the book that changed my life
It’s January so that means it’s New Year’s Resolution time! It usually starts like this: “This year, I’m going to work out every day!” or “This year, I’m going to start eating healthy” and the best one, “This year I’m going to stop drinking!”
We all have done it before and we all had good intentions when doing so. I mean, none of the things I mentioned above are bad, right? But usually by mid February (March, if you’re really dedicated) things start to go awry. And usually a few weeks after the first crack in the resolution, you’re back to your old ways and then you think to yourself, well, I’ll start again next year. At least that is what I would do…until I came across a book that changed my life.
Atomic Habits by James Clear (website)
James Clear breaks down the psychology of behaviors and offers clear steps to creating and breaking habits. He explains everything in a clear and concise manner that is easy to understand and offers anecdotes that illustrate his points perfectly.
Before you can begin the process of creating or breaking habits, you need to know what influences these behaviors to begin with.
According to Clear, there are 4 steps to any behavior:
Cue - Triggers your brain to initiate the behavior
Craving - Motivates you to do the behavior
Response - Actually doing the behavior
Reward - What you get out of doing the behavior
So why is it so hard to create good habits and why is it so hard to break bad habits? Well, a few things. Even though the intention is there, the plan is not.
In order to begin a habit and make it work, you need a plan. Resolutions are not plans, rather, they are goals. In order to reach those goals (getting in shape, stop drinking etc.) you need a plan to achieve those goals.
James Clear lays out a clear process of setting a plan in place so that creating the habits you want are easier to achieve and ones that you are more likely to stick with. His process has four steps.
Let’s say the habit is to lead a healthier lifestyle:
Make it Obvious
If you want to eat healthier, put healthy foods in the front of the fridge, right where you can see it when you open the door.
Make it Attractive
Give yourself a treat after you go for your daily 20 minute walk and only make that treat available AFTER your walk. Having something to look forward to linked to a particular habit makes you more likely to continue the habit.
Make it Easy
Make sure your sneakers and other gear is laid out and ready for when you go on your daily walk. This eases anxiety of looking for all your stuff (called friction in the book) which will make you more likely to go for your walk.
Make it Satisfying
Put a dollar away for every day your exercise. Once you hit a certain amount, buy yourself some new exercise gear or donate it to a charity. Do something that makes you feel good.
The point of following these steps is to create a habit that is attainable and long lasting. Each step is designed to help your brain release endorphins which makes you feel good and reinforces the habit.
This book changed my way of thinking about habits and forming good habits that last! I highly recommend his book and I also highly recommend his weekly newsletter 3-2-1 Thursday which offers 3 ideas from James, 2 quotes from other people and 1 question to ponder during the week.
What are your thoughts on habits and habit forming? Do you have a process that you use to keep you on track? If so, I would love to hear about it.