Do you love to read? If you are a fan of self-development or self-help books, this list will be right up your street. And if you’re new to the world of self-improvement books, I hope you’ll find these a good starting point for creating strong habits.
I almost exclusively read non-fiction, self-development type books. Always have, always will. I’ve read my fair share of books dealing with habits and creating a better life. There have been a few that have stood out, and I’ve taken something from each of them.
So here are 5 that I not only enjoyed, but ideas from each resonated with me that I remembered them, implemented that change into my own life, and saw a difference. I still use the changes to this day.
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What I took from it: Burn Energy to Make Energy
Gretchen Rubin has a brilliant way of writing, She writes in the first person, and takes you along her journey of trialing the things she talks about in her books. She paints a beautiful picture of her New York townhouse, and the life she lives as a writer. I think it’s a good one to start with if you are a lover of novels, memoirs or narrative style writing.
The book is about habit changes that we can make to make us better than before and she sums that up as happier, healthier and more productive.
I also listen to her podcast, so this learning may have come from the book or the podcast. Either way, it’s stuck with me and served me well
Burn energy to make energy.
It means that if you’re tired, a walk or some movement (burning energy) actually causes you to feel better (makes energy). And it’s true. If I’m sluggish (and not truly tired to the bone) then sitting down and watching TV doesn’t help, but some yoga or a walk in the fresh air does. It’s an easy way to get a positive cycle going again.
What I took from it: Think of your Future Self
Kelly McGonigal actually teaches classes on willpower, so she knows what she’s talking about. I learned a lot from this book. One of them was that we can ride out cravings through mindfully paying attention to them. As I love meditation and mindfulness, it was great to see this scientifically backed up as a way to deal with urges that don’t serve us.
But what struck me more from this book, was her chapter on our future selves. She wrote that often, in experiments, subjects would rather give their future selves horrible things to do, that they, in the present, couldn’t muster up the willpower to do at all.
Our future self is US. Just as you feel right now, that’s how you’re going to feel in 5 months, or 5 years. You won’t automatically be rich if you don’t save today, and you won’t have more willpower or energy then, if you don’t have it today. We make our future selves suffer because we think of older us as different. She goes through an experiment where you really visualize who you are in the future and that’s a good one to help you have some empathy for yourself at all times in your life!
What I took from it: Tiny habits are all you need
I’ve only recently finished this book, but I think it’s strong enough to go on this list. It’s really simple. Surprisingly. It doesn’t really teach anything super new. We see a thing we want, we want it, we have it and we are rewarded. The classic cue, trigger, reward system that many of us know from (Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg).
But James thinks simplicity is key, and after reading this book, I can see why. He breaks everything down into simple steps and shares what makes good habits stick and how to break bad habits. So there wasn’t one particular action that I can recall from the book, but really, more of a positive nudge towards keeping going with tiny habits.
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What I took from it: Focus on the root cause, not the addictive behaviour
This is a book that focuses more on addiction. It talks a lot about addiction in society and the effects of living with drug addiction. Yet, it actually has a lot of really useful information for anyone living with what feels like food addiction. I always wondered if I was addicted to food or not. Maybe I was. An addiction is something that has a detrimental effect on you living your day to day life. And I think this can be true for many of us with a difficult food relationship.
Either way, no matter what you label your relationship with food, what this book taught me was a huge wake up call. It’s not about the problem itself, it’s the underlying issue causing the problem that needs to be looked at.
Trying to manage your food relationship through going on a diet, is like putting a plaster on a foot with a spike through it. The plaster ain’t going to do nothing until you remove the thorn.
So although not a practical application to our daily habits, I think understanding why some habits are never going to work or why we can’t build up some habits in the first place is so important. Context is key.
What I took from it: Action Triggers can create a better day tomorrow
I enjoyed this book, but I have to admit, I struggle to remember much more from it. But either way, this one thing has served me so well, I am happy to include it on the list.
I’ve shared the tool of setting action triggers in lots of posts about willpower and intention setting, so you can read more about it in detail there. But essentially it’s about visualizing what you want to happen. It goes to show that our minds are very strong allies when we work with them the right way!
There are so many more learnings I took from these books. Like keep actions going without breaking the chain of good habits, have a failsafe plan when you fall off track, and the power of tracking what you do. But perhaps the best habit I’ve learned to cultivate is actually reading books to begin with.
I hope you enjoyed this list! If you know of any good books I should read, come and let me know over @eathappy.coach