“Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” — Octavia Butler
Love ’em or hate ’em, they rule your life. And they have to, otherwise you’d never get anything done. You’d have to make fresh decisions for each of the thousand actions you take every day, and who has time for that?
Habits are like breathing, you can’t help but do them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t influence them and use good habits for your benefit rather than let bad habits ruin your life.
The following books will show you how:
Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
In this classic little book, Mini Habits teaches readers who struggle with procrastination to break whatever it is they want to do into a step so tiny, so microscopic, so “easy” that it’s easier do than to not do the action.
Inspired by another book I’ve read before (Thinkertoys, Michael Michalko), Guise tells the story of how he came up with the concept while doing pushups: Guise used the concept of “considering the opposite” that he learned from Thinkertoys, and asked himself what was the opposite of working out for 30 minutes.
His answer? Just do one pushup. It sounds ludicrous (or at least it did, at the time, although today mini habits is far more well known), but Guise found that the consistency of doing one pushup a day, every day, over a long period really DID have a positive impact on his life overall.
The point is, people often procrastinate or fail to do things they want or need to do, because just the thought of getting started on a large project feels overwhelming. Mini habits gets rid of that overwhelm by lowering the “activation energy” until getting started is a breeze. Try it, you’ll see 😉
Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
Like Mini Habits, Tiny Habits also talks about the concept of breaking actions down into such miniscule pieces that it feels easy, rather than overwhelming, to do.
But Tiny Habits covers more ground than Mini Habits. Author BJ Fogg doesn’t just focus on minimizing actions, but talks about the underlying reasons for people having the habits and behaviors that they do.
Fogg also talks about how to grow small habits into life-changing behaviors, and also how to UNdo BAD habits. He includes several anecdotes from his students and acquaintances, some of which feel a little bit like padding rather than something truly insightful, but otherwise, the writing style is easy to digest, and he makes good points about how habits work and how you can make them work for you.
Elastic Habits by Stephen Guise
Elastic Habits is Guise’s follow-up to his hit book Mini Habits (see above). In it, Guise elaborates on his initial concept of breaking a habit into a microscopic, easier-to-do-than-not-do size. In this follow-up book, Guise zooms out again and shows people various methods for turning mini habits into not-so-meany-habits, but still getting an impressive amount of work done.
Elastic Habits doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, Mini Habits, because it’s not quite as laser focused on just ONE thing, like Mini Habits was. Instead, Elastic Habits gives readers multiple options for designing habits that can be shrunk or stretched depending on what and how much you want to accomplish.
Aside from that, writing-wise, this book demonstrates the benefits of writing about a very small, very singular topic. There’s a reason why the elites in any field tend to be almost involuntarily obsessive about one thing they do, to the exclusion of many other things. (Think how many famous people can’t keep marriages together, for example)
And the same goes for books and writing. If you focus and write about just ONE topic, without veering off onto tangents, your piece will be so much stronger.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits is one of the best books I’ve read on psychology and self-improvement, as cliched as that sounds. James Clear really was quite aptly named. His thinking and his writing are clear, clean, easy to follow, and well-structured.
Many people attempt to write about habits and personal development, but Clear’s approach toward this ancient topic is refreshing and insightful. He includes fascinating story illustrations, including his own childhood near-death experience and a tale of a British bicycling leader, and uses those stories to talk about what habits really are, what they are affected by and what they affect, and four simple steps for building better habits.
This is one of the few books that I plan to re-read every few years, just to refresh myself on not only the book’s content, but the author’s writing style, which is definitely worth learning from!
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