Essential Zen Habits Overview

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At only 124 pages, the first thing that struck me about this book was how small it was. I wasn’t expecting a Tolstoy novel, but I’ll admit I was disappointed when I first received the book.

Boy, Was I Pleasantly Surprised!

Babauta squeezes a wealth of good information into such a tiny little book. With the general format of Tiny Habits and Atomic Habits, Essential Zen Habits starts with how to form a habit, followed by some troubleshooting tips.

Essential Zen Habits Is The Guide To What To Do When

Babauta guides the reader through a six week (six days a week) process to change a single, small habit. In only 22 pages, he leads you through how to start slow (and small) and grow your habit through mindfulness and embracing the discomfort that change can bring.

It’s All About The Mind Movie And The Childish Mind

The Mind Movie is What If, how you want to see yourself and be seen by others. This is often (mostly) unrealistic or fantastical ideals. It lies to you about what you can accomplish, like getting six pack abs from a single hard workout.

The Childish Mind is that little voice inside of you that wants what it wants, no matter what. It’s the voice that tells you to eat that whole tub of ice cream, or stay on the couch watching TV rather than going for a jog. The Childish Mind doesn’t like being uncomfortable at all, and will throw a tantrum if it’s overruled.

The Rest Is Zen

Mindfulness, groundlessness, resistance, self-compassion, and intention. An amalgam of Zen teachings, Babauta uses them to explain the feelings you get when you try to change your habits. Each one will be felt or needed during the process. While change isn’t easy, there are ways to make it less difficult.

Included Is A Wealth Of Information On How To Troubleshoot, Quit, and Just DO Habits.

Each section has several short (1-2 page) chapters on different challenges and suggestions for habit creation, with a final section on how to just DO what’s in the book. For those who want the Cliff’s Notes version, skip to that last section. Babauta’s already included them in the book.


Who This Book Is For:

If you have an idea what mindfulness is, and you’re interested in it, you’re more likely to appreciate Zen Habits. While you don’t have to be a master practitioner to fit Babauta’s work into your life, you’ll have an easier time understanding what he’s talking about if this isn’t your first encounter with mindfulness.

You want a handbook of what exactly to do and when. This isn’t a lot of theory, it’s practical, if a little spiritual. Don’t let that hold you back.

Who This Book Is NOT For:

If you think mindfulness and zen is “woo woo stuff,” this book is probably not for you. Babauta repeatedly recommends leaning into the discomfort that change brings and being mindful of the Childish Mind’s reactions. If that’s not your style, try something else.


Buy Essential Zen Habits: Mastering The Art Of Change, Briefly by Leo Babauta

Other Recommended Habit Books:

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Susan Dillon

    So glad to know about this intriguing resource! I’ve ordered a copy and look forward to learning what it offers.

    1. Jess

      Glad I could bring it to your attention! Hope you like it as much as I did!

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