surroundings and restraining forces.
Psychologist Kurt Lewin’s famous equation – B = f(P,E) or Behavior is a function of person and the context/environment.
Context is everything in the world surrounding you (e.g. your location, the people you are with, the time of day and the actions you just performed) – everything but you.
Friction reducer examples: regular auto transfer deposits from our paychecks to our savings account, “Would you like fries with that?”, Netflix or Hulu automatically starting the next show without you doing anything to encourage binge-watching, ride-sharing companies (Uber and Lyft), grocery stores “Eye level is buy level.”
Your habit in-formation requires persistence, repetition, and those savvy context-manipulation tricks. “Remove the friction, set the right driving forces, and let the good habits roll into your life.” Friction can be manipulated to help accomplish astounding things.
Don’t get discouraged; different behaviors require different amounts of repetition to become automatic. With bigger, louder cues, your habit potentially matures faster.
Uncertainty of rewards lures us to casinos. Nearly 70% of gaming profits come from electronic slots and video poker. Machines are programmed to display near-misses more often than chance. Getting so close to winning feels like an accomplishment. Insensitivity to reward is the gold standard for identifying a habit. Habits thrive on reward uncertainty.
Beyond reward uncertainty, habits don’t crave variety. Variety weakens habit. Only by keeping our life as consistent as possible will your habit grow. Variety may be the enemy of your habitual self, but it’s still the spice of life (you can’t run on habits alone).
25% of Americans report extreme stress in their lives. The Japanese even have a work (karoshi) for the extreme workplace stress that leads to death. Major life changes are stressful times full of uncertainty. Habits are safe harbors in stressful times. There is a boost in habit performance when the rest of our mind in drained by life. But they are also opportunities to reimagine ourselves and restructure our lives. Discontinuity forces us to think, make fresh decisions, and act in new ways – ones that may work better for us. Big events in our lives are an opportunity to declutter our habit selves and free them up so that we can consciously establish some new, more productive habits. These events can disrupt our “just good enough” habits and make us seek a newer, faster, more effective way of doing things. They are excellent opportunities for us to remake ourselves.
The double law of habit is repetition strengthens our tendency to act, but it also weakens our sensation of that act. We habituate. It has the power to sap force and meaning from our lives as we tend to keep doing things long after they have lost meaning for us. Life is a more intense experience once we’re no longer on autopilot.
Protect your good habits so that they can weather change, and use disruptions to pierce your bad habits at their most vulnerable places.
Economist Richard Thaler’s 2009 book Nudge discussed cues and context and choice architecture (e.g. default options and opt-in vs. opt-out for organ donation and 401-k contributions).
Profile Image for Deedi Brown (DeediReads).
616 reviews97 followers
December 30, 2019
All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/.

I read this book as part of my subscription to The Next Big Idea Club, which is a quarterly book subscription of new big idea nonfiction titles curated by Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Daniel Pink. So, while I was nervous that would be yet another book about building habits (that should probably have just been a TED Talk), I decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised that this book did NOT feel like so many others that had come before it. The difference is really that Wendy Wood is an accomplished neuroscience researcher who also has a knack for translating her results into helpful, clear prose.

The first section of the book is heavy on neuroscience, explaining what habits really are and how they exist in the brain. The second section goes into four ways to control your habits, like adapting your setting strategically, and how to stack habits on top of each other. The final section goes into a bit of the ramifications of this research and offers more food for thought.

My only wish from this book is a bit more how-to. She does a great job of explaining why certain things do or do not work, but doesn’t really offer any sort of summary at the end of each chapter with a recap of the actual advice given or next steps to take in your own life. The result is a little bit of “Okay, but how do I actually DO that?” It’s in there, you just have to kind of hunt for it, so that’s what makes following her advice less straightforward than is typical in self-help books.

