The Power of Habit

by

Charles Duhigg

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William James Character Analysis

William James was an influential American philosopher and psychologist active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In his 20s, James considered himself a failure, but turned his life around by forcing himself to blindly believe in his ability to improve. This shows how people have to believe in their ability to change in order to actually do so. Duhigg also repeatedly cites James’s famous quote about the significance of habits: “All our life, so far as it has a definite form, is but a mass of habits.”

William James Quotes in The Power of Habit

The The Power of Habit quotes below are all either spoken by William James or refer to William James . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Power of Habit published in 2014.
Prologue Quotes

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,” William James wrote in 1892. Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), William James (speaker)
Page Number: xv-xvi
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Later, [William James] would famously write that the will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief in change. And that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits.
[…]
If you believe you can change—if you make it a habit—the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), William James
Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:
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William James Character Timeline in The Power of Habit

The timeline below shows where the character William James appears in The Power of Habit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: The Habit Cure
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...they eat for lunch? What did they do when they got home from work? William James famously wrote that “all our life, so far as it has definite form, is but... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Neurology of Free Will: Are We Responsible for Our Habits?
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
The Moral Consequences of Habits Theme Icon
In the prologue, Duhigg quoted William James: “all our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...everywhere, but they’re easy to forget unless we make a point of looking at them. James also compared habits to water: just like water carves out channels for itself, then repeatedly... (full context)