The Power of Habit

Recently I have been listening to the audiobook “The Power of Habit” in my car, while driving to work, and around town.  You can see this book on amazon here:


Quick side note: I am a huge fan of listening to audio books in the car.  I am listening to one whenever I am driving.

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar coined the term “Automobile University” to describe how time spent in traffic can be used to educate yourself on a variety of subjects. Using audiobooks in your car is a great way to learn almost anything from finance to philosophy, literature to languages. In a year, the average driver can learn about as much as a college student attending a year’s worth of classes.

From the book’s description:

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

This made me think about chess, and chess improvement.

Many of us have “bad habits” when it comes to chess.

  • We don’t study on a regular basis
  • We hang pieces and pawns for no reason
  • We miss “easy” things like a mate in one, or a one move threat in a game
  • We fail to see our opponent’s threats
  • We make time wasting moves
  • etc

After listening to this book, I realized that almost everything we do in life in just a collection of habits.

So if you study chess tactics for 10 minutes a day, that is a habit.  If you don’t, and watch “Keeping up with the Kardashians” instead, that is also a habit.


Yeah, but in one of the episodes Kim was playing chess!


If you play chess at your local club on Wednesday nights, that is probably a habit.

You probably play certain openings as a habit.  You probably take or don’t take a knight on f6 after Black plays h6 as a habit.  How often you review your games is probably a habit.

So really, the key to chess improvement is changing your habits.

You don’t really need more chess knowledge.  You just need better habits in applying that knowledge, and better habits with your move selection.

I think that this is part of the reason that I will get an e-mail from someone who says “I have been reading your e-mail newsletter, and suddenly I gained 100 rating points”. 

This person might have changed just one bad habit (such as not looking for tactics on every move, something I talk about a lot), and replace it with a better habit (creating a “tactical radar” where you are always looking for tactics), and all of a sudden their game improves dramatically.

They didn’t need more knowledge, they just needed a better habit.

The book has a ton of good examples on creating new habits, the power of habits, organizational habits, willpower, psychology and how the brain works.

I LOVE this book, and HIGHLY recommend it!

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