Hello, hope you all are doing well. You may be confused by the title, “Atomic Habits”… let me explain! Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear, and it’s all about how tiny changes can have remarkable results! We were assigned to read this book for PGP (personal growth plan) and write a reflective blog post. Before I get into the content, here’s a little run through about the author.
Meet James Clear! He is obviously the author of Atomic Habits, and he tells an amazing story in the beginning of the book.
He was severely injured in high school to the point of being put into a coma, and then having to re learn basic things like walking etc. Very intense and scary, especially as a teenager who just wants a simple and happy life. He was very passionate about baseball and wanted to pursue it after high school but felt hopeless as he was so injured and lost his placement on the team. Fast forward after years of hard work, he was at a good university playing baseball on the schools team. He talks about how even though it was just university baseball, he felt accomplished as he had to basically restart after his accident. There’s plenty more to the story, but that is a quick summary.
“We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives depend on the quality of our habits.” This quote said by Clear himself really gives a great perspective on life and how no matter what happens, with attention to detail and hard work, you can get anywhere… And I think thats a great start to the book.
BEFORE THE STAGES
Something I really like about this book is that it isn’t overwhelming. Clear believes getting 1% better everyday is the best way to do it as 1% everyday builds up ending in success. Its not that easy though, theres plenty in between that one sentence. “Habits are compound interest of self improvement” says Clear in the book. I read this book over a few days, and left a few weeks after to test out some habit setting. While reading, I took notes because if I’m going to read a book like this I want to make sure I have a deep understanding. I took notes on quotes, valuable sentences, and just the overall understanding of the chapter. So, lets get into the 4 laws!
1st LAW: MAKE IT OBVIOUS
There are 4 steps to changing your behaviour and habits. Ask yourself, “how can I make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying?” So lets start at the first one. The first step to creating a new habit or destroying an old one Is to be aware. Habits are something you do without thinking about, so how are you going to notice them without paying attention? It’s always easier to repeat a bad habit then start a new good habit. Something you start do while reading this book, is you stop and reflect on whats benefiting you and whats not. Clear explains in these chapters that habits form for a reason, they’re is always a cue (or multiple) that trigger a habit to form.
What is a bad habit in your life? Staying up late? Biting your nails? Mines getting my homework done at realty weird and stressful times, for no reason…
I will do homework so last minute.. all the time…which is okay because a lot of the times my work is the same as if I was to do it at a normal time, but it’s deep down not okay because of the stress it causes. I wish I could get all my work done right after school, so I can enjoy the rest of my day. Its procrastination that dictates this habit of putting things off, so while reading this whole book that’s something I really focus on trying to fix.
2nd LAW: MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE
Something I really like about this book is that its not only just opinions and quotes, they’re actual facts in it that help you understand the concepts better. Dopamine is something he talks about a lot in this section. We create and retreat habits because it brings us dopamine. Where dopamine is connected to an opportunity, our motivation to act rises. Think of an outcome you want but have never done because the experience is painful? Clear uses the example of going to the gym, you want the outcomes of a nice body and healthy life, but you don’t actually do it because its not attractive. This law’s concept is you basically need to convince yourself that a habit you are setting is attractive. It’s all about the anticipation of a reward, which he calls a dopamine spike.
This law really made sense to me as I kind of have been doing this my whole life. I’m very rewards based and if I don’t connect something positive and exciting to a not fun task, I honestly won’t do it without a great struggle. For example, this book. I like reading yeah, but books like this are a little different as they aren’t fiction, and I have to actually understand things and take notes.
The goal is less for enjoyment compared to outcomes and knowledge. Anyways, to make myself really excited and happy to read this book and take notes, I bought myself a paper copy and took notes on paper. Someone may not see any difference from reading it on an iPad and taking notes on there compared to paper book and paper notes, but I do. The enjoyment and satisfaction I get from reading paper books and writing with pencil makes the process of reading a 300 page book enjoyable. I associated a positive feeling to getting this assignment done, and it created an attractive habit of reading and note taking over the past month or so.
3rd LAW: MAKE IT EASY
Ah, humans. We love simple and easy stuff. Clear talking about this reminded me of a quote by my favourite man alive, Bill Gates. “Hire a lazy person to do a difficult job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
Clear believes if a habit is challenging to do, we aren’t going to do it. We need to make it as simple, easy, and planned as we can to keep us motivated. Something really interesting he talks about is that you shouldn’t be asking how long it takes to form a habit, but you should be asking how many times it takes to form it. It’s all about repetition. An analogy he uses is “making your habits simple and easy is like unbending a water hose.” You can use a hose while it’s bent, but it’s just causing tension and a bigger temptation to give up. Why not just, unbend the water hose… that’s exactly what he wants us to do with our habits. Remove the tension.
Things you can do to remove the tension to not want to do it and the worry is just, prepare. The more friction you remove from a habit the more likely you are to do it. Prime your environment. Something I’ve discovered and recently re-enforced myself to do more is to always clean my room before school, so when I get home I have a clean and ready space to get my homework done. If my rooms messy I end up avoiding cleaning AND homework which makes it all worse.
4th LAW: MAKE IT SATISFYING
Ah I loved this part of the book. Why? Because it resigned with me so well. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time getting stuff done if their isn’t a “reward” or positive outcome. This could mean having a bath after homework or bringing a cup of tea to school to make me excited for my classes. “What is immediately rewarding is repeated.” We are more likely to do something if it’s satisfying, and the satisfaction part is very personal to you. Mine examples are tea and baths, someone else’s may be watching a movie or going to a friends house. To continue with a habit, you need to feel satisfied and even just a little but of success. This keeps your brain happy and motivated.
There’s obviously the polar opposite of being rewarding which is being punished too. “What is immediately punished is avoided.” When doing a bad habit, align it with something negative. If there is a negative feeling or consequences attached, we are less likely to do it. Make it UNsatisfying! This comes in later with the habit contract, but I’ll explain that in a bit.
We had forms to complete after or during reading the book. Let me explain..
Here’s the habit contract. This is here to help us solidify a habit we want to create, by connecting it to a consequence and having someone watching over us. Someone watching + a consequence = new habit being repeated. Mine was the habit I’ve been talking about this whole post, starting work right away after school. I have to pay my mom now 1 dollar every time she sees me doing something that’s not homework after school, when I have work to do. This doesn’t seem like a lot but If I was to break this habit everyday, it would add up. I started this about 20ish days ago and the two weeks i’ve been in school, it’s honestly been better. Not perfect, but improving.
There were also other little forms like the habit stacker, and habit tracker. These were good to do because they kind of turn your ideas and wants into something real. Writing it down makes you accountable for it.
This book was genuinely enjoyable and helpful, and I’ve already recommended it to multiple people I know. Clear does an amazing job at breaking down and explaining habits, and why we do them which in the long run solves a lot of problems. Understanding why you do something is one of the first steps to fixing it or improving it. We are all human, and we can’t feel too guilty for having bad habits, but we can fix them. I love his use of the word ATOMIC as it represents how little actions end up with great results.
“Thats the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable Results”
I will continue to work on my habits I’ve started, and knowing PGP there will definitely be more to this book then just this post so don’t be surprised if their is an update post on my progress!! Even after only about 20 days, my overall life experience has improved. It’s the small things like getting work done after-school, or making tea in the morning for me that honestly change my days for the better.