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11 Life-Changing Books To Help You Build Better Habits

11 Life-Changing Books To Help You Build Better Habits

When you woke up this morning, what did you do first?

Did you hop in the shower, check your email, or grab a doughnut from the kitchen counter? Did you brush your teeth before or after you toweled off? Which route did you drive to work? When you got home, did you put on your sneakers and go for a run, or pour yourself a drink and eat dinner in front of the TV?

In 1892, the famous psychologist William James wrote, “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.” I absolutely love that statement because it’s absolutely true: most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.

And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness. One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

Habits, by definition, are choices that we all make deliberately at some point—and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office, how often to have a drink, or when to go for a jog. But then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.

This brings us to this list of books on how to build better habits. Each of these books are powerful tomes in and of themselves when it comes to the challenge of building habits that stick; but together they become a comprehensive collection of resources on how to create and sustain the habits you need to succeed, both personally and professionally.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

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1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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    The interesting thing about habits is that once we develop them, they go totally unnoticed in our day-to-day activities. For example, you probably don’t think about how many simultaneous actions go into reversing your car out of the garage and into the street safely and smoothly. You just do it. That’s a habit. However, so is smoking. The Power of Habit teaches you how to be deliberate about building better habits that serve you both in life and in business.

    2. Drive by Daniel Pink

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      This book will equip you with everything you need to know about developing the habit of self-motivation. In other words, this book will teach you some of the most powerful leadership lessons you’ll ever learn. Author Daniel Pink debunks some of the biggest myths about what really motivates us at work, breaking down the characteristics of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and how far too many organizations rely on extrinsic motivators, even though they’re counterproductive. Instead, Pink explains how we can best motivate ourselves and others by understanding how to utilize intrinsic motivators. Bottom line? You can’t lead a successful life unless you’ve developed a habit of motivating yourself on a consistent basis, and Drive is a cornerstone book on how to figure that out.

      3. Mindset by Carol Dweck

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        Mindset discusses the differences between people with a “fixed” mindset versus those with a “growth” mindset. Our mindset determines the way we deal with tough situations and setbacks as well as our willingness to deal with and improve ourselves. This book demonstrates how we can achieve our goals by changing our mindset and then developing the success habits to help us nurture that psychological switchover the long-run. It’s a very powerful book on personal transformation that’s also backed by sound scientific research to boot.

        4. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan

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          I recently had an opportunity to interview the co-author of this book and he told me that one of the biggest reasons why most people fail at keeping their New Year’s Resolutions is because they set way too many of them to begin with. The key to sustainable success is actually simple: focus on one thing and see it through for long enough that you achieve your goals. That’s it. Success is sequential, not simultaneous. This book breaks down the mechanics of that process.

          5. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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            This book was written over 1800 years ago. Guess what? The powerful principles, written way back in the second century, remain just as applicable today. Just read this quote and you’ll understand what I mean:

            “For how could we do what justice requires if we are distracted by things that don’t matter, if we are naive, gullible, inconstant?”

            He’s got to be referring to our texting and driving habits, right? The Stoics were known for their disciplined pursuit of excellence, especially when it comes to maintaining emotional stability—which they kept regardless of how stressful a situation they might’ve been dealing with at any given moment. This type of emotional stability wasn’t built overnight. It was built by way of habit. Want to learn about adding some Stoic flare to your own habits? Pick up a copy of Meditations.

            6. Willpower by John Tierney, Roy Baumeister

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              This book aims to re-ignite a conversation that people have been ignoring for decades: what’s the role of willpower in helping us achieve our goals? The answers will surprise you. They’ll also provide you with actionable ways to reshape your lifestyle habits in a way that allows you to find and ignite that charge within yourself to help you achieve lasting change, progress, and ultimately success. Decades of scientific research tells us that the key to forming and sustaining habits is self-control (aka: willpower). And if you want to build up your own willpower muscles, then this is the book you need to read.

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              7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

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                This is a book about success and how there’s a lot more to it than being smart and working hard. Maybe you’ve heard of Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour rule and how it relates to success. Even then, there’s still so much more to learn about how successful people became so successful in the first place. Outliers is a must-read title if you’re looking to expand your mind about the subtleties and nuances that contributed to the success of icons like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

                8. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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                  You’ve surely heard of this classic. In the book, Stephen Covey says,“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”

                  Do you have your changeless core in check? I know it took a lot of inner work before I felt like I did. And one key component of developing that powerful inner core is by developing powerful habits that are based on principles. Why? Because principles don’t change. They’re timeless. Each of the habits laid out in this book are based upon principles, and are designed to act as individual prescriptions for effectiveness in every arena of your life.

                  9. Mini Habits by Stephen Guise

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                    Mini Habits is all about how taking small steps daily can lead to massive changes over time. If you’ve been struggling to lose that fat and achieve your health and fitness goals, if you’ve been looking to attain new skills or build powerful habits that stick, if you’ve been hoping to make massive changes in life but just can’t seem to make it happen, then this book is going to break down the big ideas you need to know in order to bust through those sticking points and build the habits you need to succeed.

