I love to read. If you’ve known me for any length of time, I’ve probably told you about something I’ve read, recommended a book to you, or asked you what you’re reading or recommending.
One of the topics I’ve read a lot about is habit change. I find human behavior fascinating, and as a coach, habit change and human behavior are important things to understand when it comes to helping people reach their goals.
And since habit change is something I think most (if not all) people grapple with at some point in their lives, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite books on the topic – hopefully one of them might be helpful to you and your own change journey!
(I have zero affiliation with any of these books or authors. These are simply books I’ve read that I like and have found helpful, interesting, and informative!)
My first pick on the subject of habit change is Atomic Habits, by James Clear. If this book sounds familiar, it’s probably because I have referenced it (and James Clear’s website) quite a bit in the past – there is a lot of great information available there for free!
What I like about Atomic Habits is that it takes the science of habit change and distills it into easy to understand examples, analogies, and stories. It’s the kind of book you can read quickly while still getting useful strategies that you can implement into your life immediately.
(Thinking Fast and Slow is another good pick, but more science heavy and less helpful in terms of actually implementing change.)
Each chapter in Atomic Habits also has a short recap at the end with bullet points of the key takeaways, so you can look back for a quick summary or a reminder of the most important and actionable concepts.
I'd recommend Atomic Habits if you’d like a super clear, simple book that covers all the basics of habit change while also being fun and easy to read.
You can check out excerpts from the book at www.jamesclear.com
Book two on my list is Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. I’m not sure what the difference is between a ‘tiny’ habit and an ‘atomic’ habit, but both books are fantastic and worth a read. Tiny Habits covers a lot of the same ground, but in a slightly different way and with a bit of a different spin.
This book is more detail oriented and goes quite in-depth in terms of helping you create and implement your own habit change plan, but it’s also a little longer and less of a “quick” read. That said, I really enjoyed reading Tiny Habits after reading Atomic Habits and seeing the overlap – sometimes hearing the same thing in two different ways is what makes it really stick or gets you to actually try it out yourself!
Tiny Habits also has a lot of “experiments” sprinkled throughout the book, outlining ways you can try out the different strategies as you’re reading. This book has a very positive, supportive vibe and leaves you feeling like you can take on even your most challenging change situations.
I’d say Tiny Habits feels a bit more like a “self-help” book, but in the best way possible. If you’re looking for more of a guided journey through habit change, and like the idea of doing exercises or having a support group, this is the book for you.
You can find out more at https://tinyhabits.com/
Next up is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. This is one of the first books I read about behavior change, and it really had an impact – many of the things I learned have stuck with me and been a big part of how I view difficult changes in my own life and how I coach others through change.
I’ve read books by the Heath brothers before, and what I love is that their writing style is so well organized, super clear, and is driven by real life examples. The main premise of this book is that our brains have two driving forces – what they call the “elephant” (emotional brain) and the “rider” (rational brain) – and finding ways to direct the “elephant” and shape its path is key to successful habit change (if the “rider” simply tries to steer the elephant by force, well, the elephant wins every time).
Switch is a really fun read; the examples are fascinating, and, like Tiny Habits and Atomic Habits, it provides you with tools you can use right away to start solving some of your biggest habit change challenges.
You can find this book and other interesting reads by Chip and Dan Heath here: https://heathbrothers.com/
Lastly, a book not exactly about habit change, but very closely related: Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn.
As the title suggests, this book explores how using rewards as motivation might not be the best strategy, and what you can do instead. It explores intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and the ways in which you can work with someone rather than doing something to them to increase motivation, performance, and cooperation.
If you’re a parent or teacher, I highly recommend this book and its insights into the psychology of raising, teaching, and engaging children. But even if you don’t have kids, Punished By Rewards is still a really interesting read if you’re curious about how the brain works when it comes motivation, engagement, and performance.
Rewards, prizes, trophies, blue ribbons...maybe not the best approach.
This book is a little bit dense and textbook-ish, but you could certainly pick and choose what parts you read, or skim over things that aren’t as interesting to you. All in all, Punished By Rewards is a very informative and thought provoking book that will make you consider (or reconsider) all the ways we use rewards in our own lives and with others.
Find out more here: https://www.alfiekohn.org/punished-rewards/
If you’re interested in the topic of habit change or maybe are just looking for something new to read, I hope one of these books makes it onto your list! And if you have other books you’d recommend on this subject (or really anything else), I’m always looking for a good read – leave a comment and let me know!
Do you like to read non-fiction? Any favorites or interesting titles to share?
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