Atomic Habits, written by James Clear, is an excellent read. He explains the most effective way to build healthy habits in an eloquent and thorough manner.
LET GO OF THE ‘GOOD’ AND ‘BAD’ CONNOTATIONS
Clear reminds us that it’s best not to look at habits as good or bad. For example, someone who smokes a cigarette may experience a great sense of relief at first. However, this particular habit could lead to a lot of health issues later in life. Instead of viewing this habit as bad, he reminds us that it’s important to ask ourselves which behaviors we engage in are most effective when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Clear provides an excellent example of this: He would purchase apples and put them in the crisper, only to forget about them and let them rot until, one day, he put these fruits on his kitchen counter. After that, he started eating them almost every day.
His point is that it’s easier for us to engage in effective habits if it’s convenient for us to do so. For example, it’s much easier to read a book if it’s on our nightstand or go for a jog if we set out our workout clothes the night before. Whatever habit you’re developing, you’ll want to make it as easy to engage in as possible.
CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Clear pointed out that people bought more soda when it was all that was offered in the vending machines. However, they started purchasing a lot more water when the bottles were placed in a basket for free near the soda display. In short, it’s much easier to engage in a habit when environmental cues urge you to do so.
Sometimes, you may have to change your own environment. For instance, you could place the chocolate bars you might have just purchased in an extremely inconvenient location so that it’s difficult to access them if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, and you may want to set up a dedicated workspace for yourself if you’re having trouble focusing on the task at hand.
We are often rather vague about our goals. We may say, “I want to gain more muscle,” “I’d like to earn more money,” or “I am going to eat healthier this year,” but we often don’t ask ourselves how exactly we’re going to accomplish these things.
Clear provides an excellent example: He had planned to do some pushups during his lunch break at work, but he soon realized that his goal was rather vague: Would he work out before or after lunch, and where exactly would he do this? It turned out that he just needed to be a bit more specific: When he committed to doing a certain number of pushups by his desk during his lunch break right after he closed his laptop, he was able to accomplish his goals.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT ON THE RESULT
Clear points out that solely focusing on goals can actually be detrimental. For instance, if someone trains really hard for a marathon for months and then wins it, they may actually lose motivation, because they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. They could end up wondering what the point of exercising is because they don’t have a goal to inspire themselves anymore.
Instead, Clear would recommend that this person focuses on exercising a certain number of times per week. They’ll want to concentrate on the duration of their exercise routines and enjoy being in good shape so that they feel good. This will also give them a lot more options: They can go on an outdoor expedition if they choose to or run a marathon, but they can also just enjoy reading a good book and feeling great in their body. Most importantly, this person won’t beat themselves up after running a marathon no matter what the results are, because they were focusing on developing effective habits versus winning.
It’s natural for us to focus on the results we yearn for, especially in the world we live in today. Perhaps you want more money, a nicer car, or a bigger house. Most of us wish we had more no matter how well-off we are, and that’s simply a case of being human.
However, if we want to focus on what is in our control, it’s important to concentrate on our actions. It’s much easier to control our behavior than it is to dictate the outcomes we hope for.
For example, you may have to write five articles per week in order to earn $500. If you don’t write a piece, you won’t get paid. In this case, it’s much more important to focus on your habits and behaviors than it is to concentrate on earning the money.
You’ll want to spend your energy streamlining this process: Perhaps you’ll want to write one article per day from 9 am-5 pm Mondays through Fridays. As a result, you’ll have an efficient schedule and that habit will serve you well for a long time to come. In this particular case, your clients may not always purchase your articles, but you’ll at least have $500 worth of potential earnings every single week.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It can be extremely challenging to change habits that affect our lives negatively. However, it’s important to be kind to yourself during this process. For instance, if you’re accustomed to spending as much as you earn, it might be a good idea to simply start tracking your expenses. You don’t have to change anything immediately, but this will help you understand how much money goes out the door in a given month. After you’ve taken this first step, you can then sit down and create a plan to adjust your spending habits and automate your savings.
Clear is an incredible author and a very inspiring voice of reason when it comes to changing our habits. It’s important to be organized, intentional, and determined. We must always strive to be our best, while accepting ourselves for being human. This is an excellent read for anyone who wants to understand how to develop effective habits and doesn’t know where to start.