How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

How to Change by Katy Milkman
Why I chose the book, what drew me to it

We follow Professor Milkman on social media and saw some previews and teasers from her fellow academics and professors and the subject matter looked like it would be on point. When given the chance to receive an advance copy from Portfolio Books, we jumped at the opportunity. On pub day, we participated in a huge Clubhouse chat launching the book hosted by Amy Cuddy and featured some of our favorites like Adam Grant, Stephanie Creary, Tsedal Neeley, Tina Opie, Denise Hamilton and more. The discussion was fascinating and the book praise really didn’t end so I knew it would be an amazing read.

Summary of the book

The only thing constant is change, sure. But it always seems like that applies to external change, or things happening on the outside. When trying to make change happen in our own lives, whether it is getting fit, or reading or learning more ( doing something to better ourselves and the lives of those around us), it’s much harder to make that change happen, and to make it stick.

Katy Milkman dives into the science of the barriers to change, the common roadblocks and obstacles, to help understand why they get in the way. She also digs into how to overcome them using findings from her own experiments and studies of her colleagues and friends, and sharing examples of famous people (i.e., champions and athletes). She makes the challenges real, even relatable, and explains why change is hard but not always impossible.

What worked

The structure of the book really works (the chapter takeaways are gold). It’s organized into the different obstacles & requirements (getting started, impulsivity, procrastination, forgetfulness, laziness, confidence and conformity), and the lessons build upon one another. The final section drives home how important consistency and taking the long road are in making lasting change.

I really appreciated how she described the importance of pairing change with a fresh start. If you’re heading to business school in the fall, or switching careers before year-end (as many in MBAchic have said they aim to do), will be super helpful as you take stock and dive into your next chapter. Also loved the concept of temptation bundling – that’s something I’ve been able to incorporate as I work on stacking daily habits toward the changes I want to make.

It’s also amazing to see how seriously Milkman takes giving credit to everyone who has either sponsored, mentored or inspired her along the way. She credits everyone from famous thinkers known around the world, to students working with her in the classroom or field. Her generosity and collaborative mindset don’t just come through in her acknowledgements but also in how she approaches her work.

What could have been better?

Not much room for improvement, the references at the end provide even more of a breakdown and guide you to where you can dig in further (seriously, her Notes and Acknowledgements at the end take 50 pages out of a 250 page book). 

Highly recommend the physical or Kindle copy, even if you’re an audiobook consumer, to be able to follow along. A pencil or highlighter are good to have handy, as well, to be able to come back to those lightbulb moments.

Would you recommend it to others?

Yes. Anytime a lightbulb moment hit, I shared with family and friends and MBAchic and can’t wait to share this review on the site, too.

Who?

Anyone trying to improve, grow and challenge themselves to build a growth mindset. Ambitious people, motivated people, new graduates, would-be marathoners, new hires… anyone taking on a new challenge or change, big or small. 

Why?

Milkman does a great job at relating the challenges and obstacles of people aiming for gold medals and trying to change the world, and breaks them down. She explains the science and barriers that exist and offers that they’re so common because we’re all human. Whether you’re trying to add a few days of physical activity to your week, or striving for the top spot in your industry, you’ll start to see why you might not have made the required changes and you’ll better understand what you need to do next.

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Reviewer Rating
5/5

Full of science, research and statistics to help you understand what’s required to make change happen in your life, and make it stick.

Started reading and almost finished during a focused couple of days. Took a break midway and finally returned to finish within another two days. Great to read under a beach umbrella or under the covers during a storm (did both, highly recommend).

Favorite quote(s), anecdote(s)

“…achieving transformative behavior change is more like treating a chronic disease than curing a rash. You can’t just slap a little ointment on it and expect it to clear up forever. The internal obstacles…. they’re human nature and require constant vigilance.” (Page 197)

“But to give yourself the best chance at success, it’s critical to size up your opponent and develop a strategy tailored to overcome the particular challenges you face.” (Page 6)

How long it took you to read

5-6 *reading* days with a massive pause in between.

Where you listened to / read the book most

Before bed and during the day on weekends (as mentioned, outdoors in the sun and indoors during the rain).

The accompanying beverage/snack of choice

Water and seaweed snacks, occasional iced chai latte with almond milk.

Who is a fictional character that would love this book?

  • Christina Yang – Grey’s Anatomy
  • Elle Woods – Legally Blonde
  • Anyone on Big Bang Theory
  • Monica Hall – Silicon Valley
  • Hermione Granger – Harry Potter

Read Katy Milkman’s How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be today!  You can find it on Bookshop and Amazon, or your favorite local bookstore.

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Responses

  1. Currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and it is such a good chaser to How to Change. There are a number of concepts that really work well together and some of Katy Milkman’s work is cited in the notes (took a peek while a few pages in).

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