Can somebody explain what "where it counts, you don't really know" means in the following text?

The trouble with the ordinary approach is that we think about change at the higher, conscious level but never really access our deeper, unconscious level. This is why you can know that a habit is bad for you but keep on doing it anyway. Where it counts, you don't really know. Willpower doesn’t matter, force doesn’t matter–you can only change a habit when you work at the level at which habits are created.

Source: Neuro Habits by Peter Hollins.

  • Please make sure you copied the punctuation accurately.
    – aschepler
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 18:34
  • 3
    I’m voting to close this question because the cited text is obviously incorrectly copied, and we can't see the original. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 19:04
  • 3
    Where it counts = When it is important.
    – Graffito
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 22:39
  • The answer to your question most likely appears in the part of the sentence you have truncated. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:01

2 Answers 2


The author means that even though we can consciously know something is bad for us, at a subconscious or fundamental level we still don't properly "know" or accept that we should stop doing that thing, and so we can find it hard to stop doing things we know are bad for us.

For instance, according to the author's argument, I might know that sugar is bad for me. I might want to stop adding sugar to my coffee. Nevertheless, because I don't at a "subconscious" level "know" that sugar is bad for me, I might still add it to my coffee every day.


where it counts means "where it matters" or "where it will have a big effect".

The boxer hit his opponent with an uppercut where it counts, in the solar plexus.

So, "Where it counts, you don't really know [that a habit is bad for you]" means:

At the level where the knowledge would really have a big effect, you don't really know [that a habit is bad for you].

Presumably the final truncated sentence ends with the words "in the unconscious".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .