Small Changes, Big Impact: Atomic Habits
Tiny changes. Remarkable results.
That’s how James Clear — author of his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, describes his proven system for developing lasting habits that compound over time.
In this book, we learn about the potentially huge effects that small changes can bring about with repeated execution. Clear shows that if you were to improve yourself by 1% everyday, in one year, you would end up 37 times better off then when you started. This, however this applies for negative habits as well.
The Process of Developing Habits:
In Atomic Habits, we learn that all habits can be created (and destroyed) by leveraging these cardinal laws:
- MAKE IT OBVIOUS
- MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE
- MAKE IT EASY
- MAKE IT SATISFYING
Implementing these laws into building your habits will allow you to make progress much quicker and easier than ever before.
Make it Obvious:
Making a habit obvious plays a key part in making it automatic, and as Clear states in the book — A habit is just your mind’s automatic response to a certain scenario, known as a cue. I stress the importance in making this cue regularly visible and giving your mind enough “training” to identify this cue automatically. For example, if you would like to study more often, making a cue visible can be as simple as setting your books out on your table.
Make it Attractive:
Making a habit attractive is a very useful tool when it comes to helping you stick to your goals. The more attractive an action is, the more likely you are to form a habit out of it. Clear teaches us that the ideal way to increase a habit’s attractiveness is to use a technique known as temptation bundling, where you pair an action that you would like to perform with an action that you need to perform. For example, you can make studying more attractive by pairing it with a five minute TV break after each session. Eventually, the anticipation of the TV break alone will be be enough to trigger the habit of studying.
Make it Easy:
Making a habit easier is a must, especially when it means you can perform more habits with seemingly less effort. In this chapter, Clear uses the analogy of a bent garden hose — saying that you could either force more water into the pipe, or, by removing the bend you could naturally make the water flow. This principle of least effort applies seamlessly to your habits — Why increase the effort when you can reduce the friction and make habits flow effortlessly?
An easy solution to make your habits easier would be to incorporate them into your daily schedule. For example, if you surf the web on your study table, use this opportunity to flow to your studying habit, and since you’ve already laid out your books, it shouldn’t be too difficult to do.
Make it Satisfying:
Making a habit satisfying is the final law that you need to grasp before building meaningful habits and freeing yourself from the weight of toxic ones. In the very beginning of this chapter, Clear talks about Hicham El Guerrouj — a famous long distance runner, and Michael Phelps — a world class swimmer, and pints out that if they were to were to flip sports, they would have a much harder time reaching the level that they have today. Both Guerrouj’s and Phelps’ height and body type would have made it nearly impossible for them to succeed in opposite sports. In the case of habits, it feels much more fulfilling to know that you are improving yourself around things that you genuinely enjoy doing and are gifted at. Using the example of studying as a habit, although you may not be a student prodigy, you do have the choice to study in a way that suits your learning type.
Changing Your Identity:
And that’s just how simple it is. Using these four powerful laws, you can slowly but surely change the course of your life. The most important thing to observe while creating habits is your mindset, since, before you know it, you will not only have changed your habits, but your identity:
The goal isn’t to study more, it is to be a GOOD STUDENT.
The goal isn’t just to workout more, but to be a HEALTHIER PERSON.
The goal isn’t simply to live more, but to be a PERSON THAT LIVES.
Habits are usually seen as amazing feats of discipline and willpower, and in part, that’s what they are, but hopefully, by learning the laws and being aware of your ever-changing mindset, building a habit got just a little bit easier.