Behavior Books to Build Better Habits
Sean Higgins
behavior books

Behavior books often focus on boosting motivation, leading to a short term surge in action that eventually comes crashing back down. When it comes to building meaningful change, the best behavior books focus on making things easy and creating defaults. Here are a few of the best when it comes to building long-term change. 

Tiny Habits

This is the best behavior book to get started. Here you’ll learn the Tiny Habits Method from BJ Fogg (Creator of The Stanford Lab of Persuasive Technology). Starting tiny makes it easier for you to have success, feel successful, and incrementally take yourself to new heights. To get started with a tiny habit, first think of an aspiration (I want to get more exercise). Then, think of all the behaviors you can take to do just that (run a marathon, buy a new bicycle, get a gym membership). Make these behaviors specific or crisp so that you know who is doing what, and how they’re doing it. Rank the behaviors along the lines of easy to do and hard to do, also by most and least effective. When you find a behavior that fits the mold of easy to do and effective, make it tiny. This means start with the smallest possible version of your habit. Instead of running three miles, try putting on your running shoes. Find the book here.

Atomic Habits

James Clear has an incredible personal journey from suffering a devastating injury to being a top player in his sport. One powerful behavior to learn from James is the idea of habit stacking. Habit stacking is using completing a current habit to become the trigger to start another one. After I go to the bathroom, I will do 3 push ups. After I finish my conference call, I will drink a glass of water. The power of habit stacking is that it creates more opportunities to take action. When you can change the default in that big of a way, you will see real change in no time. Paired with the Tiny Habits Method, this is a great starting point. Find the book here.


Daniel Pink’s deep dive on motivation is a great way to learn about intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. This is why so many behaviors fail. If you’ve ever participated in a health program that promised you some reward after achieving a health goal, you may have noticed the reason for your participation shifting. You start off looking to improve your health, but eventually you take your intrinsic reason for starting and dilute it. We turn play into work by using incentives when we shouldn’t and completely miss out on moments of shine. Drive reminds us of the power of intrinsic motivation and how to level it up over time. Find the book here.

Making a change, any change, is hard. Sometimes focusing too much on the end result without getting started leaves us feeling unsuccessful. Know that the first step is the hardest one, and just because you can’t see how you’ll hit your destination before you start, doesn’t mean that you can’t get there. Put one foot in front of the other. Start tiny, use habit stacking, and be careful on how you reward yourself along the way. Those little changes and habits that you build each day compound, eventually changing your life for the better.

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