we do. We are constantly doing whatever is in our habits. Our brain is always
working and trying to find the cues in our surroundings. When it finds a cue,
we get triggered into doing things we have already learnt (pre-learnt habits).
There is a plethora of self-help books, but what sets Atomic Habits apart is the way it has been written. Often writers of self-help books make them sound preachy, and the information appears mechanical. However, James Clear’s Atomic Habits is practical and gives real-life scenarios to which we can apply our learnings.
Each chapter in the book begins with a back story. It tells the story of a particular case where someone used a specific tactic to build a habit as part of their life. Only then does the author move further and explain the specific tactic. The stories make habits seem achievable instead of looking tedious. In a way, it plays with our psychology by making us understand that if someone has done it, we too can.
According to the author, habits work in a constant cycle and they are in connection with these attributes. Everything starts with our brains getting triggered by seeing something in our environment and ends with us wanting a reward.
He says there is always a cue which acts as an initiator for whatever activity we do. We are constantly doing whatever is in our habits. Our brain is always working and trying to find the cues in our surroundings. When it finds a cue, we get triggered into doing things we have already learnt (pre-learnt habits).
Let’s take a look at five important ways our habits are affected:
The author tells us that when we think of making changes we always think about the big change. Instead of focusing on the result, we should focus on making small changes to eventually reach the end goal. We cannot lose 20 kilos of weight overnight. It will always start with small and consistent changes.
He further emphasises to never disregard small changes because when we combine them all together they eventually make a huge difference. If we make 1% of the change every day we will notice a big difference by the time the year ends.
2) The Four Laws
As mentioned earlier, the four laws are the mechanisms on which habits are based. The first law is based on ‘cue’ and the author advises us to ‘make it obvious’. The task needs to be obvious. If it requires too much effort, we will not be motivated to do it.
The second law says ‘make it attractive’ and it is based on ‘craving’. If the task is unattractive, it will take the fun and enthusiasm out. Trying to make the habit attractive is a sure way of making it a permanent part of our lives. ‘Make it easy’ is the third law and is related to ‘response’. If you do not make your task easy it will take a lot of effort out of you. You will constantly second-guess yourself before doing it. This applies to simple things like pre-cutting your vegetables for a healthy lunch for the next day.
The fourth and final law is based on ‘reward’ and says ‘make it satisfactory’. Our entire system is based on the system of reward. The more satisfactory the reward will be, the more excited we would be to continue our habit.
3) Identity Shift
We can aspire to change, but only when we are the change that is when we start the process of change. Instead of saying I want to be that version of myself, say I am already that version of myself. An easy and relatable example would be; instead of saying I am going to start eating healthy from tomorrow, say I eat healthily. By changing the statement, we feed our brains into believing the fact that the change is already happening.
4) Keep Track of the Habits
Keeping track of our habits, especially in the beginning, is the way to go. Accountability, especially in the first few weeks of building a habit, is a sure way of sticking with it in the future.
5) Habit Stacking
When we introduce a new habit in our life it is easy to stick with it in the first few days. As time passes, and motivation goes down, it is easy to forget about the changes we want in our lives.
James Clear explains the concept of habit stacking to curb the gradual loss of new habits. The concept is based on the fact that when we are doing an already learnt habit, we should stack the new habit with it. A simple example would be if you are trying to get into the habit of drinking a glass of water after waking up. If you are in the habit of grabbing your phone right after waking up from the nightstand, then keep a glass of water beside it. When you pick up your phone, drink the water too. Your old habit will remind you of your new habit.
Whenever you practise your old habit, you will also remember the new habit. When we try to practise our new habits without stacking them with the old ones, we are more likely to forget about them.
A self-help book can only guide us towards new information and ways. It cannot better our lives nor does it have the power to change us. The power to change and make our lives better is in us.