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                    10. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

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                      In this book, author Peter Drucker tells us that “effectiveness must be learned.” What does that mean? It means that being effective is a habit, but so is being ineffective. Often times, people think they’re being effective when what they’re really being is efficient—there’s a difference. Being efficient means to be doing things right. Being effective means to be doing the right things. This book teaches you how to develop the habit of doing the latter so that you can achieve success in life and business as quickly and effectively as possible.

                      11. Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel

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                        We are now living in the age of the buzz, the bing, and the flash—the age of distractions and constant notifications about the things that don’t matter. And to make matters worse, we’ve got more information flowing into our purview than we ever have before. In order to make sense of all this “stuff” and focus on our most meaningful objectives in life, we’ve got to develop the habit of learning how to learn. In other words, in order to succeed in the modern world, we need to develop the skill of grasping and retaining important concepts quickly. That’s what Make It Stick helps us do.

                        Which book will you read first?

                        Now that you’ve got this big list of books to help you build better habits, there’s only one question left: which one do you read first? Should you go out and get all of them immediately? Should you read them all at once? Or should you take a lifetime to read them? Ultimately, it’s totally your decision what you do with this list and how you apply it to your life and career. However, if I may, here’s what I would suggest you consider as you get started:

                        • Subscribe to a book summary site, like GetFlashNotes Book Summaries, to get the key takeaways from the books on this list.
                        • If you’d prefer to read an entire book, I would highly suggest that you read just one book at a time. Sometimes, when we see something new and exciting, we have a tendency to want to do/learn/read it all at once. As we all know, this is nearly impossible to do without stressing ourselves out. So, choose a book and commit to reading it from start to finish.
                        • If you’re in a rush, try audiobooks, or audio summaries.
                        • Finally, if you’re in a super rush, check out some YouTube video book summaries, like this one.

                        More by this author

                        Dean Bokhari

                        Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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                        Last Updated on May 21, 2019

                        13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

                        13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

                        Creating your productivity ritual — a routine that helps you to maintain a peak level of energy can get you the best out of your days.

                        Part of creating your productivity routine involves removing activities that drain you (what I call “kryptonites”), and that includes your bad habits.

                        Like it or not, bad habits are bad for you — mentally, physically, emotionally and even socially in some cases. While some bad habits are harder to quit than others, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get rid of them. Here are 13 bad habits to quit right away:

                        1. Stress Eating

                        I used to be a serious stress eater. I would eat whenever I felt unhappy, stressed, disappointed, anxious, or even… happy! My eating had nothing to do with being hungry, and everything to do with using food to fill my emotional voids.

                        While eating would comfort me, this feeling was momentary and would disappear right after I was done eating. Instead, what I had left would be the same emotional void that triggered me to eat in the first place (be it unhappiness or stress), a 2,000 excess calorie intake over what I should have eaten for the day, and anger at myself for having stress ate.

                        I’ve since overcome stress eating. I have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food today where I no longer use food as a tool to fill my emotions.

                        If you are a stress eater, don’t fret — here’s how to manage your stress better:

                        How to Manage Stress (A Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Stress Into Success)

                        2. Nail Biting

                        Not only is nail biting unhygienic, it is also socially repelling, leads to dental problems like malocclusion of the anterior teeth,[1] potentially cause stomach problems,[2] and lead to severely deformed fingernails in the long run.

                        People who bite their nails tend to have shorter nails than the average person; their nail plates also experience scarring and may eventually become absent.[3]

                        Understand what triggers your nail biting behavior and replace it with another neutral to positive habit. Make habits to break habits.

                        For example, if you bite your nails when you are stressed, go for a walk or listen to music instead the next time you feel stressed.

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                        3. Hanging out with Naysayers

                        We all know these people — people who play devil’s advocate to every idea you have and every goal you want to pursue. We are already our greatest self-critics, so it doesn’t help when there’s someone beside us, ever ready to pounce on what we say and tear it down.

                        Hang out less with these naysayers and spend more time with supportive people who share constructive feedback instead. You will be much happier this way.

                        Learn how to get rid of naysayers with these 10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Achieve Your Dreams.

                        4. Being with People Who Don’t Appreciate You

                        Haven’t all of us been in this situation before? Trying to please people who don’t appreciate us? Bending over backwards to be there for people when they are never there for us?

                        While we give without expectations of return, we need to draw a line with people who don’t value us because these people damage our souls.

                        Stop spending time with people who don’t appreciate you, and spend more time with people who do instead.

                        Unsure who you should get rid of? Learn about it here: 5 Kinds of Toxic People That You Need to Get Rid of Now

                        5. Smoking

                        Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.[4]

                        In just the United States alone, about 500,000 deaths are attributed to smoking-related diseases annually. A recent study estimated that as much as one-third of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking! Gender-wise, male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively — that’s over a decade of life right there.[5]

                        Not only that, smoking causes pre-mature skin aging (i.e. wrinkles), yellowing of teeth, bad breath, and worse of all — jeopardy of the health of people around you, including your loved ones. Studies have shown that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk to many of the health problems associated with direct smoking.[6]

                        Smoking risks

                          6. Excessive Drinking

                          All of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us, but do you know how bad it really is?

