28 Best Books on Building Good Habits (and Breaking Bad Ones)
When envisioning a master list of the "best habit books" the titles on this page immediately jumped to my mind.
These are the books that deal directly with the difficult proposition of changing your habits for the better.
This list includes absolute "must read" books like, Power of Habit. Books the show the influence of looser concepts like willpower and how they influence habits (by famed psychologist Roy Baumister) and even books that showcase the importance of laser-like focus on a single topic, such as The One Thing.
If you are interested in developing habits that can lead to important lifestyle changes included here are the best books on habit change.
Similarly is you are having a tough time creating new routines and habits and getting them to stick, this list has the best books on habit formation.
The books on this list should all be powerful considerations for anyone wanting to make tough habit changes, and is facing difficulties with the process.
Stopping bad habits, starting new good habits and building routines that stand the test of time is not something that is "easy". But it is something that can be done.
This page includes the best books on habit formation. It includes the most popular and well researched books. I have also added a few you may not have heard about, but perhaps should such as my friend Stephen Guise and his popular mini habit ideas. (Maybe you have heard about it?)
Without further ado, let's look at the list of habit books collected here. With so many it should not be hard to find the habits book that is best suited to your personal needs.
Best Books on Habits
1. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
When I make these book lists I usually don’t have a “favorite” book. Often I like different books for different reasons. Making it onto the list at all means the book should be worth reading. However in this case, “The Power of Habit” is my favorite book on this list.
This NY Times bestseller was groundbreaking when it was released. Every single writer with a book on this list published after “Power of Habit” was influenced by this book. Whether they admit it or not.
If you want a detailed review of Duhigg’s book, check out this detailed post I made: The Power of Habit Review. In this review I cover every single important aspect brought up in the book and list many reasons why this book is so important to anyone who wants to make a change in their lives.
So, is this book perfect? Of course not. No book is. If I was forced to say something negative I would say it is too much theory and not enough actionable material. Duhigg gets about 2/3 of the way through the book before telling you what you can so about habits.
The info he shares at that point is wonderful, but I wished it was more. Still this is a book that should be on the bookshelf of every single person who cares about making positive change in their lives.
2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Like “the Power of Habit” and a later entry, “Willpower”, This book is one of the three books I think that every single person who is interested in making a change in their lives “must” read.
In this book, Professor of Pyschology Carol S. Dweck recounts her discovery of the power of one's mindset. She demonstrates how people can be successful in all areas of their lives if they think about their talents and abilities in a certain way.
She argues that people who believe that abilities are fixed are less likely to grow and develop their talents than those with a growth mindset, who believe that their abilities can be advanced.
A person's mindset is able to show how great leaders can use this idea to encourage accomplishment. Dweck teaches the reader that if you have the right mindset, you can motivate people to transform their lives.
This book is all about action. Some of the ideas are pulled from other powerful books on habits. What makes this book unique is how concise and action oriented it is.
This book teaches the reader the benefit of making many small changes that all add up to a large positive life change. Essentially, if you start with one positive habit, such as eating a healthy breakfast, it will lead to many more throughout the day that will impact your goals.
Habit Stacking is meant to add new habits to each day to create a new routine. This book comes with a list of 127 small changes with instructions on how to make the suggested changes. It also provides the reader with steps to help them turn small changes into a new lifestyle.
Readers have found that this book is written clearly and is very easy to understand. It is a sincere book that allows the reader to have a peek into the author's life, as many things that are discussed are from personal stories or experiences.
4. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D.
Willpower explains the new science of self-control to readers and how it can be used to improve health, happiness, and productivity. It looks at the definition of willpower along with how it works and why it is important for success.
This book combines powerful advice with complementary exercises to help readers reach their goals, reduce procrastination, improve their health, and be more productive at work. Readers have found that this book offers a good mix of science, personal stories, and tips, making it a more down-to-earth book than others of its kind.
5. The Art of Good Habits: Health, Love, Presence, and Prosperity by Nathalie Hermann
In this book, the author teaches the reader how to take ownership of their own happiness through small changes to the way they approach life. The Art of Good Habits gives the reader a step-by-step action plan to help achieve goals and maintain their success.
This book helps readers gain control over their lives with understandable principles and effective methods. The reader will learn how to look internally for the answers they need to improve their daily habits. Readers have found this book to be full of useful information. It is an easy read and can begin changing one's life from the first chapter.
6. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumister and John Tierney
Along with, “the Power of Habit” and “Mindset” it is my opinion that this book is part trilogy of unrelated, “must read” books for habit change. They are all on various topics, but collectively they cover most important aspects of making habit change. They are all New York Times bestseller’s and they are all amongst the best researched books on this list.
This book, written by a research psychologist and a New York Times science writer, changes our understanding of self-control. The authors use cutting-edge research along with the wisdom of real-world experts to teach the reader lessons on how to focus their strength and resist temptation in order to improve their lives.
The authors do a good job of showing readers how to set realistic goals, track their progress, and how to stay positive if they mess up. This book's ultimate goal is to show the reader that they will never be able to reach their goal if they can't manage self-control.
Readers have noted that they appreciate the mix of practical wisdom with recent research science. Readers also claim to finish this book with a better understanding of how their minds work when they are trying to use their willpower.
On my blog I am constantly espousing the usefulness of the simple basic premise of this book. Increasing effectiveness by limiting your focus to only one thing. It is a simple concept, but a powerful concept when properly utilized.
In our fast-paced, chaotic world, people are often putting out second-rate work because there are so many distractions going on each day. However, people want to be productive and successful.
Keller teaches his readers how to bypass distractions, achieve great results using less time, build momentum, reduce stress, increase energy, and stay focused.
Readers have found this book to be eye-opening, and although it is easy to understand, many read it multiple times. (Myself included) This book is easily applied to people in any situation who have a goal, so it is a very versatile read.
8. High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendon Burchard
Performance coach Brendon Burchard uses this book to reveal what he has found to be the most effective habits for achieving long-term success. The author argues that there are just six habits that people need to adopt in order to be successful in life.
To become successful, people must:
- Find clarity
- Create energy
- Create a necessity
- Increase productivity
- Become influential
- Be courageous
No matter which area in life you are looking to succeed in, these habits can help people achieve remarkable things. Each habit presented in this book includes stories and science to back it up, along with exercises and practices that the reader can start doing.
While some readers have found that this book is a bit verbose, others appreciate the number of stories and examples that are included.
Readers finish this book learning that the main thing they have to do in life to be successful is to be deliberate about their actions. This has helped many of Brchard's fans increase their success.
This book makes an essential argument I totally agree with. That nearly everything people do is a result of a habit. Either a bad habit causing you to do things you know are bad for you, or a good habit getting you to do the simple good things you need to do every day. (They can be as simple as brushing your teeth every day).
Because of this, Meyer teaches the reader how to develop good habits and break bad ones to help limit frustration and stress that often wear people out.
She points out how getting rid of a bad habit is easier when you replace it with a good habit. Because your mind wants to do something with the time spent on your old bad habits, why not give it something good in place.
This idea is essential to my own actionable 27 step plan to break ANY bad habit. Check it out to get rid of those bad habits.
Meyer urges people to choose one area of their life, whether it is generosity, discipline, faith, or something else, and start building good habits. Take it one step at a time and celebrate the small successes.
Readers enjoy the funny stories and examples that Meyer includes in this book to prove her point. The voice of the book is inspiring, which also helps readers benefit from taking the time to read it.
10. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore, Ph.D
The NOW Habit gives the reader a comprehensive plan to help reduce stress and increase the amount of time they have to enjoy relaxing without feeling guilty.
The techniques that are laid out in this book will help anyone begin tasks sooner and finish them quickly without procrastinating or trying to reach for perfectionism.
If you have trouble with procrastination, this can be a great book to help you modify your habits to a more immediate and effective routine.
This book not only helps readers understand why they procrastinate, but it also gives some tools to help overcome procrastination. It takes a compassionate, rather than a scolding, approach to help readers improve their lives and stop putting things off.
This book delivers a straight-forward framework on how to build an action-oriented habit and stop procrastinating. It is written in a motivational tone that gets readers excited to start planning their time wisely and choosing the tasks that are most important to their final goals.
How to Stop Procrastinating is a great book for both people who sometimes find themselves to be a bit lazy with their work all the way up to people who are always waiting until the last minute to do things. It includes an abundance of information to help readers of all kinds overcome their procrastination tendencies.
Readers love the personal stories in this book as well as the actionable content that helps readers improve from the beginning. The author removes his filter to let his readers know exactly what they need to do in order to get their lives into gear.
This book is a thought-based guide to ending bad habits. The author aims to show the reader how people have two brains. One is a conscious and deliberate brain, while the other is an automatic brain. The automatic self makes most of our decisions, and there are ways to train this part of us to ignore disruptions, overcome temptations, and stop reflexive responses that can be self-sabotaging.
