Do you ever feel like you’re just floating through life…but not actually getting closer to the person that you want to be. It usually happens around New years, you imagine all the bad habits your going to break free from, and all the good habits you will begin.
“This time it will be different,” you say to yourself. This time I AM going to do the things that I say I will. Only to end up back where you began shortly after and no closer to what you had envisaged.
So the question is, how do you become the person you dream of becoming? How do you break free from bad habits and make the habits you desire easier and automatic?
Atomic Habits by James Clear answers all these questions.
I hope this summary inspires you to go out and grab a copy of the book for yourself because this book deserves a space on everyone’s bookshelf!
Let’s jump into it Imagine a plane taking off and travelling from New York to Los Angeles. Just before takeoff, you adjust the plane just slightly by 3 degrees or around 200 cm (80 inches). If you kept flying in a straight line…
You would end up closer to Tijuana in Mexico than to your intended destination of Los Angeles. The same goes for our habits. Tiny changes in our habits can change the trajectory of our lives in ways that we can’t even notice until many years into the future looking back. In both good ways and bad. You are your habits.
The Power of Atomic Habits. “A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination”.
Massive action Vs 1% improvements.
Far too often, we convince ourselves that massive success is only possible through massive action in any goal we are pursuing.
We expect ourselves to make some quantum leap or momentous improvement that will gain others’ attention. However, it is the tiny improvements, that aren’t even noticeable at first, that create incredible change.
Let’s look deeper into the Math. 1% better every day for a year will compound to nearly 38 times better. 1% worse every day for over a year will bring you close to zero!
Your habits can compound against you in the form of things like stress or negative self-talk. Or they can compound for you in the form of things like knowledge, productivity, skills and relationships.
“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations”
The Truth About progress. When you start any endeavour in your life, here is what we think should happen. Linear progress.
The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed so patience is required. Goals Vs Systems.
FORGET ABOUT GOALS, FOCUS ON SYSTEMS INSTEAD
A goal is a result you want to accomplish. Systems deal with the processes that lead to results.
The conventional wisdom suggests that the best way to achieve anything we want in life getting into better shape, building a successful business, spending more time with family is to set specific, realistic goals.
But if you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still succeed?
The author argues that you would. Here are some problems with only having goals. Successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, so therefore the goal can not be what differentiates winners from losers.
Achieving a goal only changes your life for a moment in time. Goals can create an either-or conflict. Either you achieve the goal and succeed, or you don’t and you are a failure. Even if you were making progress in the right direction.
When you achieve a goal, what do you do after? If your goal was running the local marathon, chances are after completing it, your motivation will quickly fade and you will just slip back into your old routines.
“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress”
A SYSTEM OF ATOMIC HABITS.
The problem with changing your habits is not you.
The reason why you repeat the same bad habit for so long isn’t that you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. Atomic habits are small routines and behaviours that accumulate to produce incremental positive outcomes over time. Big breakthroughs tend to get more attention than small improvements.
But what really matters are the little daily decisions and actions we take.
“Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results”.
There are 3 layers to behaviour change. The first layer is changing outcomes. The result.
Losing that weight, writing that book, winning the season. The outcomes are what you get the second layer is changing your process.
What you do. The new workout routine, developing a daily reading habit. And the third layer is changing your identity.
What you believe. Your worldviews and how you think about yourself and others. Most people focus on the outcomes but the best way to change your habits is by focusing on the person you want to become instead of the results you want.
The goal isn’t to learn an instrument, it is to become a musician. The goal isn’t to run a marathon, It is to become a runner. When something you want in your life becomes part of your identity, that is when your behaviours will naturally change. When you tell yourself and others “I’m a runner”. You want to live up to that identity.
Remind yourself Every Time you do a workout, you are an athlete. Every time you write a line of code, you are a coder. Each time you instruct your team, you are a leader. The Habit Loop A habit is when something has been repeated enough times that it becomes automatic.
Ultimately we want our habits to solve problems in our lives with the least amount of effort. A habit is formed and reinforced by means of a continuous feedback loop: Cue + Craving + Response + Reward.
The key to creating habits that stick is to create feedback loops that are continuously being improved. Cue. Phone buzz. Craving. Want to know who messaged. Response. Pick up the phone. Reward. Solve the problem of who messaged. Cue. My mind goes blank at work. Craving. Want to alleviate the frustration.Response. Check social media. Reward. Satisfied the need to feel less frustrated Over time, rewards become associated with cues.
So, in this example, checking social media becomes tied to your mind going blank at work. And then checking Facebook may be the cue to check Instagram, which becomes the cue to check YouTube. And before you know it, your mind going blank cue has led to 20 minutes of wasted time.
And you more you repeat these habit loops, the stronger and more automatic they become. Cues can really be anything. A smell, a sound a sight, a person, a location etc. Try to think of any cues in your daily life that are initiating your good or bad habit loops. So how can we influence the habit loop to work for us?
This book shows us the 4 laws that will guide us to do just that. Law 1 Make it obvious. Most of your current habits are so automatic that you don’t even realize them.
You must first become aware of your habits before you can change them. You can achieve that with your Habit Scorecard. Write down all your daily behaviours on a habits scorecard, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed.
Your scorecard may look something like this. Based on whether it helps you become the person you aspire to be, categorize each habit as positive (+), negative (-), or neutral (=).
At this stage we aren’t trying to change anything, just observe what is actually going on in our daily lives.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Studies have shown that quite often the reason people fail to stick to a habit is not because of a lack of motivation, but because of a lack of clarity.
“One day, I will get into shape” is easy to say to yourself but too vague to get any momentum.
What you need are a time and a place. The most common cues—time and location—will help you achieve your goals.
Clearly state your intention to act using the following formula: I will behave at a time in this location. Here is a bad example, “I will read more this month” Here is a good example :
“I will read a book for 15 minutes daily at 6am in the spare bedroom”.
Another good way to get a habit started is by Habit stacking.
To stack habits, tie the desired habit to an existing habit according to the following formula: “After [current habit], I will [new habit]”.
For example, “After I brush my teeth, I will stretch for 5 minutes”. You can stack habits together, for example after you finish brushing your teeth, you will meditate for 10 minutes, then plan the rest of your day, before checking social media.
I hope this summary has helped you to better understand the concepts within this book. Go out and grab a copy of this book if you haven’t already, you are going to take in the knowledge at a much deeper level, from all the stories and examples that James Clear goes over some advanced techniques, not in this summary that will help you strengthen your habits.
Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3CAH5DM
Disclaimer: Ansar’s blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.