Atomic Habits by James Clear
The word “atomic” is meant to represent something small; the atom is the smallest unit of a greater whole. Therefore, by making small changes to our habits everyday, we form “atomic habits” that over time allow us to reach our goals.
About the Author
James Clear is an author, entrepreneur and a self-improvement enthusiast. Clear formulates his work around striving to answer one question: How can we live better? As a Behavior Science expert, he uses scientific research to develop his tips for helping humans live better. Clear is also a photographer, with a portfolio of work spanning over 25 countries. He is a charitable supporter of protecting children and pregnant mothers against malaria with a portion of his earnings going to support these initiatives.
We find it hard to change habits because we try changing the wrong things and we go about changing those habits in the wrong way. Success happens through a series of daily habits, not random transformations. Habit stacking and starting rituals help us effectively change habits by fulfilling the four laws of behavior change.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
- New Year’s resolutions fail because we fail to make them obvious, easy, attractive and satisfying. These are the four laws of behavior change.
- Failing to abide by even one of these means you will fail to stick to your resolution.
Habit Stacking & Starting Rituals
- Two strategies for accomplishing a goal that complies with the four laws are: habit stacking and placing your focus on starting rituals.
- Habit stacking uses one already functional habit in your life as a cue for a new habit. For example, flushing the toilet is a cue for washing our hands. Here, we’ve learned to stack the habits of toilet flushing and hand washing.
- Habit stacking relies on the momentum of old habits as energy to initiate the new habit until the two collectively become one habit.
- Instead of focusing on an entire new behavior you’re trying to transform into a habit, focus on the starting ritual of that new behavior.
- In business, including a call to action with a link to a relevant product or service in the conclusion of that thank you email is habit-stacking.
- The starting ritual is the minimum number of steps before turning back becomes more arduous than proceeding with the new behavior.
- Most starting rituals are completed in no more than two minutes. Putting one dish away takes less than two minutes and if you’ve already started putting one dish away, you can continue putting the rest of the dishes away.
- Scanning your pass at the gym is a starting ritual for forming the new habit of working out more; if you make it to the gym and scan your pass, the incentive to continue forward with your workout is greater than the incentive to turn around and go home.
Sync & Score
- When you combine something you love with the new habit and limit your indulgence to only in commission of that habit, then it becomes easier to associate that habit with something good. Only enjoy listening to your favorite band when you’re working out, or only indulge in your favorite smoothie after leaving the gym.
- In order to make a habit inherently satisfying, you must keep score. Tally successful completions with a wall calendar.
- Keeping score shows you are becoming the type of person you wanted to be. If you write one page, you are a writer. If you practice one day, you are a musician. Enjoying the success of your new habit makes it easier to continue with that new habit.
Culture and Habits
- Culture influences our habits. Build better habits by joining a culture where your desired behavior is the norm and where you have common interests with members of that culture.
- Reduce the friction it takes to develop good behaviors (“Law of Least Effort”). Agreeing to walk more during the day requires effort. Parking at the very end of the parking lot requires little effort but forces the behavior of walking more every day.
- Be mindful to avoid letting boredom of the routine of good habits cause you to stray from them.
When you stack & start a new habit then sink & score, the new habit you’re trying to achieve will become obvious, easy, attractive and satisfying.