Good Habits Bad Habits by Wendy Wood; Book Summary



Struggle with change is draining and we bounce back to our old selves quickly. This is an amazing and statistically approached book written by UK born psychologist Wendy Wood and acknowledged by the New York Times.

This book tells us exactly how are we actually training our brain to form and reform a habit by continuously making it possible to work on an automatic mode without thinking each time.

I highly recommend reading this book as this is the code cracker of making and breaking a habit

Disclaimer: All credits go to the original writer.

What is a habit?

It is a response that develops as we repeat an action in turn of a stimulus for a reward.

43% of the actions repeated on a daily basis are purely out of habit.

The habits which align with our goals are good and the ones that conflict with the goals are bad habits.

The Science of habits and changes that stick

 Formation of habit is more of a practical work rather than the mental work of willpower and intentions. The way we respond to people and surroundings is an automatic reaction formed by the habits that we have picked up consciously or subconsciously.

There are two basic systems of our brain that are at interplay:

  1. Conscious Mind; associated with intentions, motivation, and willpower.
  2. Subconscious Mind;  gives off automated habitual response to a cue in the surrounding.

The myth associated with habits

They say, “We fail to change bad habits and form new ones just because we lack willpower.”

The writer says that we actually fail because we have an unpolished system of automaticity that is taking hold of our daily lives hence, ourselves.

We are accustomed to the notion “Where there is a will, there is a way”. All those motivational lectures, quotes, etc. give us that mental boost that actually leads us into a trap called introspection illusion. And that’s where we stop putting the effort into action and start completely relying on the willpower and fail in the long run.

How to form good habits that stick?

For a habit to take it’s shape and then persist the mechanism involved actually works as an automated response to a stimulus that you do not even have to think about while engaging in it and that is what a habit is called.

There are 3 basic steps that lay the foundation of a habit that resides.





This is the stimulus; the cues.

These are of two types:

Intrinsic forces; motivation, goals, desires.

Extrinsic forces; everything in the surrounding, as in the locations, the people, the time of the day, etc.

Once you have set a goal or have taken the desired motivation then it is practically important to arrange your surroundings according to the goal you want to achieve or a habit you want to form.

Consistency of the context throughout the repetition phase is essential to the formation of a habit. Any form of disruption in the context can easily lead to the break down of a bad habit.

For example, to study for exams it is very important to have a study partner or to study in a library, both are the beneficial and consistent contexts for the formation of study habits.

As the writer says:


It is a self-explanatory concept yet the one that actually needs pure effort which is going to solidify the action into a permanent habit.

As Aristotle said:

There is not a specific number after which a habit would become an automatic response.

There is a quite popular 21-day rule for the formation of new habits but for each habit, the days of repetition vary.

For example, for eating healthy, sixty-five days are needed to actually automate the habit; doing without actively thinking.

As the author in the book says:

A consistent stimulus with repetition is the formula that speeds up the process of habit maturation until it becomes automatic without the conscious effort.


As you repeat you get tired of doing the same thing; a natural human tendency.

If you are not getting even a minor reward for your initial effort along the way, you won’t get that habit to start operating on its own.

The establishment of the immediate reward is the main drive for a habit to become concrete.

These are of 2 types

  1. Extrinsic Rewards; a word of appreciation, money, appealing surrounding, etc.
  2. Intrinsic Rewards; the response itself, feeling good.

In psychology, there is another principle of negative rewards.

You can agree to some unpleasant events that can be avoided by doing something.

For example, for your kids to make a habit of brushing their teeth every night the negative reward can be withholding toys or favorite snacks which can make them stick to their actions regularly.

In conclusion, rather than putting all of your focus on setting goals and making resolutions, it is very practical and productive to shift that attention towards the structure of habits that are going to take you towards your goal automatically.

The context will smooth the way, repetition will jump-start the engine and the thrill of immediate and unexpected reward will solidify the response giving it the due acknowledgment thus leading to the generation of a permanent response that will work on its own whenever it finds the stimulus to do so is the official website and a survey is given there to help you analyze yourself and also the strategies to form new habits as well.

The End

Written By: Dr. Sania Riaz

Introduction of myself:

This is Dr. Sania Riaz. I am a medical graduate and I am currently pursuing USA residency. Reading is my healing therapy, writing is my dream and diversity is my inspiration. Living each of these is the blessing.

3 thoughts on “Good Habits Bad Habits by Wendy Wood; Book Summary”

  1. it can be really be life turning moment when u are suffering from a lot of crisis in life due to ur own negligence … this summary is a mentor in itself

  2. Loved it. Very concise and helpful for anyone who is looking forward to building good habits and leaving behind bad ones.

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