That being said, I did learn a TON and now have some plans to make changes to my own habits! So if you’re looking to build or kick a habit, definitely check this one out. It will have something there for you.
Profile Image for Loslibrosdejuliet.
463 reviews1,403 followers
April 10, 2020
Esperaba encontrarme un libro ameno, que explicase los hábitos cómo nos hacemos con ellos y cómo funcionan. No ha sido así sino que me he encontrado con un libro complejo, creo que si eres un lector con ganas de saber sobre los hábitos sin ir mucho a ciencia con ellos, este libro será demasiado para ti. Lo he encontrado más bien un libro para aquell@s lectores/as encarados a la psicóloga.

El libro nos habla de los hábitos de cómo hacemos las cosas inconscientemente sin pensar ya que hemos cogido cómo hábito hacerlas, hacemos las cosas de forma automática. También nos habla de cuando un hábito entra en conflicto y nos vemos obligados a ejercer el control ejecutivo. El autocontrol nos ayuda a crear hábitos más saludables.

Para mí esta lectura ha sido bastante interesante ya que trata temas que estoy familiarizada por mis estudios en psicología pero pienso que una persona fuera de este ámbito puede no llegar a entender algunos términos.
Profile Image for Tanya.
23 reviews
November 7, 2019
This was a really interesting way to think about habits and their formation. I enjoyed all the various studies that were sited as support for the authors theories. I also liked the way the book was laid out - easy to read, digest and understand. Now I'll see if I can make these "positive changes" stick! The approach is solid and my willpower is terrible, so I'm optimistic and excited to try making changes to context and friction for the positive habits I'm trying to adopt.
Profile Image for Cameron Gibson.
56 reviews294 followers
January 19, 2022
I’m not one for “self-help” books, nor do I often read science but I gained genuinely useful, reassuring and affirming knowledge from this book. If you ever feel lazy, unmotivated or like you can’t stick to a hobby, I truely recommend this book for understanding the foundations of what makes our brains grasp onto behaviours and what gets in the way.

This was gifted to me off the back of a conversation about feeling the need to build an environment that would encourage my passions. I had the foundations of some of the exact ideas presented in this book already looming in my mind.
Profile Image for Iryna Khomchuk.
446 reviews58 followers
July 26, 2020
У цій книзі дуже важливим є підзаголовок: "Наука позитивних змін". Бо, на відміну від багатьох видань подібного спрямування, в яких викладаються загальні міркування про, скажімо, користь хороших звичок і шкоду поганих (буцімто ми самі цього не знаємо й не розуміємо))), Венді Вуд підійшла до вивчення формування звичок дуже й дуже ґрунтовно.

Авторка — вчена-психологиня, яка багато років присвятила дослідженню формування звичок у людей. Купа експериментів, як лабораторних, так і "в природному середовищі" дала змогу зібрати багато інформації, що стосується впливу наших звичок на життя і їх формування. Скажімо, ми здатні сформувати стійку звичку лише тоді. коли маємо чіткі й переконливі наміри зробити щось. Нумо, згадайте, скільки разів ви збиралися почати бігати/правильно харчуватися/менше сидіти в телефоні/тощо? І скільки з цих намірів вам вдалося реалізувати? Отож: насправді все значно складніше, ніж просто прийняти рішення й виконувати його щодня, чи не так? Чому це складно і що з цим робити, й пояснює Венді Вуд.

Мені особисто припало до душі її роз’яснення про вплив контексту на формування наших звичок. Складно почати щодня бігати у спальному районі Києва, де й зі стадіонами скрутно, й із бігунами, а більшість людей дивляться на тебе, мов на не сповна розуму))) А от якщо вам пощастило жити в місці, де є бігові доріжки в парку й де бігають багато людей — сформувати звичку щоденного бігу буде значно легше, бо в пригоді стає не лише ваша сила волі й серйозні наміри, а й контекст (наприклад, отой симпатичний Юрко, з яким ви познайомилися минулого тижня, точно чекатиме на вас на вході у парк, тож доведеться встати раніше й взути кросівки))) І навпаки: якщо у вас є велике бажання кинути палити, але ви постійно спілкуєтеся з людьми, котрі палять, позбавитися звички (а то й залежності) буде значно складніше, а то й неможливо.

