Based on scientific research and real-life examples, “Atomic Habits (2018)” provides a practical and proven framework for building good habits and eliminating harmful practices, demonstrating how small changes in behavior can form new habits and help you achieve great goals.
About the author:
James Clear is a writer and entrepreneur who focuses on habits and their potential for self-improvement. In a weekly newsletter that reaches hundreds of thousands of people, Clear writes about the science of human behavior and habits and shares stories from his own life and the best lives in business, sports, art, and other fields.
Small habits can make big changes:
It’s easy for us to overlook the small habits we do every day, especially if we don’t see results right away. But what we don’t know is that the slightest change can make the biggest impact. For example, a pilot can accidentally turn 3 degrees to the south, and you will end up in a whole other state.
When there are no immediate results to motivate us, we often decide to take another trajectory without giving the first one a real chance. It’s like when you don’t have a fit body; you’re not going to have one if you take a 20-minute jog, but you will if you take the same 20-minute jog every day for the next three months.
If you opt to better your life, you need to understand that patience is critical. The small steps you take now to make your life better take time. Make sure to stay on track even if you don’t see results right away.
So, whenever you get frustrated with improving your life, focus on your current trajectory rather than the expected outcome. You don’t need to change your whole life; just take small steps every day until they become habits that will, without a doubt, lead to significant breakthroughs.
Habits are automatic:
You might wonder how does your brain forms a habit. Well, Edward Thorndike, the renowned psychologist, discovered that habits are created after a series of trial and error. After an experiment he did in the 19th century with cats, he disclosed that. Thorndike put multiple cats in different boxes and recorded them. The boxes had a switch that opened the door. In the first trial, each cat would sniff the corners of the box, trying to find a way to escape. Thirty minutes later, a few cats figured out the switch and got out.
He took the cats that succeeded and repeated the experiment multiple times. He noticed that the cats would take less time to find the switch each time. And time after time, it took them mere seconds.
What happened is that after repeatedly practicing the same behavior, their brain made this action a habit.
We, too, like the cats, stumble across new challenges; at first, we get intimidated, but after each time, they become a little easier until our brain turns them into habits.
Habits are often triggered by a cue or an act, which, when done, lead to a rewarding result. For example, we wake up, and, as a habit, we roll out of bed and make a cup of coffee. The awaking is your cue that triggers craving coffee. You respond by getting out of bed and making coffee. The reward is feeling alert and ready to conquer the world.
Building new habits requires hard-to-miss cues and an idea of action:
Make it easier to get into a habit. Want to practice guitar? Leave the instrument call in the middle of the space. Are you trying to eat healthier snacks? Leave them out on the counter rather than within the salad drawer. Building new habits requires hard-to-miss cues and an idea of action. Make your cues as evident as possible, and you’ll be more likely to reply to them. Simple changes to our surroundings and daily routine can make an enormous difference.
Each one has cues that trigger certain habits. And once you understand that certain stimuli can prompt habitual behavior, you’ll use this data to vary your habits. How? A method is to change your surroundings and general environment to encourage better habits.
Just take the work of Boston-based doctor Anne Thorndike. She wanted to improve the dietary habits of her patients. She started by rearranging the hospital’s cafeteria. Unfortunately, the refrigerators next to the cashier had only soda. So she replaced them with water bottles. Soda sales dropped by 11 percent within three months and water sales heightened by 25 percent!
Another way to strengthen your cues is to implement intentions. Most folks tend to be too vague about their intentions. An implementation intention introduces a transparent plan of action, beginning when and where you’ll perform the habit you’d wish to cultivate. We say, “I’m getting to eat better,” and quickly hope that we’ll follow through. If you want to eat healthily, plan to get healthy snacks and put them on the counter. Get rid of junk food and hide it in a place that is hard to reach.
So don’t just say I will exercise more often—plan to work out on Tuesdays and Fridays at 9:00 in the morning. Suppose you want to be more productive, leave a 2-hour block to work, or get things done.
