What I learnt from “Atomic Habits”
Five short lessons from James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”
Habits are powerful
One work-out won’t make you fit, one takeaway won’t make you unhealthy but –just like compound interest –a little daily step in the right direction every day for a year will be transformative. Likewise, a daily step in the wrong direction, will be detrimental!
Try habit stacking
In order to start a new habit, having a specific idea of when you are going to perform that habit helps. An easy way to do this is to work with what you have already. For example, if you want to read more, why not read 5 pages after you brush your teeth? In this way you can build off the habits you already have and use them to prompt you to act. Suddenly (assuming you brush your teeth twice a day!) now you’re reading 70 pages a week.
Shift your identity
The actions we perform repeatedly make us who we are, likewise, who we are determines the actions we repeat.
So, if you’re trying to break a bad habit, why not shift how you see yourself and in turn make a change in the actions you repeat. When refusing a cigarette don’t say “No thanks, I’m trying to stop smoking.”, instead, commit to your cause and say: “No thanks, I don’t smoke.”.
Follow the two-day rule
When picking up daily habits allow yourself to skip one, but never two days. Allowing yourself to skip one is accepting that you’re human, allowing yourself to skip two is starting a streak in the wrong direction!
Cue, Craving, Response, Reward
For good habits:
Cue – make it obvious – have something that triggers you (think habit stacking!)
Craving – make it attractive – enjoy your habit! Maybe, you’re trying to exercise more but hate running, then why not dance or rock climb or play tennis? There are so many ways of performing different habits, so choose one you enjoy!
Response – make it easy – remove all friction! Be able to have the thought of performing your habit and then immediately do it, before your motivation fades. E.g. have your workout clothes easily reachable / don’t drive to a gym far away!
Reward – make it satisfying – the catch about most good habits is that they are often not as immediately satisfying as their negative counterparts. As a solution, try and associate something immediately positive with your habit (e.g. play tennis with a good friend) whilst you wait to reap the long term rewards.
(For breaking bad habits, simply inverse these rules!)