Це все, звісно, теорія, але у Венді Вуд багато й практичних конкретних порад, якими кожен із нас може скористатися. Дієвість деяких із них я можу підтвердити. Наприклад, людям, котрі хочуть менше залипати в телефоні, авторка радить подарувати "собі щось таке, що тішить людей вже багато сторіч, щось ідеальне, здатне відволікти розум на кілька хвилин. Не просто відволікти — а розширити свідомість, заповнюючи прогалини в знаннях. Щось, що стане в пригоді згодом за вечерею, що запропонує вам цікаву історію чи тему, яку можна обговорити з родиною. Щось портативне й довговічне. Щось, що надихатиме вас..."

Ви вже здогадалися, що це? Ну то що, хочете подарувати собі книгу? Бо мені дійсно допомагає — ліпше залипти в хорошій книзі, ніж у фейсбучику (хоча я й там все ще залипаю)))
Profile Image for Merry.
248 reviews43 followers
September 3, 2020
More like a 2.5 I think.

I’m not sure I have a lot to say about this book except that it was okay but nothing to write home about. Backed up by a lot of data and studies, Wood tries to explain how habits are formed (and reformed) through context clues, friction, and repetition. She does that skillfully enough – even though I already knew most of what she had to say about habit formation – but doesn’t spend a lot of time actually translating those studies and explanations into manageable steps that would help a reader to transform their own habits. Oh, and while Wood is definitely critical of the whole ‘just do it!’ mentality, she completely neglects to talk about AD(H)D and other varieties of executive dysfunction, which to me seems to be something that should at least be mentioned in the context of habit formation and automation.
3 reviews
June 2, 2019
Although I appreciate the author's expertise and experience, the book is too research oriented to capture my continuing interest and most likely that of the general public. There are several excellent points raised in the book that would stand out better if many of the statistics and studies were instead placed in the back reference section. Then, the true messages and findings would shine! I realize, however, it would make for quite a large reference which is already a bit hefty. I enjoyed the last chapter the best about how to stop looking at your phone so often, and I think it would have made a great beginning to the book. I think this book might appeal to psychology graduate students, and I think the messages of the book would be great in a classroom setting.
68 reviews
December 20, 2019
I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book is jam-packed with facts from a multitude of studies. Ms. Wood has researched habits and left no stone un-turned. It makes sense that we keep good habits when they are easier and no longer require thought. The first step in acquiring new habits seems to be the most difficult because we really need to think it over and anticipate any hurdles we may need to overcome in order to continue the new habit. Working out, basically, has to be your rotinue for you to be successful with it. This is a thought-provoking book with lots of interesting facts.
Profile Image for Steve.
924 reviews40 followers
July 7, 2020
Read a good review of this book in The New Yorker which prompted me to read it. An OK book, but I just didn’t care for it that much. The science part wasn’t made terribly interesting (and I’m a guy who loves reading about neuro-psych) and the self-improvement aspect was kinda weak. The review also mentioned Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” - I read that quite some time ago, and I don’t remember if it had much science to it, but I thought it had much better concrete advice about forming “good” habits and minimizing “bad” ones.

