August 8, 2020

Atomic Habits – James Clear

This is easily one of my favorite books on productivity and self improvement.

I've never been a fan of goal setting, and this book turns the process of goal setting upside down. 

The author states that there are three levels of behaviour change. Outcomes. processes and identity form these three layers. Goal setting is usually associated with the outcomes level. I want to lose weight, make more money, or climb Mount Everest would be three examples of outcome change.

Proponents of goal setting will tell you that you have to use the S.M.A.R.T. method. If you need a quick refresher, that means your goals need to be specific, measureable, attainable and time bound.

With goal setting it doesn't give you the "how" to get these things done. You need to break your bigger goals into smaller goals or actionable steps. This makes it feel like you are just checking items off a long long list of things to do to one day get what you want to achieve.

Setting goals like this can work for many people, but I've always questioned whether this was the best way to do it.

Goal setting always seemed like it was consuming so much time that I would rather be spending doing the actual work. A list of goals and actionable steps to check off as complete fills me with anxiety. It feels like grocery shopping. Not to mention it can open the floodgates of self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Can I really make a million dollars by the time I'm 35? Who am I to think I can do that? 

This is where Clear steps in and says that goal setting isn't the best way to change your actions to get you to where you want to be.

You need to identify the person you wish to become and then create the kind of habits that that type of person would have. If you want to lose 30 pounds or become a better writer, you need to develop the habits of exercise and healthy eating habits, or writing every day. Sure you can keep your end goal in mind, but if you don't develop the identity and habits of someone who likes to workout or write, you won't meet your end goal. Or if you do, it won't last.

This emphasis on the processes you need to undertake to solidify your new identity and reach your desired outcomes is the best way to achieve your goals.

It focuses on ACTION rather than visualized an end result as some thing to reach in the future.

"With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With Identity based habits, the focus is on what you wish to become."

The author gives you clear direction and strategies on what you need to do to break your bad habits and create good habits.

The habit loop consists of four steps, cue, craving, response and reward.

"The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and ulimately becomes associated with the cue."

By becoming conscious of your habits, both good and bad, and being aware of each of these four steps in the habit loop, you are able to change your habits and adopt better ones.

Your phone buzzing is the cue, which causes the craving to check your phone. You respond by checking your phone and you are rewarded by a hit of dopamine by checking the phone.

Strategies for minimizing bad behavior: Make it invisible, unnatractive, difficult and unsatisfying.

Strategies for creating good habits: Make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.

If you want to create real change in your life, i highly recommend picking up this book.

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Atomic Habits – James Clear

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