In this post, we are going to review the International bestseller, Atomic Habits by James Clear. It is by far one of the best books that I have read on behavioral change, habit formation, how to form new habits, and how to break unhealthy ones! Well, if you are one of those who want to build a habit to read books, or maybe want to develop a regime of physical fitness then you should definitely read this book. While it was well worth reading cover-to-cover as the book is the storehouse of actionable information. However, I have tried to highlight some of my key takeaways and big ideas which were profound and can help you be the better version of yourself.
Honestly, I was apprehensive to read this book! Why, because won’t habits and routines will make my life dull and boring? Where’s the spontaneity where the freedom I get from just going with the flow? Well, we can’t achieve much without a proper plan and discipline to execute those plans. I am amazed to comprehend how much freedom we can have if we follow the discipline. With no habit and the routine majority of the time, we are overthinking all day, you might as well procrastinate, get stressed out and as a result, can’t get anything then.
You see, a large portion of our daily actions are driven by automatic habits. Habits that have been formed through repetition over the course of your entire life. Naturally, there are healthy and productive habits that serve you and negative ones that work against you. In either case, you are what you repeatedly do, so you owe it to yourself to deepen your knowledge about your own habits. Have you ever heard the saying that we only use only 10% of our brain? Holy effing moly, what does our other 90% of the brain do? Well, 90% of the brain is subconscious and automatically forming habits. You are not conscious of it and if you go deeper than that, into the subconscious programming then we can relate it to code of software on the hardware of the computer. We don’t realize it’s working until you try to change it. That kind of programming can be explained in one word as Habit. Our entire life is literally controlled by the habits we form in an early age.
Habits give structure to your life thereby implying if you bring discipline in your life it can give you more freedom to do lot of things that you always desired to do. Let’s do a little exercise here,
What’s that one habit that you would like to inculcate – meditation, reading, physical exercise, etc.
Ask yourself what is the one thing that you can stop doing? Is it sleeping late at night, or is it overthinking about a lot of different things and you are procrastinating instead of taking massive action?
In Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about Winner and Loser have the same goal. He explains this with an amazing analogy that every Olympian who trains for the games wants to go to the Olympics and obviously when they are there, they all want to win the gold medal. But who actually win those gold medals? Only a few do and we know about people who win. We only hear about the winners but never talk about losers. However, both of them have the same goal. It’s not the goal rather it’s the system. We don’t rise to the level of the training, we fall to the level of your systems. For instance, my goal isn’t to read 100 books but my goal is to become a reader.
My second question to you is, Why does New Year Resolution often Fail?
They fail because we forget to make the New Year Resolutions obvious, easy, attractive, and satisfying. These are what author James Clear calls four laws of behavior change. Failing to abide by any one of these laws means you will fail to adopt a new behavior. Just reflect on those times when you have tried to develop a new exercise habit but you didn’t create an obvious cue to start your exercise every day which results in forgetting about them once your routine work explodes.
If reading this blog or perhaps any book seems like a mountain of work that means you didn’t enjoy the actual experience of reading or it wasn’t attractive enough for you to stick with it. Furthermore, if on a day-to-day basis you have got more satisfaction from sitting on your couch after a long day of work and watching your favorite TV show than reading a book then it wasn’t satisfying enough to pull you away from the TV.
After reading Atomic Habits I found two powerful strategies that can make a new habit Obvious, Easy Attractive, and Satisfying. I tried to encapsulate them here so that you can become a healthier, happier more productive person in this New Year.
Strategy 1 – Stack and Start
You probably used habits to build a new hygiene routine in this COVID era without realizing it. As a child, you must have stacked the habit of flushing the toilet with the habit of washing your hands. Flushing the toilet became the cue for you to wash your hands. Habit stacking is a method by the virtue of using old and reliable daily habits with the new ones, like using the toilet as the trigger for a new habit. Years ago I used the reliable daily habit of making Anaisha go to sleep as a cue to start reading a few pages from a book. Every night when I used to sing lullabies putting my little princess to her slumber and charging her mommy bear to invest attention in completing chapters of the book kept on the table next to the bed. Now, whenever I get her to sleep I look for my book on the table. Now my brain learned putting down the toothbrush means I should reach out for the book. So now Anaisha’s sleep and reading are like one whole habit stack. When you stack a new habit with an existing habit you use the momentum of the old habit to make a new habit easier to initiate. It’s like riding a bike down one hill in order to build up enough speed to get up the second hill without pedaling.
Strategy 2 – Starting Ritual
If the hill of your new habit is too daunting however the momentum you got from your old habit would be enough to carry on. That’s why you need to reduce your new habits to an easy starting ritual.
Focus on starting the ritual of behavior, it is the minimum number of steps you need to make that makes it easier to proceed with the rest of your ritual than to turn back. Almost all the starting rituals can be completed in two minutes or less. If you get up every day and read just 2 pages in a day then you can easily complete 1 book in a month. You suddenly have the energy to read a few more pages and finish the chapter.
Habit Stacking + Starting Ritual => Made to Stick
Make new behavior obvious, requirement of new behavior easy, attractive and satisfying – third and fourth law comes into play. I only get to enjoy my favorite thing while I execute a healthy habit. For instance, I only enjoy my protein cookie if I have worked out craving will counteract the resistance you have for new habits and this will get you to execute the new habits more consistently. That’s why syncing is a great hack for habit building. In order to make the habit stick, you need to make it inherently satisfying. For that, you must keep score.
- Each time you read a page you are a writer
- Each time you practice the violin you are a musician
- Each time you work out you are a athlete
If you make a scorecard – you will start to see a pattern of the person you always dream of becoming. The pride and satisfaction you feel after scoring a point will be enough motivation along with syncing your favorite experience with heaven to make your habit stick.