Changes that seems small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you're willing to stick with them for years. We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you'll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.
1. The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits
That said, it doesn't matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.
Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
Mastery require patience. The San Antonio Spurs, one of the most successful teams in NBA history, have a quote from social reformer Jacob Riis hanging in their locker room: "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it - but all that had gone before."
All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow.
Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.
2. How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)
Habits like exercise, meditation, journaling and cooking are reasonable for a day or two and then become a hassle.
However, once your habits are established, they seem to stick around forever - especially the unwanted ones. Despite our best intentions, unhealthy habits like eating junk food, watching too much television, procrastinating, and smoking can feel impossible to break.
Changing our habits is challenging for two reasons: (1) we try to change the wrong thing and (2) we try to change our habits in the wrong way.
Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.
It's hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behavior. You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven't changed who you are.
True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you'll stick with the one is that it becomes part of your identity.
The effect of one-off experiences tends to face away while the effect of habits gets reinforced with time, which means your habits contribute most of the evidence that shapes your identity. In this way, the process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.
This is a gradual evolution. We do not change by snapping our fingers and deciding to be someone entirely new. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit. We are continually undergoing microevolutions of the self.
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. .... This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change.
The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
It is a simple two-step process: 1. Decide the type of person you want to be. 2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
Building better habits isn't about littering your day with life hacks. ... Habits can help you achieve all of these things, but fundamentally they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone.
Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. Quite literally, you become your habits.
3. How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps
Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks.
Habits do not restrict freedom. If you're always being forced to make decisions about simple tasks , then you have less time for freedom. It's only by making the fundamentals of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity.
The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort of possible.
Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits.
(1) make it obvious -> cue
(2) make it attractive -> craving
(3) make it easy -> make it easy
(4) make it satisfiying
THE 1ST LAW = Make It Obvious
4. The Man Who Didn't Look Right
One of our greatest challenges in changing habits in maintaining awareness of what we are actually doing. This helps explain why the consequences of bad habits can sneak up on us. We need a "point -and-call" (raising level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level) system for our personal lives. That's the origin of the the Habits Scorecard, which is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior.
To create your own, make a list of your daily habits.
Once you have a full list, look at each behavior, and ask yourself, "Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or neutral habit?"
As you create your Habits Scorecard, there is no need to change anything at first. The goal is to simply notice what is actually going on. Observe your thoughts and actions without judgement or internal criticism.
The process of behavior change always starts with awareness.
5. The Best Way to Start a New Habit
Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action. Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.
Give your habits a time and a space to live in the world. The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can't say why.
The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking. (It is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit).
The habit stacking formula is
"After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]."
The key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habit together.
Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.
The 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it obvious. Strategies like implementation intentions and habit stacking are among the most practical ways to create obvious cues for your habits and design a clear plan for when and where to take action.
6. Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More
People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are.
The most powerful of all human sensory abilities, however, is vision.
Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment. The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues.
Habits can be easier to change in a new environment.
When you can't manage to get to an entirely new environment, redefine or rearrange your current one. Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment and cooking. "One space, one use"
Every habit should have a home.
A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose is an environment where habits can easily form.
- Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time.
- Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
- Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
- Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. The context becomes the cue.
- It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.