5 Best Habit-Formation Books

If you actually want to improve your life, it isn’t enough to think about it.

All success depends on what you DO. And not just what you do, but what you do, repeatedly.

As the famous philosopher Aristotle once said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.

If that’s true, how do you form and maintain healthy habits that will help you in life? The following book recommendations will help you do just that:

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

“Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.”— Essentialism

Technically, Essentialism is not exactly about habit formation. But I put this book first, because before you jump into habit formation proper, you need to know WHY you are doing what you’re doing. What goal are you trying to achieve? What direction do you want to travel in?

Essentialism starts by defining the core mindset of an essentialism, talks about how to separate the vital from the trivial, cut OUT the trivial, and make the vital tasks “almost effortless.”

Most of us go through our days without actually doing the most important things. We allow a million daily demands to crowd out the essentials of life.

This book is about taking back your purpose and steering yourself in the direction you actually want to go, rather than allowing yourself to go with the flow and hurtling off the inevitable waterfall.

Mini Habits by Stephen Guise

Mini Habits by Stephen Guise

 “Every giant accomplishment is made of very small steps.”— Mini Habits

Those who have never read or heard of Mini Habits might have their minds blown by its astonishingly simple core idea:

If you want to change your life, break it down into teensy, weensy, nearly microscopic steps.

Then again, they might not.

After all, cliches like “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” and “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” have been around since God-knows-when. There’s even a rendition of this saying for writers: the title of Anne Lamott’s memoir, Bird by Bird.

But the key to the mini habits core idea is to not just break a large task into smaller chunks, but to break them into MICROSCOPIC chunks. Chunks so tiny that they’re nearly effortless to complete. And then complete them. Every day.

How, exactly, are you to do this? Depends on what habit you’re trying to form. And whether or not you pick up this book.

Guise writes clearly and gets straight-to-the-point, talking about his own experience with mini habits, how the brain works, the difference between motivation and willpower, and how to choose, implement, and reward your own mini habits.

If you’re tired of trying to motivate yourself to do something, mini habits might be the life-saver you need 😉

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — Atomic Habits

Personal development blogger James Clear made a name for himself with his interesting, well-written blog posts long before he wrote Atomic Habits. And the book is a distillation of some of his best ideas relating to habits and lifestyle design.

Atomic Habits covers how habits shape your identity, four steps for building better habits, why environment is more important than motivation, potential obstacles, and the most important foundational principle that is the root of healthy, long-lasting habit formation.

If your life feels chaotic, this book will teach you some helpful principles and strategies to get back on track. Or if you’re doing well, but want to improve, Atomic Habits will spark ideas and give you practical application ideas you can experiment with in your own life.

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

“It’s part organization, part soul-searching, part dream-weaving.” — The Bullet Journal Method

Technically, The Bullet Journal Method is not exactly a book about habits. But it encourages readers to form an important daily habit — journaling, yes, but much more than that.

If you have dozens of things to do each day, multiple projects to complete over months and years, and it can seem impossible to keep track of it all. The Bullet Journal method teaches you a system of journaling that allows you to not only write down your thoughts and to-dos and ideas, but to organize them quickly and efficiently.

I read this book years ago, and adopted a few principles to integrate into my own journaling system which has literally changed my life. Perhaps in a small way, but it was an important small way. Highly recommended.

Remember: you don’t have to do EVERYTHING the book says, nor do you have to follow it exactly. Still, I believe you’ll pick up some valuable tips if you do give it a read 😉

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”— The Compound Effect

The Compound Effect is a book about the power of the penny principle. You know, that mathematical model where, if you take a penny and double it every day, it will turn into $10 MILLION by day 31.

A lot of things in life, such as health, work/career, and personal projects, operate on this principle. When you do a few “small” things consistently over time, the payoff is not linear — it’s geometric.

The scary thing is, this compound effect works the other way, too. If you do a few “small” UNhealthy things, over time, it could be deadly. In The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy explores the concept of the compound effect from both angles, giving examples of its power and tips for using the compound effect to your advantage.

If you need a shot of inspiration, and some practical ideas for making the compound effect work for your benefit, start with this book!

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