Review here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...
Profile Image for Adella.
13 reviews
July 9, 2019
I'm nearly done reading this amazing book. I plan on reading it again. I've learned so much throughout each chapter. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to change their life. I'm on a mission now...
Profile Image for Maddy.
222 reviews16 followers
September 3, 2020
Maybe I’m a bit at fault here for the low rating, because I had different expectations going into this book and it just couldn’t meet them. Good Habits, Bad Habits is like a collection of practical reports written in plain language and based on things like impulse and habit and arbitrary thoughts which have somehow entered the collective consciousness (like being presented with two items and choosing the one you see last, unaware that they are both exactly the same, and proceeding to invent reasons for picking it). The point of this book is essentially to prove the author’s hypothesis that humans can’t force themselves to form habits which are difficult for them. We have to make these new tasks as easy, frictionless and mindless as endlessly consuming content on YouTube. I see her point here, but I also found that this demotivated me more than making me want to make positive changes in my life. If my new habit isn’t something I can easily incorporate into my life, why should I do it? It’s not like I’ll even have a chance to stick with it, this book says I’ll give up (probably tomorrow) because I have poor impulse control and this new habit is something I’ve historically struggled with, and according to this book, will always struggle with. If you’re trying to implement new habits into your life that can’t be taken apart and reduced into mindless activities to incorporate into your day, like kissing your partner, then you might find this book is not for you. The psychology isn’t so bad either, but I personally didn’t find most of this information to be groundbreaking, and I was aware of a good chunk of it already. All in all, this self help book did not allow me to self help and so I will continue to seek out one which will.
144 reviews14 followers
August 22, 2019
I always enjoy reading books that offer developmental tips and advice on a more personal level. Many times, it seems like some of it could be common sense, but seeing it on paper really brings it to the forefront of your mind. Additionally, we can all start positive habits, but making sure we consistently put this into practice and making it stick usually becomes a challenge. Wood really dives into the science of how to make lasting positive changes and provides a wealth of personal and professional knowledge to the subject.

In the world we live in today with an overwhelming amount of media and technology, I really appreciated her take on not looking at your phone so often. Personally, I find this difficult at times, but have already taken steps to improve on this by going for a book to read first, rather than grabbing my phone. It is apparent that Wood is truly an expert in this realm, and I always appreciate when facts are backed up with a lot of research. I found myself taking so many notes!

Thank you to Wendy Wood, Goodreads, and the publishers Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,832 reviews2 followers
December 18, 2019
This is Non Fiction and it is exactly what the title says it is. I liked the science behind the author's research. A person's habits can overrule reason and logic and go directly against sensible goals that one may have. Wow...the power of habits. She also presented it in understandable chunks. I listened to the audio and it made for an interesting listen for my afternoon. I gave this 3 stars because I did like it, but it wasn't anything I haven't heard before. It was a good a reminder on how if you want to see change, turn the steps that lead to that change into a habit and you are likely to see success.
Profile Image for Rada.
Author 6 books54 followers
December 28, 2020
Very timely topic — on how we acquire (and lose) good habits and bad habits. Makes a great point about the importance of context — and how context can lead to or disrupt habits.

Profile Image for Christine Dabbs.
84 reviews
December 14, 2020
First: I did not finish this book.

I had a funny experience with this book, in that I got a LOT of perspective out of the first half, but then I didn't feel it was necessary to keep reading. I skimmed some of the remainder.

I had to immediately sort of shield my eyes from the claims on economics. Skipping that, and ignoring the issue with low-N studies, etc.... anyway I found value in it as providing a new perspective. I figure, as I'd run out of ideas for habit formulation and maintenance, I didn't see much harm in looking for new ideas regardless of if I bought their science or arguments.

Personally, I thought it gave me a lot of new ideas. I think the perspective that when it comes to habits maybe intentions are mostly useless and it's really just inducing muscle memory was really helpful. I stopped thinking so much about how to optimally change myself, and more often mindlessly made myself start (literally by just sitting at my desk or putting on gym clothes). I would credit these ideas as re-establishing my habit of being drawn to my desk any time I don't have a good reason to do something else. In turn, it's tempered my anxiety about upcoming exams, because I'm doing what I can.
Profile Image for Kat.
237 reviews30 followers
February 5, 2022
DNF at 66%, not because it's bad but the audio book is just taking forever and I feel like I'm not taking it in. I still give it 3.5 stars.

