Reading books about habits and behavior change is something I have been doing for a while because of my desire to create good habits and get rid of bad ones. As an entrepreneur, I am someone who is interested in all kinds of productivity and life improvement hacks.
One of the most impactful books on the issue of breaking bad, and creating good habits, has been, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I find this book to be really interesting, especially when it leads to unexpected improvements in my life, and that of others. In fact, last month, the sales of this book surpassed 5 million copies sold worldwide.
Self-help and self-improvement can be a hamster wheel. It is so very easy to get caught up in the idea of improving our lives, but do not get to do it because we are reading a big pile of “how to change your life” books. I believe this book delivers on the promise and provides tremendous value to its readers.
Here are the steps to help you create a good habit and get rid of a bad habit
1. How to create a good habit– Four Laws of Behavior Change
Make it Clear
Build a new habit with a daily habit you already have, so that you can easily remember to make the new habit.
An example to make it clear ( when you are trying to create a new good habit to be more grateful), is to put your gratitude notebook next to the coffee maker. This way, every morning when you go to make your coffee, you can write down something you are grateful for while you are making your coffee. With the notebook out in the open and near when having coffee, you are more likely to complete your new habit regularly.
Make it Attractive
The more attractive the thing, the more you will want to do it. You can make a habit attractive by doing something you enjoy right before a difficult habit.
Make it Easy
An example of making it easier can be in my case, when I am trying to create a good habit of exercising regularly. The thought of exercising for an hour or so sends my system into anxiety. What I found myself doing was setting a goal for 5-minute sessions daily at first. These shorter sessions I found easier to complete, and my desire to do it more grew. After a few weeks, I was doing more and enjoying it. This 5-minute mind trick can work with a number of behaviors to make almost everything seem easier to accomplish.
Make it Satisfying
We are more likely to repeat a behavior when it is satisfying. Finding a way to give yourself a small reward for completing this new good habit, is very effective. According to James, ” What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.” This is the basic rule of behavior change.
2. How to break a bad habit:
Make it Invisible
Remove the sign of temptation from your daily life, and you will be less likely to be tempted. An example of making it invisible in my case is removing the temptation of eating those peppery, salty, cheesy Doritos chips from my pantry. Out of sight, out of mind.
In another case, you might be trying to kick the habit of procrastinating by always being on social media. Try turning off notifications, and removing apps for these platforms on your cell phone entirely. If they are not there, you will not be drawn to mindless scrolling often.
Make it Unattractive
This might not be effective for some, but I find telling myself the benefits of avoiding a bad habit over and over until I am most likely to not want to do it, works for me.
Make it Difficult
An example of making it difficult is in the area of bingeing on ice cream late at night(something I am working to break). Not buying the ice cream and having it in the fridge, I will not be tempted to go after it. It will take many extra steps to get the ice cream if I have to travel further than the journey from the couch to the refrigerator. This is increasing the friction caused by the bad habit I want to get rid of, and increasing the number of steps it takes to get rid of this bad habit.
Make it Unsatisfactory
I find that when I have an accountability partner who will check on me, or I create any contract with myself to be punished if I break the contract, has been helping me. I do not like to disappoint my accountability partner, and actually feel like a failure and think she is also thinking this of me, or I am letting her down when I succumb to the bad habit.
3. More Ideas on Forming Good Habits
One area of the book I really enjoyed the most was where James talked about being true to yourself regarding your personality, genes, and strengths. He pointed to the fact that sticking to habits is easier when they fit in with your natural abilities.
This resounded with me because in one of my earlier posts I spoke about discovering my personality type(Introvert) and all the good, and not-so-good things about how I interact with others and myself. After doing this test, and other previous tests, I am learning how to better do the things that align with who I am, and qualify those that do not.
We do not all have to be good at everything, and we cannot all be good at everything. On the other hand, we can all be good at something. Also, just because you have good genes for a particular activity, it does not mean you do not have to work hard at new things.
Change the Identity first, the rest will follow
If we want to make real change, we must first focus on who we want to become rather than the things we want to do and how we want to achieve them.
James gives an example of two different ways people try to quit smoking when they are offered a cigarette. Someone says, “No thanks, I am trying to quit smoking.” The other says, ” No thanks, I do not smoke.” The second person makes a simple but essential distinction with their response. It’s not about what they are or are not trying to do, it is about who they are, or becoming.
According to James, every time you practice a habit, good or bad you are casting a vote for the kind of person you wish to become. This is such a crucial and powerful point to remember. Our habits are the votes we make for or against the desired identity!
The great thing about this book is that it makes no attempt to reinvent the wheel. On the contrary, it integrates the content that it aims to present in a very concise and straightforward manner. I highly recommend Atomic Habits because it can lead to unexpected improvements in your life as it is doing in mine.
I always keep my Promises!
What kind of traits and habits do you think you have? Or, for a person who is physically fit, what would that healthy person do? Every time you practice a habit, good or bad, you cast a vote. What vote are you casting? Let’s chat.