Book-Based Behavioral Change

By the time I was in middle school, I had read most of the books at the school library so I began pursuing my parents’ numerous bookshelves. I read The Millionaire Next Door, and wondered how many of our neighbors were secretly wealthy. I read Zig Ziglar’s See You at the Top, intrigued that someone would name their kid “Zig”. I picked up The 5 Love Languages a decade before I would start dating. And I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People long before I had any concept of what “success” might look like.

I have always love reading. For most of my life, I averaged over 100 books per year, often pushing through books that I didn’t enjoy. While seriously ill, I was lucky to read a single book per year. Nowadays, I’m averaging a book a month with a focus on those which will enhance my life, either through learning and inspiration or as part of social gathering with my book club.

When I first met my boyfriend, nearly a decade ago, I was appalled when he said that he had decided in his early-30s that he would only read books that promote and provide tools for behavioral change. Fiction, if I understood correctly, was the luxury of youth. I vehemently disagreed.

However, over the last two decades, I’ve come to categorize books. The books I read are either art or a tool. I enjoy poetry, biographies, and historical fiction, and I expect nothing more from those books than an escape, some inspiration, or a new perspective. Some books, on the other hand, are levers for life change.

In my early-20s, I read Bird by Bird, The Gifts of Imperfection, and The Four Hour Workweek. I read A New Earth, The Doors of Perception, and The Alchemist. In a 2009 positive psychology course, I read Flow, Authentic Happiness, Stumbling on Happiness, and The How of Happiness, and gave presentations on the science of life satisfaction before it was trendy.

By my late-20s, my focused had shifted from spiritual wellness to health, with readings of Deep Nutrition, The End of Alzheimer’s, Abundant Health in a Toxic World, Metabolical, and Eat to Beat Disease. As I read, I adjusted my diet and my lifestyle. And as I made changes to my behavior, I observed the changes to my outcomes.

The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. Shifting our actions in small ways can have monumental impacts. When it comes to books, someone else has poured hundreds of hours into consolidating and summarizing their life-changing findings. With time, I am realizing that book, are in fact, tools which we can leverage for our own benefit.

Every book listed above influenced behavioral change, and most of those adjustments have been lasting and permanent fixtures in my life. In between those periods of reading focused on happiness and on health was a time of free books galore–books addressing spirituality from angles I had never considered. When I first became ill, I couldn’t help but look back on two in particular that had provided me the tools and habits to face an uncertain future. Intrigued? Check out my latest post on The Heart of The Matter: Two Free Books: Priceless.

Have any books deeply impacted you, changing your life and behavior for the better?

25 thoughts on “Book-Based Behavioral Change

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  1. It’s always nice to meet a fellow reader. I don’t have as much time to read these days but I try to balance it between reading for leisure and for utility.

    I like to escape in a good book and my favourite author growing was Sidney Sheldon. I do read a lot of non fiction books now, for inspiration and information.

    Will check out your HOTM post shortly!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed–it’s always a pleasure to meet a fellow reader! I’m not familiar with Sidney Sheldon, but I’ll need to check him out. Thanks for the recommendation!


    1. I can understand that. I have less patience for fiction than I used to and tend to gravitate toward history and science, though I do have a soft spot for science fiction that highlights the foibles of humanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we need a balance in our reading so yes the escape books for “those days” when nothing else will be accomplished and we simply need to forget life, plus all the books that impart wisdom in whatever way the reader finds it, no matter the genre!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The Millionaire Next Door” and “Living the Simple Live” are two that had impacts on my life as a whole. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” made a huge impact on my work life. Zig Ziglar was a friend of my mother who was a top producing Realtor back in the day. My reading now is strictly for pleasure. Nice post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t read Living the Simple Live, so I’ll need to look into that. How interesting about your connection to Zig Ziglar! My mom was a top producer for a direct sales educational book publisher back in the day and we listened to Zig cassette tapes on the drive to and from school every day–he must have really had an influence!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes – The Celestine Prophecy and the writing of E.Tole and W. Dyer have molded my existential views of life like the name of your blog. I like that stat – 20% cause and 80% effect.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. E. Tolle and W. Dyer are great, though I haven’t yet read The Celestine Prophecy. I’ll need to check it out. It’s a pretty interesting stat, and it seems to be pretty accurate by my observations.


  5. I’m working on a post that I’ll publish at some point on the role my local library played in keeping me out of trouble when I was a kid. I can relate to many things that you touched on. You did give me an amusing vision though. I get this picture of you as a middle school teen reading those very adult books such as the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or The Millionaire Next Door!!! Ha, ha, that had to be some interesting conversations with your friends. “Hey guys, what do you know about the power of compounding? According to the book I’m reading, it’s some amazing stuff!” Ha, ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that, Brian! I spent a lot of time the the library. I was a quiet, “good” kid, but the library may have been a contributing factor. It is pretty funny, now that you mention it. Adults always called me an “old soul” but I’ve decided that may just be a nice way of calling a kid a loner 🤣🤣🤣 but I certainly try talking about those books more than once… I recall all those blank stares. Thanks for the laugh, Brian!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. When I went through chronic Shingles, my ability to read, process, and absorb books dropped drastically. I received deep criticism from a church leader who compared her own voracious reading abilities to my diminished ones, and I didn’t come up favorably in her eyes. I tried explaining that chronic pain was affecting my ability to sleep, and that was affecting my reading abilities, but she wasn’t a very compassionate or understanding sort.

    I learned that there are some very judgmental readers, who wish to denigrate other’s abilities in order to feel superior, and I also learned I needed to give myself permission to just read at my own pace, even if it meant reading one paragraph a day and thinking and meditating on the wisdom it contained.

    I found that slow reading was the perfect way for me to learn and grow. I realized I was retaining more and able to put more into practice in my life! No shame in slow reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can completely relate, Tamara! I’m so glad to hear you found the right rhythm for yourself. I, too, was cognitively limited and reading went from pleasurable to a difficult chore. Even now, with my brain in a better place, I still prefer the slow and thoughtful approach to reading. No shame at all! (But, gosh, I encountered those judgemental types as well and they really made a tough situation that much worse.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It took me a while to feel comfortable with my pace and not feel somehow less than, but I realized that I was actually retaining more than I had previously, and I was giving myself time to process and incorporate new information into my life. Now I see those judgmental people as very insecure and need to feel superior to others… but who can truthfully say they are superior to someone who is weaker? What is honorable about that? So with this realization I can let them go completely!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Early in my work life Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was a BIG DEAL. My husband and I both worked for companies that ADORED this book. We had classes on it, we were encouraged to use Franklin-Covey planners, it was THE thing. Anyhow, despite it being shoved down my throat I’ll admit that every so often I still review in my mind the habits to make sure I’m sticking to them. And I’m better off for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this, Ally! Isn’t it funny how sometimes even those annoying force-fed ideas stick with us? In elementary school, we had “discipline with purpose” posters on the wall of each classroom and I still remember them the 15 skills for self-discipline.

      Liked by 1 person

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