This book gives readers a roadmap to getting past some of the most common self-destructive habits such as procrastination, anxiety, self-medication, internet addiction, overeating, and risk-taking. This is a great book if you are trying to move past a hurdle in your life and have not yet been able to pinpoint a strategy to do so.
13. Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions by John C. Norcross
Changeology argues that there is a five-step approach to help make change easier. The author, Dr. John C. Norcross, spent thirty years studying how people are able to make permanent changes in their lives and overcome dozens of behavioral ailments. This guide outlines his approach to personal improvement.
Unlike other self-help books, Changeology has a track record of success. It provides the reader with the tools that are needed to change one's habits in ninety days. This book also provides personal assessments and helpful tools through the author’s website.
Readers have found this book to be refreshing and clever with information that they have not read before. No matter what the end goal is, this book can help the reader achieve it and have long-term success.
14. Sticky Habits: 6 Simple Steps To Create Good Habits That Stick by Barrie Davenport
Sticky Habits helps readers to learn a new skill, begin a positive resolution, or overcome any trouble that they have had in the past sticking to goals. This might be the right book for you if you have a habit that you have been wanting to form, you just haven't been able to actually get up and do it yet.
Sticky Habits addresses people's ability (or inability) to stick to a habit until it becomes a routine. If you have ever had trouble following through with a goal, you need to read about the science-backed skills in this book that have been proven to keep you on track for as long as you hope.
The author presents the idea that a great plan coupled with small steps and accountability can help anyone achieve a new habit. Readers have found that the author has once again proven that she can lead people through to change to create a more productive life. The author begins the book with the simple things before progressing to complex components to habit creation.
One thing in particular that readers have noted about this book is that they came away seeing the errors that they had made in the past when they were trying to create new habits.
While some people were trying to take on too much at once and others were starting with complex habits, each person was able to see their mistakes in hindsight after reading this book. It is clear that the author has done her research and understands her findings.
15. Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden
This book uses the analogy of choosing to ride the escalator or take the stairs to talk about self-discipline. Vaden argues that our society tends to take the escalator, meaning that people like shortcuts and quick fixes.
However, that leads to compromise, procrastination, and mediocre work. His point is that what may seem like an easy path is actually harder in the long-run and it won't help you achieve your highest goals.
Take the Stairs offers the readers a simple program for bypassing the temptations of quick fixes and moving past personal setbacks to help complete the work that leads to success.
This guide to offers a new way of thinking that can become second-hand if you practice it enough. Many have found themselves to be more productive after reading this book than ever before, and able to enjoy their time with family and friend more as well as actually relax during their breaks. Most people are scared of change, but this book offers a new way of boldly living that will not be regretted.
16. Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence by Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D
In, Focus Halvorson discusses the two kinds of pleasure and pain that motivate everything people do. If someone is promotion-focused, that person aims to advance and avoid missing any opportunities.
If someone is prevention-focused, that person tries to minimize their losses and stay afloat. If you are able to understand how people focus, then you will have the power to create motivation for yourself and the people around you.
Halvorson uses this book to display a wide variety of situations that showcase how both promotion and prevention focus applies to everyday life. Whether it is running a business or trying to score a second date, the authors are able to show the reader how to identify and change focus, if needed. They also teach the reader how to use focus correctly in order to get results.
Readers enjoy that this book is straight to the point, fast, and easy read. People who read the author's previous book, Succeed, found there were many repetitions in this book. However, the information is still useful, so it is not a waste to read if you have already read books by this author.
17. Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise
To put it simply the idea of mini-habits is breaking down habits until they are “too small to fail”. Guise often uses the example of pushups to illustrate his point. If you have a goal of 50 pushups a day it is likely to fail over time because there will be days you just don’t want to do it and pull extreme measures to avoid your task. This is often how habits fail.
On the other hand if you goal is 5 pushups or even 2 pushups, what excuses could you make? The task is so easy it is impossible not to meet the goal. The secret is that with these minimum goals there should be nothing keeping you from doing “more”.
So what starts out as 5 pushups could easily turn into twenty or even that 50. The important part is to keep the number ridiculously small so that failure is not an option and you get large unbroken streaks of success.
A very interesting concept in a very well written book. INteresting thoughts for anyone who is interested in habits and habit change.
18. Failing Forward: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes by John C. Maxwell
New York Times best-selling author John C. Maxwell uses this book to talk about how some people seem to be born to be achievers while others seem to have to struggle through everything. So, what is the reason behind the successes of the people to whom it comes easy?
