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  • Writer's pictureLiz W.

Review for "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg

*Workbook in Progress*

I am still catching up on creating workbooks for the previous books I posted questions for - including this one. All questions will remain available to you here in the meantime!

Intro to the Review

We have all had the experience of enthusiastically starting a new book only to realize that it is not what were expecting. The purpose of the following review is not to express my opinion on whether the book is "good" or "bad." I expect most of the books I read to be "good," Whether or not it is the right book for you is another question entirely. My goal for this and every review I write is to help you decide whether this book would be a good fit for you.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Does it seem like the content covered in this book aligns with what I was expecting to find?

  • Is the main problem addressed in this book similar to my own goal for what I would like to get from reading it?

  • Is the style and format written in a way that will not hinder my ability to get the most value from this book?

  • Am I the intended audience for this book?

If after reading the review, you can answer yes to all these questions, there's a pretty good chance this book is the right fit for you. If not, well, there are plenty more books out there just waiting for you to read them.

The Power of Habit

Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg

Ⓒ 2014 Random House

416 pages

"If you believe you can change - if you make it a habit - the change becomes real."

Pick up where you left off:


Book Review

Author Background

Charles Duhigg is a non-fiction writer and journalist currently writing for The New Yorker Magazine and previously for the New York Times.

His other book Smarter Faster Better, published in 2016, can be found here (affiliate link).

His website can be found here.

What Problem Does This Book Attempt To Address?

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores the common factors present in all habits and the relationship between these factors. Duhigg proposes that we can consciously and actively manipulate these factors in order to change and improve our habits. He uses a range of examples to demonstrate how habits shape the lives of individuals, organizations, and society at large.


· Concept explanation: Clear and understandable

· Related stories: Many

· Data references and studies: Average

· Charts and graphics: Diagrams throughout

· Practical application: Decent

I read this book for the first time a year or so after it was published and I found it incredibly interesting and useful. I remember it as being one of my favorite books at the time. So when I decided to re-read it in order to make discussion questions for the blog, I had some pretty rose-tinted expectations. I was pretty underwhelmed this time around. I do wonder whether or not that is because many of the stories he used weren’t as overused as they are now 7 years later. But aside from that, I didn’t find the sections about organizational or societal habits very convincing. It felt like he found a framework and was determined to make these situations fit the framework. I believe there are probably better examples to support his argument than the ones he decided on. The framework for the components of what comprises a habit, how habits are formed, how they function on a neurophysiological level is all excellent. I had no problem with how it was applied in terms of how an individual shapes and can re-shape their habits. It was the other two sections I found a little hard to believe. Appendix A at the end of the book brought this book up a rating in my view. It is a step-by-step guide and practical application for readers looking to change a habit. It adds a lot of value to the overall work.

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Story-telling narrative

· Organization: Average

· Flow: Average

More than anything I found this book to be a collection of heart-warming stories. And the author without a doubt has an incredible ability to tell stories in a captivating and engrossing way. Like many books, he decided to split many of the stories into different parts with other shorter stories in between. I understand this is a common organizational decision for these types of books, but I am not a huge fan of it as it takes away from the flow at times. It is like making your reader multi-task for no reason.

Bringing It all Together

One thing done really well: The story-telling ability of the author

One thing that could be better: The application of the main concept to all the primary examples used throughout each of the 3 parts.

One main thing I took away from this book was: Our habits are malleable with a bit of investigation and experimentation to figure out what each part of the habit loop are and how we can modify them to create the behaviors and outcomes we want.

Overall Recommendation

Who I would recommend this book for: Someone who is just getting into non-fiction self-improvement books and looking for an inspiring read.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: Someone who is familiar with the genre and read other books on the topic.


Discussion Questions

Chapter 1

Which brain structure controls more primitive brain functions?

Which brain structure is integral in habit formation and execution?

What is chunking?

What happens to brain activity after a routine becomes familiar?

Why do habits emerge?

How does the brain deal with uncertainty?

What is the three-step habit loop?

Why is it necessary to deliberately fight a habit in order to change it?

What happens to old habits in the brain after new habits are formed?

What happens to someone with a damaged basal ganglia?

What are some examples of cues?

Chapter 2

What factor makes cues and rewards work?

What are the two basic rules for forming a habit?

What happened to Julio’s reward pattern after his habit loop was created?

What does this change in pattern indicate has formed?

What must we do to overpower a habit?

What drives habits and how can we use it to create new habits?

Chapter 3

What must be done to change a current bad habit?

How does AA help members create new habits?

How do life stressors impact habit replacement efforts?

What is the significance of belief in the habit-changing process?

What two things often proceed radical life changes?

When is belief easier?

What is the Golden Rule of habit change?

Chapter 4

What is a keystone habit and why are they important?

What is characteristic of a keystone habit?

Why are small wins important?

Chapter 5

What has the biggest effect on academic performance?

What long-term correlations were found in children who passed the marshmallow test?

The radish/cookie study gave us what insights into how willpower works?

What effect on outcome does writing down goals have?

How does willpower become a habit?

How does having a sense of control impact willpower?

Chapter 6

What does routine provide within a company?

How does routine impact innovation?

How does routine create truces?

What is the benefit of organizational habits?

What dangers can truces present?

How can crises be used to remake organizational habits?

Chapter 7

How do habits affect customer purchasing decisions?

What is the purpose of predictive analytics?

Why do our brains have a preference for the familiar?

What is the easiest way to get the public to accept something new?

Chapter 8

How can social habits be applied to create societal change?

Why are weak-tie acquaintances important?

What happens to social movements within cliques?

How does peer pressure impact social movements?

What two things must be present for widespread social change to begin?

Chapter 9

What are the arguments for and against a habit loop and culpability in a crime?

What role does the basal ganglia play in night terrors?

How do pathological gamblers react to near misses?

What part of the brain is impacted by addiction?

Why is it possible to overcome an addiction?

What creates the worlds that each of us inhabit?

Afterword and Appendix

Why is it important to plan for relapses?

What process is critical in long-term habit change?

What is the 4-step framework for changing a habit?

What must you do to understand your habits?

How do figure out which cravings are driving a habit?

What effect does setting an alarm have in identifying cravings?

What are the 5 categories that habitual cues can fall into?

How are implementation intentions used to change a habit?

Vocabulary List

These are words I noticed while reading that some people may be unfamiliar with. Use the worksheet to customize this list for yourself.

Facile: (adj.) Done or achieved with little effort or difficulty; easy.

Internecine: (adj.) Involving conflict within a group

Discussion Question Workbook

The workbook that accompanies this post includes:

  • All discussion questions with space for writing answers

  • All vocabulary words with space to write definitions and add your own words

  • Chapter reflection questions

  • Final reflection questions

  • A condensed list of all discussion questions, for reference.

You can download this complimentary workbook for free:

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg Discussion Question Workbook - Oak Tree Reading
Download PDF • 492KB

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