The author has done a ton of research on habits so it's a great book to really get into the weeds of human behavior, however it doesn't feel like a step by step guide to developing better habits. If you want that read Atomic Habits, because it's a lot more simple and instructional.
Profile Image for Zak.
136 reviews2 followers
February 5, 2021
Wendy knows her stuff, and now I know 30% of it also (the rest I have already forgotten)

Clearly evidence/study based stuff directly from the horse's mouth as Wendy was involved in this research. As much as Charles Duhigg (author of the power of habit) can talk eloquently enough about Michael Phelps and toothpaste, he is at the end of the day a journalist and doesn't have 37266 citations to his name. That being said Wendy could learn a thing or two about how to weave a narrative from Charlie but again I suppose that's not her area.

Listened on audio so didn't mind that it went on a bit but could maybe have been condensed, and also the book cover makes it look less legit than it is.

Realise I haven't actually mentioned anything about the book but yeah was good, might make a habit of listening to it semi-regularly. But as is oft repeated in the book, my intention to do so will likely make no difference as to whether I actually get round to it or not. So I probably won't.
Profile Image for B.P..
153 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2020
Such a new year book. Ha ha. I got what I needed - a couple of techniques for making or breaking behaviour. Very useful. I didn't really need the lite scientific studies weakly propping up the techniques, they were unnecessary. As far as self-help books go, the author had a good tone, not too annoying.
Profile Image for Anna.
75 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2022
Very insightful, learned a lot, recommend to everyone trying to establish better routines
Profile Image for Amy Sue.
64 reviews5 followers
October 24, 2019
If you are looking for someone to give you a numbered list of exactly what to do to become a true person of *good* habit, you will not find such a list in this book. Good Habits, Bad Habits provided an organized and highly readable listing of the science around habits. I loved reading these studies and almost immediately started inserting them into small talk conversation. In addition to providing me with cocktail chatter for months to come, this book also helped me recognize moments when I'm most capable of making change (for example, upon a move, when I have to reset a lot of life routines anyway). Most importantly, this book underlines the fact that you can be the most passionate and determined to make a change but that determination lives separate to habit (where we *just do it* without thinking). So it's important when it doesn't work out to embrace forgiveness.
Profile Image for Sulhan Habibi.
602 reviews54 followers
February 28, 2022
Baca edisi terjemahan.
Walaupun teoritis banget, buku ini bisa membuat Kuta mengerti tentang kebiasaan itu sendiri jika ingin mengubah sesuatu menjadi kebiasaan yang lebih baik.
Profile Image for Jim.
237 reviews4 followers
March 17, 2020
This is a science book about habits from a foremost expert. It is a heavier read than some of the pop psychology or sociology books on habits that are out there. But, if you stick with it, the rewards are greater as the information is ultimately more useful.

The things I am taking away from this book are the importance of context and friction when it comes to habit formation and change.

Our context matters. The environment around us effects our behaviour. If we struggle with overeating, there are cues in our environment that signal when it’s time to overeat. Sometimes it’s sitting down in front of the TV or when we are on the road for work. We might have good habits at the office or during our three set meals each day. But when we settle into a certain environment, we slip into an undesirable habit. Changing our lives might mean shifting our environment or noticing the contexts we are in when we over-indulge.

We tend to do what is easiest. If we want to do something good, like read or exercise more, we need to make those behaviours easier to do. We can take a book with us wherever we go. Rather than taking out our phone while we wait for a meeting, we can take out our book. We need to reduce the things in our way, or the friction, between us and our preferred actions. Similarly, if we want to stop doing something, we should make it less easy to do without thinking. We need to create friction, something that slows us down, to make our bad habits harder or more complicated. If we struggle with eating too many empty calories or processed foods at the end of the day, we should remove them from our house. If you don’t want to eat it, don’t buy it at the grocery store. Change your route home so you don’t pass by the convenience store, liquor depot, or fast food place.

We all think we have more strength and discipline in our lives than we do. We don’t realize the push and pull that our environment has on our actions and choices. We can take greater control in our lives by taking note of our context and paying attention to and utilizing friction to help shape our lives in the ways we want.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to make changes or who longs to understand their actions better. There are great studies and insights here that can help make real progress in creating good habits and abandoning bad ones.
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