People are motivated by the anticipation of reward, so making habits attractive will assist you to stick with them:
The human brain releases dopamine, a hormone that creates us feel good once we do pleasurable things like eating or having sex. But we also get successful feel-good dopamine once we anticipate those enjoyable activities. It’s the brain’s way of driving us onward and inspiring us to do things honestly.
Ronan Byrne, an engineering student in Ireland, knew he should exercise more, but he got little enjoyment from understanding. However, he did enjoy watching Netflix. So he hacked an exercycle, connecting it to his laptop and writing code that might only allow Netflix to run if he was cycling at a particular speed. By linking exercise – literally – to behavior he was naturally drawn to, he transformed a distasteful activity into enjoyable.
Anticipating something is enough for a dopamine hit. The children’s apprehension for Christmas is part of this reward system. Make sure that you will do something that you will enjoy after work. This will increase your productivity by boosting your brain’s reward system.
Make the replacement habit as easy to adopt as possible:
We often spend most of our time on easy behaviors. Scrolling through social media, for instance, takes zero effort, so it’s easy for it to refill many our time. Doing 100 push-ups or studying Mandarin, in contrast, requires tons of action. Repeating those behaviors daily until they become habitual is hard.
Luckily you can change your habits easily when you have a specific technique. So start by reducing friction to getting over a habit.
If you want to waste less time ahead of the TV, unplug it and take the batteries out of the remote. Doing so will introduce enough friction to make sure you watch once you need to.
The author has always been hopeless at sending greeting cards, while his wife never fails to try to do so. Why? Well, she keeps a box of greeting cards reception, presorted by occasion, making it easier to send congratulations or condolences or whatever is named for. Also, since she doesn’t need to leave and buy a card when someone gets married or has an accident, there’s no friction involved in sending one.
This approach can go in opposite ways .decreasing the friction to build a good habit will help you get things done faster. And creating more friction to get rid of a habit is a good way to make the process easier.
The 2-minutes rule is a very effective tool that can build a new habit. For example, if you want to read a book, don’t start by planning to finish the book within a week; you can start by reading for 2 minutes. Then, read for another 2 minutes after an hour or two. Little by little, you will build the habit of reading.
Habits need to be satisfying:
Stephen Luby, a public health researcher, In the 1990s, working within the neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, achieved an enormous 52-percent reduction in diarrhea among the local children. In addition, pneumonia rates dropped by 48 percent, and skin infections by 35 percent.
Luby’s secret was nice soap.
Luby had known that basic sanitation and handwashing would be an influential factor in solving the problem. People around him understood that, but they didn’t apply their knowledge in their daily routine. Meaning it wasn’t a habit. When Luby introduced premium soap, people started to wash their hands with no charge as it became a satisfying experience. People the soap’s smell and how it lathered on their skin. Consequently, it became a habit.
The final and most vital rule for behavioral change is to form satisfying habits.
A framework of a habit tracker is a simple way to stick to a habit:
However small, sticking to a positive routine may be a surefire thanks to achieving big things in life.
As simple as it is, a habit tracker can be one of the most effective ways to hold on to a habit and make it last. Some people track their habits on their phones; others try to contract with themselves or others. Telling others about the habits that you want to build and stick to will create more pressure so that you won’t take your habits loosely.
Bryan Harris, an entrepreneur from Nashville, took his habit contract very seriously. during an agreement signed by his wife and personal trainer, he committed to urging his burden to 200 pounds. First, he identified specific habits that might help get him there, including tracking his daily food intake and weighing himself hebdomadally. Then he found out penalties for not doing those things. If he did not follow his food intake, he would need to pay $100 to his trainer; if he did not weigh himself, he would owe $500 to his wife.
The strategy worked, driven not just by his fear of losing money but also by losing face ahead of two people who mattered to him. Humans are social animals. We care about the opinions of those around us, so simply knowing that somebody is watching you’ll be a strong motivator for fulfillment.