I first heard about James Clear and his mission on The Minimalists podcast. After hearing him speak I was eager to read his book, Atomic Habits. It is built on the premise that habits are created through tiny steps that over time have tremendous results, both connotations relating to the word "atomic". Overall I really enjoyed the book, and found it to be an easy read with a lot of useful information. I recommend keeping a notebook on hand to jot down what you find most helpful. Below I share some of what resonated the most with me. There is so much more context and nuance in the book, that if you like what you see below, I highly recommend you read the book.
"Habits are the compound interest of self improvement" (Chapter 1).
- Tiny changes, striving to improve in an area just by 1% each day for example, will lead to large improvements over time.
"Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become." (Chapter 2)
- Each action you take, positive or negative, is like casting a ballot for what kind of person you are. Do you have more votes in the "chooses to lounge on the couch instead of workout" identity? He spends quite a bit of time talking about how important it is to develop and identity to strive for the best and worse kinds of identities to choose. He talks about playing to your strengths by choosing something you are more inclined to succeed at. He also talks about making your identity the type of person you want to be, not a role. Because roles can end, and that can lead to an identity crisis.
"When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don't want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing." (Chapter 11)
- Sometimes quantity is better than quality. Having an excellent workout 1 time a week is not as beneficial as having a mediocre workout 6 times a week. Working out 1 time a casts ballots in the favour of someone who works out sporadically, and the other in favour of someone who works out consistently. Clear talks about the 2 minute rule, which basically means only committing to doing the first 2 minutes of your habit. It makes it less demanding, and more likely that you will go through with it more frequently. He calls this approach the habit of "Showing up for yourself.".
Make it obvious, attractive, and easy
In order to do my physical therapy exercises daily for my knee, I keep my therapy band on the chair next to my bed. I see it in the morning making what I have to do very obvious. I make it easy because I already have the tool I need to get started and I do the exercises in or next to my bed. I make it attractive because I know that by doing in first thing in the morning while I am still half asleep, I won't have to think about it for the rest of the day. Likewise, habits that you don't want to continue you can make less obvious, less attractive, and difficult to continue.
Time and location
Linking it to time (when I wake up) and location (bedroom) makes it more likely to happen.
Habit stacking and temptation bundling
I have it stacked with another existing habit. The band is right next to my phone, so when I browse social media in the morning, next I use my therapy band. I most look forward to breakfast in the morning so I know that once I do my exercises I can get up and have breakfast (temptation bundling).
Design your environment and culture
My environment is set up in a way that I have my band right there, and enough space next to the bed to do my exercises. I also follow some physical therapists online who post daily exercises so I usually see that in my social media feed when I wake up. This is a part of living in a culture that values the habits I am trying to make.
Change your mindset - I get to vs. I have to
Changing your mindset is the most difficult, but the most powerful. When you start to naturally think in the get to vs. have to mentality, you feel blesses to be able to do the habits you strive to do. Not everyone is able to reduce their pain from some exercises, I am blessed that I have that result.
Track your progress, and be accountable
I can do this by keeping a notebook next to the bed and writing down each morning whether or not I do my exercises. Thinking in terms of just today, or only 2 minutes, and let's not let today be the day we break the streak, can help hold me accountable to do it just one more day.
Fall in love with boredom
After you create a habit, it is no longer new, and can become monotonous and boring. Learning to not only not dislike, not be ambivalent towards, but falling in love with boredom is important. It allows us to carry on with these daily habits. What makes someone a master is the ability to push past the boredom and continue to work on something, taking it to the next level as it becomes second nature and truly mastering a skill. But it all starts with 2 minutes of showing up for yourself.