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                          According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much — be it on a single occasion or over time — can seriously damage your health:[7]

                          • Brain problems: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
                          • Heart diseases: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, stroke, high blood pressure
                          • Liver diseases: Steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
                          • Pancreas problems: Pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
                          • Different types of cancer: Mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast

                          If you drink a lot, perhaps cutting it out right away will be tough. Cut down the number of glasses you drink each time, followed by the number of times you drink a week.

                          If need be, seek help from an AA group — you aren’t alone in this. Change starts from today.

                          7. Eating Junk Food (Including Diet Soda)

                          Junk food — they are everywhere in our society today. From McDonald’s, to KFC, to Burger King, to 24-hour takeouts, junk food such as fries, highly processed burgers and sodas has become a staple in our society today.

                          If you think, “Hey, but junk food is tasty!”, think again:

                          A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny suggests that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[8]

                          “After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure.”

                          And you wonder why you seem to crave fast food when you just had some the day before?

                          While it may not be possible to remove junk food completely from our diet right away, we can reduce our junk food consumption starting today. Instead of soda, opt for a fruit juice (fresh juice, not the carbonated kind) or mineral water. Instead of fries, switch to mashed potato, a salad, or rice (many food outlets allow for this today). Instead of a fried meat patty, go for a grilled one.

                          Where possible, opt for healthy food joints like salad bars and delis as opposed to fast food outlets. Every little step goes a long way.

                          Here’re some healthy snacks ideas for you: 15 Healthy Snacks You Should Always Have At Home

                          8. Eating Too Much Red Meat

                          There has been conclusive evidence that consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer; and suggestive evidence that it increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer.

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                          In addition, some studies have linked consumption of large quantities of red meat with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer![9]

                          Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t consume red meat, but for those of you who consume red meat, do watch out and limit your intake — better still, cut it out of your diet. World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, “very little, if any of which to be processed.”

                          Of if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide: 5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

                          9. Watching Too Much TV

                          I stopped watching TV since eight years ago and I have never regretted it. Every once in a while I will switch on the telly to see what is on, and then I will switch it off because it’s just the same boring shtick over and over again.

                          Watching TV, particularly well-written dramas, can be a good way to unwind. However, remember that TV isn’t your life.

                          Spending three hours every night watching TV will not change your life for the better. Rather, using that time to reflect on your life, take stock, and take action on your goals will.

                          It’s not easy to remove TV from your daily routine right away, but follow these 6 Steps To Remove TV From Your Life.

                          10. Being Late

                          Not only is being late being rude to others, it also means that you’re always rushing from one place to another, playing catch up in your agenda, and having to apologize to every person you meet.

                          Stop being late and not being punctual, but practice being early instead. Target to arrive 15 minutes earlier before any appointment and bring along something to do in those 15 minutes (or longer if the other person turns out to be late). Then you can stop playing catch up and stay ahead in life.

                          Learn more tips about how to be more punctual here: How to Be On Time Every Time

                          11. Being in Bad Relationships

                          Are you always dating the wrong guys/girls? Do you end up with jerks all the time? Well, you may not be able to stop yourself from meeting bad partners but you can certainly stop yourself from furthering contact with them, spending time with them, or even… entering into a relationship with them.

                          I used to invest myself in this guy who was nothing but toxic for me. After a good five months of experiencing nothing but getting burned over and over again, I realized that he was a total waste of my time and I deserved better. I decided to cut him off, and it was soon after that I met my soulmate.

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                          Learn about why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship and how to deal with it if you’re in one: Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

                          12. Leaving Things to the Last Minute

                          Burning the midnight oil isn’t fun — it’s exhausting.

                          Those of you who got through college by burning the midnight oil would have learned this the hard way. Not only is it damaging for your body, it is also mentally draining as you’re constantly in a hyper-tense mode, feeling anxious about whether you can finish your work on time.

                          Start today on a new note. Rather than react to your deadlines, be proactive about them by planning ahead, identifying what needs to be done for the week, and getting things done in advance.

                          By staying ahead of your tasks, you can also use your extra time to plan ahead in your life and get more things done.

                          Take a look at this guide and learn how to stop procrastinating: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

                          13. Focusing on the Negatives

                          In every situation, there are two ways you can react: zoom down to the problem areas and crib about how things aren’t the way you want, or celebrate the areas that are going well and work on making everything better.

                          Many of us see the importance of doing the latter but in practice, we do the former. Why though? Criticizing and focusing on the negatives is easy but it doesn’t empower nor inspire us to be better.

                          Make a change — for every negative encounter you run into, I challenge you to identify three things that are good about it. Practice doing this for one week, and by the end of the week you’ll find that your first instinct is to think positive, not negative.

                          And here’re even more ways to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining your Positive Attitude

                          The Bottom Line

                          So here you find the 13 most common bad habits and their consequences on your mind and body. The good news’ you can quit them all.

                          Just spot out your own bad habits and take my suggestions to quit them. Then you’ll find your life a lot healthier and happier!

                          Need more tips to break your bad habits? Check out these articles:

                          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                          Reference

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