After listening to two Unlocking Us episodes with Brene Brown and James Clear (https://open.spotify.com/episode/4FtUEweiSDXfHZCAPQhWEA, https://brenebrown.com/podcast/atomic-habits-part-2-of-2/) I decided to re-read Atomic Habits and do some updating on a blog post from a few years ago.
Change is hard. Made even more challenging if we are trying to make significant changes quickly.
But, much like instant weight loss gimmicks that work for a short period of time, using the same tactic with life-changing strategies may have the same limited success.
Enter Atomic Habits, the New York Times bestseller by James Clear.
Atomic Habits is full of great ideas and evidence-based strategies. It was an easy read with chapter summaries and real-life examples of how changing habits intentionally and thoughtfully will bring greater success.
Here’s a high-level book report; however, I encourage reading the entire book; it’s fabulous.
Goals: Goals help set a direction, but systems are best for making progress. Small changes, reinforced consistently, will help us achieve our goals. This is one of my favorite James Clear quotes:
“You do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems.”
Create an identity-based goal: Changing how you view yourself will make all the difference. For example, here’s a slight variation on how someone who’s trying to quit smoking may react when offered a cigarette:
“No, thanks. I’m trying to quit.”
“No thanks, I’m not a smoker.”
Which do you think provides a more tangible reinforcement of quitting smoking?
The science of habits: All habits proceed through four stages of a feedback loop:
- Cue (problem phase)
- Craving (problem phase)
- Response (solution phase)
- Reward (solution phase)
The most important thing you can do is recognize the cue that instigates the subsequent behavior. Your phone buzzes (Cue), which leads to satisfying curiosity (Craving), which leads to grabbing your phone (Response), culminating in satisfying the curiosity (Reward).
Connecting (stacking) habits: It’s easier to implement new habits if they are related to existing ones. For example, if you regularly exercise and want to start meditating, connect the meditating practice to the exercise routine.
Less effort = greater success: Create an environment with as few roadblocks as possible. Do you want to eat more veggies? Cut up the veggies in advance of when hunger strikes. If the veggies are cut and ready for consumption, we are more likely to reach for them when a hunger craving strikes. If the veggies need to be prepared, we may reach for the potato chips instead.
The two-minute rule: The first action should take two minutes or less to start a new habit. For example, “become a runner” may begin with “put on running shoes.” Once you’ve put on the running shoes, you will likely head out for a short run.
Immediate vs. future rewards: Our brains evolved to reward immediate actions (run from the tiger), but that philosophy does not serve us well in the modern world. Buying that fantastic handbag (immediate reward) does not work out well in the long run if we are saving to purchase a home (future reward). Give visual cues about how the future reward will serve you, possibly a picture of your dream home.
Create a habit tracker: A visual measurement (checkmarks on a calendar, a weekly review of the bank account, etc.) is a powerful way to maintain progress.
What habits do you want to start or stop? What might the first step be? If you are unclear about your next step, pick up a copy of Atomic Habits and start becoming who you want to be.
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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