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

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,276 ratings  ·  191 reviews
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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Jesse Kane Yes and no!
According to this book, all of our practices become embedded neural pathways in the brain that cannot be overwritten. Instead, the answer …more
Yes and no!
According to this book, all of our practices become embedded neural pathways in the brain that cannot be overwritten. Instead, the answer to combating bad habits is to create new habits that are more powerful than the old ones. Thankfully, many of the habits we form are fragile and easy to work around.(less)

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Michelle Arredondo
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
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. ...more
Dasha Slepenkina
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-reads
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 inten
Deedi Brown (DeediReads)
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
All my reviews live at

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
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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, basic ...more
Aaron Mikulsky
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 01, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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... ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Christine Dabbs
Dec 14, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Jan 13, 2020 added it
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. ...more
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-for-nerds
Really enjoyed this book about habits.
Amy Sue
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 mo ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 professi ...more
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Received an ARC as a GoodReads giveaway. I really enjoyed this book, and I'll probably reread sections of it. It's easy to read and engaging, and includes lots of anecdotes that make it relatable. It discussed many experiments and scientific reports but didn't get bogged down in statistics. I learned a lot about the conditions that go into forming and maintaining habits, and understanding them can also help in finding ways to break bad habits. I kind of wish there was a summary/checklist of the ...more
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is filled with so much information I thought my head would explode. Kidding. It was beneficial information and there were lots of real time examples, which I thought was really helpful. I'm not sure if it's helped me just yet, but I'm working on implementing changes to get rid of some not so great habits. The images in the book aren't very accurate and I don't think they add anything to the book. ...more
Edward Dwyer
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some or most of the ways to change your habits are kinda common knowledge, but just the act of reading it backed with evidence, research, etc. coerces you more to put those things in action (or inaction). Best giveaway I've gotten yet and quite possibly best self-help book I've read. Also, one needs to pair reading this book with possibly using apps that will help you along with adding or deleting habits. ...more
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.

Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
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 reas ...more
Lindsay Nixon
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
If you're looking for help changing your habits (eg actionable things you can do) this is not the book for you.

If you're looking for a book that summarizes several studies and how they were performed, you might like this book. I usually like when authors provide examples from studies to prove a point they're making, but that's not what happens here... it's more of a dossier or a resume/summary of Wood's work for the past year. Overall I found it mostly boring without strong conclusions or "guid
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read
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 th
17/55 books read in 2020.

So this is a very fascinating book.
I feel like I've learned a lot, especially that I should be creating new habits when my world is turned upside down (apparently this is a prime moment to change habits), and that a lot of things can become a habit if you repeat them enough.
And there are a lot of sources quoted and listed in this book.

However, there is so much diet talk and weight loss talk that I cannot give this a full positive recommendation. I understand that our we
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
It's a solid book on the science of habit making and breaking, but after reading Atomic Habits this is lightweight. This book is a scientist touching on all the major points of habits. It is a classic-style pop-psych book. It covers lots of areas and the science experiments they come from, but it really doesn't go too well into how to actually apply it. At one point in my life I would have loved this book, but it really just doesn't help you apply all that much. Wood even emphasizes how much her ...more
Sandra Park
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating read about how we form habits and what makes habits stick. You can use this information to form new good habits or to change habits that don't work for you. Some habits are benign but hold you back from making positive changes. When something is a habit, then you don't see other ways of doing that thing that might be even better. Kind of like getting stuck in a rut.

If you are curious about how habits work, this book is for you. It has some practical advice but is not as im
Mitch Olson
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
If you want to change your habits then don’t bother asking a scientist. Much better to read the book of a practitioner like James Clear.

All of these habit change gurus are following in the footsteps of BF Skinner who knew lots about training pigeons but fucking nothing about human beings.
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good, useful and enlightening read. Supported by research and with real-life example, this is exactly the kind of nonfiction I enjoy reading for leisure.
Teri Temme
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved learning what makes a habit a habit. I won't spoil it - read the book! ...more
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Articles featuring this book

Wendy Wood is the author of the new book Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick. Wood also teaches...
169 likes · 49 comments
“A habit happens when a context cue is sufficiently associated with a rewarded response to become automatic, to fade into that hardworking, quiet second self. That’s it. Cue and response. Notice that there’s no room in that mechanism for, well, you. You’re not a part of it, not as you probably think of yourself. You—your goals, your will, your wishes—don’t have any part to play in habits. Goals can orient you to build a habit, but your desires don’t make habits work. Actually, your habit self would benefit if “you” just got out of the way.” 1 likes
“Speed of thought is a clue to how habits gain control. By repeating an action, we change the way that it’s represented mentally. We turn an initially motivated action—one that we do to achieve a goal such as physical fitness—into a habit built of strong mental links between performance contexts and our response. When we think of that context, the response snaps rapidly to mind. The payoff of mental speed is that the habitual action is already cued up and ready to go while your slower, conscious mind is still deciding to do something else. Habit formation works a lot” 1 likes
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