Recommended reading for strategies around habit forming?

I had the following conversation with a friend earlier:

Me: Any idea what’s stopping you sticking with [learning to touch type]?
A: same thing that prevents me sticking with lots of things: me
Me: I don’t want to give you a hard time about this, but you know that’s not actually a productive way of looking at that sort of thing, right?
A: It’s something I’ve learned to live with, I have a few countermeasures
Me: What I mean is that thinking of yourself as an obstacle is not a good way to stop yourself being an obstacle, and it’s instead more useful to think of yourself as a resource with constraints, and to figure out what specific constraints are in play on a specific problem. In particular this is a helpful attitude for building an extended self that can work around those constraints in a way that you cannot easily do bare-brained.

In the follow-on discussion, A asked me if I had any recommended reading on this subject. Unfortunately, I don’t, I think I just picked it up osmotically from hanging out with beeminder folks and then thinking real hard and trying stuff out. Does anyone have any good book/article/etc suggestions for the rather ill-defined subject of good brain tactics and coping strategies for lack of stick-with-it-ness?

(Obviously I can recommend that he just use Beeminder, and I will, but I find that Beeminder doesn’t directly teach you good tactics so much as give you the push you need to get yourself to learn them, and it would be nice to have something to send help expedite the learning process)


I did not like the Power of Habit, really. On the other hand, I kinda like The Willpower Instinct, and I think chapter 3 has a lot about reframing your willpower failures away from moral failings.


BJ Fogg (Stanford Professor) has a wonderful framework for habit formation:

The general formula:

  1. Trigger : A prompt must tell a person to “do this behavior now.” Triggers can take many forms, ranging from links in email ( click here) to internal signals from our body, like a grumbling stomach ( eat now ).
  2. Motivation : A person must have sufficient Motivation when the Trigger occurs. Three core motivators exist: Sensation (pleasure/pain), Anticipation (hope/fear), and Belonging (acceptance/rejection)
  3. Ability : The person must have the Ability to perform the behavior when the Trigger occurs.
1 Like

Currently reading Atomic Habits, quite recommended :slight_smile:


I’m reading Atomic Habits now too! I’ve started it recently and am loving it. I’ve already seen elsewhere the basics of much of the information that the book has covered so far but I’m still really glad I bought it because it explains it all very well and goes into a lot of detail, while not being overwhelming. It seems to be collecting all the best ways of changing habits (with attributions) and tying them all together to make a cohesive strategy.

It suggests practical ways for applying the theories, which are definitely helping me already and I’m enthusiastic about getting through the rest of the book.

I have it on my Kindle and I’m highlighting all the most important phrases as I read. For some sections that’s a LOT of highlights. :slight_smile: They make a good refresher when I look back at each chapter a few days after reading it.


Just finished Atomic Habits, and if anyone is on the fence but feels put off by the way the book is marketed, I can assure you that it’s likely worth your time. It’s well-written, not too padded and makes reference to prior literature on the topic.


@leotolstoy. That is good to know. I wrote the book off because of the super aggressive marketing campaign. I have found in the self-help field the more something is marketed the weaker the content.

what do you mean?

Nearly every single blog or podcast that I listen to endorsed/marketed the book.

I don’t subscribe to many blogs (except the author’s) or podcasts so I haven’t noticed it.
But that’s the only way to market a book these days when you don’t have a marketing budget.

1 Like