This book argues that the difference between average people and people who are quick to achieve is their reaction to their own failures.
Most people are not equipped to deal with failure and are brought up to fear it and even misunderstand it. However, the key is to make failure your friend, which is what is taught in this book.
Readers have found that this book can be meaningful for anyone who is facing difficult challenges in their lives. It is an easy read and includes a lot of useful information about learning from failures and turning them into success.
The author gives the reader a list of steps to take to "fail forward" and includes real-life stories of people who once failed but were able to turn the situation into a success.
The author shows that to succeed in a career, a person has to work hard, set goals, be motivated, have the right attitude while dealing with adversity, and take responsibility for their mistakes.
This book addresses how long it should take to turn a new habit into part of your regimen. Making Habits, Breaking Habits is the rundown of a psychologist's popular examination of the processes of the mind.
He argues that while people like to think that they are in control of themselves, a lot of human behavior happens without any conscious thought.
This book references hundreds of studies to debunk the myth that people are in control and explain why habits that may seem simple, like eating a salad every day, can actually be difficult to maintain. This book goes on to talk about how to take charge of the brain's natural “autopilot” and make changes stick.
Readers have found that this book is both witty and intriguing. While this book does not offer a step-by-step guide, it gives the reader a workable framework to create one's own plan to follow through with their proposed habits.
This book calmly and clearly lays out research regarding habits and then systematically explains how to apply this research to your life in order to improve it. Many readers find tips in this book that they are able to put to use right away.
20. Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D
Succeed is extraordinary book that applies real science to the goals and struggles that people face. Common things such as losing weight, improving relationships, making more money, and getting motivated are all addressed in this book.
Whether someone wants to escape a rut or accelerate their success, this book provides the readers with a comprehensive, step-by-step guide that is scientifically-based.
Halvorson uses personal examples as a professional, wife, and mother to describe the most effective ways to frame goals, plan for success, and see that success come to fruition, even after dealing with moments of failure along the way.
This book includes several scientific studies to show that the way people pursue their goals has a huge influence on how likely they are to succeed. Readers have found that the author does a good job in applying these studies to everyday life.
The writing in this book is engaging and funny while still being down-to-earth. The author is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter and doesn't include a lot of the cliche things that you would typically find in this type of book. Instead, this is a realistic guidebook for increasing motivation, setting and achieving goals, and experiencing personal growth.
21. Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson
World-renowned psychologist Timothy Wilson talks about how making small changes to the stories we tell ourselves can lead to a positive, lasting change. Redirect allows readers to see themselves and their environment in a different way, and use that to their advantage.
Redirect is written in an engaging way and includes many stories that make it easy to read. Redirect covers a variety of problems in society, such as racism, teen pregnancy, addiction, etc. Many people will find this book to be relatable in some way to their own lives.
22. Unhooked: How to Quit Anything by Susan Shapiro
This might be the right book for you if you are being held back from getting what you want out of life due to some type of addiction. Whether it is smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, or something else, if your crutch is getting in the way of living a productive life, you have to learn how to stop.
Unhooked is an actionable guide to moving past any habit that is addicting and restraining. The solution that this book offers only requires a better understanding of oneself and a change in attitude.
The author uses real patient examples and research along with personal experience to show the reader how to flourish without self-medicating.
The method shown in this enlightening book teaches a lot about family dynamics and the role that families play in addiction. It is is well-written, interesting, and includes many real-life stories of addiction. This book teaches a lot about why people do what they do and why they should stop.
23. Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others by Art Markman PhD
Smart Change helps its readers change their habits by explaining the psychology behind how habits are formed. It gives actionable advice to help reader change their habits for the better.
This book uses an engaging narrative to go over a wide range of habits, covering both personal and professional habits. So, whether you are looking to lose weight or you want to learn how to effectively land a sale, this book has something in it for you.
The author proposes that there are five tools that people need to use to change their behavior and help people impact the habits of the people around them.
Readers have found that the principles laid out in this book are very helpful. While the book is a bit dry at times, it lays out a clear list of things that people need to do in order to make changes to their lives.
24. Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
This book is a simple parable that has much deeper truths. It tells the story of four characters living in a maze and looking for cheese.
The cheese is a metaphor for the things people want to have in life, like a good job, a healthy relationship, wealth, health, or spiritual beliefs. The maze is where you work or live and are trying to get what you want.
The problem that arises in this story is that the cheese keeps moving and the characters keep having to face unexpected obstacles. Eventually, one of the characters successfully deals with a change and records what he learned for others to discover.
This book is a metaphor for how people can learn how to anticipate and adapt to change and be ready to adapt when need be. This book is meant to decrease stress and anxiety and allow people to have more success in work and life.
It is written for all ages and is a quick read, but it holds a unique lesson that can carry on for a lifetime. Readers have found that this book is a great reminder for people and is put together in a story that is easy to remember.
Readers also appreciate the discussion chapter at the end of the book because it is able to give some real-world examples of how people can apply what they have learned in this book to their real life.
This book may be right for you if you have found yourself giving up on goals before really even starting them.
In Changing for Good, three acclaimed psychologists reveal their studies of over 1,000 people who were able to create permanent changes their lives without psychotherapy. The authors discovered that permanent change does not have to do with luck or willpower, rather, it is a process that anyone can manage.
Readers have found that despite the fact that this is a personal development text, the tools in this book can also be applied to business change and transformation.
Readers will walk away with an understanding of the stages that humans go through as they face uninvited change. The authors of this book give a great model to explain how people in their personal lives and in businesses react during times of change.
This book is thorough and engaging. It begins with an executive summary, allowing the reader able to hit the ground running as they read the rest of the book.
The National Cancer Institute Found the program that is outlined in this book to be more than twice as effective as standard programs when it comes to helping smokers quit for 18 months.
26. The Healthy Habit Revolution: Create Better Habits in 5 Minutes a Day by Derek Doepker
Doepker argues that people may be taking the wrong approach to changing their lives or staying motivated. He teaches that people are not using the correct proven scientific methods to change their behaviors and their habits. They are changing their habits based on gut feeling of what is, “right”.
However, there is a way to create better habits in a short amount of time and make a change that will last.
The Healthy Habit Revolution combines research from behavioral, cognitive, and human needs psychology to create an easy, three-week program for habit reform. Doepker claims that it only takes five minutes each day to make a lasting change, even if you have no motivation.
He teaches readers how to flip the switch in their brains to want healthy behaviors. The book does talk about getting rid of unhealthy habits, but the main purpose of the book is to help people develop positive and long-lasting habits such as eating healthy, meditating, exercising, and increasing productivity.
Readers have found that this book is very readable and down-to-earth. It lays out a clear blueprint to help people improve their lives without changing their entire day to revolve around their goals. With small changes, a large change will ensue.
Tracy’s habit book revolves around habits and how they affect what people think, feel and do. Habits can be learned to help people get rid of old and ineffective practices and replace them with optimal behaviors that can lead to large benefits to their bottom line.
Million Dollar Habits aims to teach readers how to create habits for themselves that are in line with successful people so they can think effectively, make good decisions, and increase their income.
After reading this book, readers will know how to organize their finances, improve their health, improve their relationships, become financially independent, and become a leader.
While some people have found this book to be repetitious at times, it has very useful information for anyone who is trying to build a business or achieve goals in their life.
28. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath
Switch makes the argument that the main obstacle to sticking to a positive habit change is a conflict that is ingrained in our brains. Psychologists have found that people have a rational mind and an emotional mind, and each competes for control.
For example, while the rational mind wants a slim body, the emotional mind would rather eat cake. The tension between the two minds can have an impact on one's effort, but if you are able to overcome this tension then you are well on your way to making a change.
This book includes real-life examples that readers can easily apply to their everyday lives. The authors use a compelling narrative to present readers with decades of research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to show new ways to make positive changes.
Readers have found that this book is very worth reading to help see how changes affect our lives. Even though there is a lot that cannot be changed, having an awareness of how the change process works is helpful.
Readers appreciate how the author illustrated effective interventions during the process of change that ended up solving problems because people had an understanding of why the change was being resisted.
A Smarter You in 15 Minutes?
If you enjoy reading nonfiction books, then I encourage you to
check out the Blinkist app.
Blinkist is an interesting concept...
Blinkist summarized over 2,000 of the bestselling books and put them into condensed 7 to 15 minute reads (or “blinks”). The idea here is to give you the key insights and important lessons -- without wasting your time on pointless information.
Blinkist book summaries are perfect for anyone who wants to maximize those random moments when you have to kill time. Like when you want to kill time before an appointment or you’re standing on a long line at Starbucks.
You can use Blinkist to complete a book daily, learn the valuable lessons, and avoid the fluff that often pad longer books.
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