Learning new habits is simple (not easy), and there are tried and tested tips and tricks that can help you form and maintain habits, consistently. You've likely heard of Atomic Habits by James Clear in the past few months. I saw this book from at least TEN independent sources and to be honest, i rolled my eyes and muttered underneath my breath each time. I honestly felt this was yet another self help book on building a habit.
The truth is, the book didn't exactly tell me something I didn't know. BUT it showed me new ways to think about gaining new habits. I have been very vocal about the fact that I love self-development books, and they have armed me with the knowledge that has helped me build self-awareness, resilience, and discipline. I think many times, the popular notion that self-help books are not truthful, or that they lack depth are formed because people see the books as the solution.
The book is not a solution. It is only a step towards more knowledge. Knowledge is not the solution. It only spotlights new information. Applying knowledge is not the solution. It only is the first of a chain of events that creates behavioral change. Applying the knowledge consistently, learning, and iterating is where the gold is at. It is clear that knowledge is not enough, intelligent and consistent action is what unearths the value. This is why I love these books, they help me refine my knowledge, prune, and fortify. When I apply, because of the precision, it yields exponential returns.
Also, human memory is so feeble! (at least mine is), and I find that reading and re-reading helps me further remember solid concepts I might have forgotten to apply, and it gives me a new opportunity to apply them in a different context.
Now, on to the book. I like to read books, and I find that when I apply the concepts as I read it stays with me. I believe the quote "you learn by doing" so, I read this book and applied some concepts while participating in a 25-day diet plan. Although I cannot credit it's success to the book alone, in the process of knowing and doing I gained a deeper, or shall I say a newer understanding of how to build habits and make them sustainable as I applied the concepts. I want to share a few things that stood out for me with you.
One: The Principle Of Compound Interest.
Compound interest rewards consistency more than it rewards volume. This principle says, build consistency in the smallest things and it is easier to build consistency with the harder things. Like the book, the title implies, (this was a little on the nose), but it pretty much says that really small improvements done consistently for a long period provide exponential value even when it doesn't look it. There is a tipping point, right after a consistent plateau (the middle!), where the effects become visible. But they were always there, just not visible, and it is working through those bits, and continuing to build consistency even when the effects aren't visible, and you aren't really motivated is where the trick to building habits lie.
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Two: Your current state is a result of your habits. You can re-write your trajectory with habits.
Cliche quote incoming. "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the next best time is now". One concept became clearer to me reading this. Who I am today is a result of the choices I've made in the past, but who I am in the future is a blank slate - what do my habits say about where I am going? In my mind's eye, who I am and who I will become are two different people with whatever habits I form as a bridge to get to the future me I desire. This helped me stay motivated. After I would exercise, I would thank myself for showing up - as though a potential future me were thanking my present me for coming one step closer.
Three: Systems Sustain Habits: Take Advantage of Your Path of Least Resistance
I've always believed that humans are wired to follow the path of resistance at scale. We are inherently lazy. That isn't always a bad thing. As we form habits, we often expect a lot of ourselves, way too early. When in reality, we could just hack ourselves towards creating a system that helps us more likely to sustain habits, and then increase the expectations as we build muscle.
Visual cues, habit stacking, rewards, accountability systems. All are ways - systems to use your nature of seeking the easy way out to do a hard thing. Cool right?
Four: Make your habit a part of your identity
The concept of making a habit a part of your identity was a fairly new conscious concept to me (but ironically upon reflection, I had already applied this in my life!). The book made it clearer.
One amazing way to sustain a habit is to see it as who you are. It unlocks something in your mind that creates a commitment so solid because it is now tied to your identity. I'll continue to leverage this.
Five: Mindless Habits vs Continuous Improvements
After learning how to sustainably create habits, the next challenge becomes how to sustain them. The answer? Systems. I believe this is where a LOT of successful people struggle, but it might not be apparent that they are indeed struggling. The mindless routine of habits is in itself a bit of a goal for many, however, without continuous improvement, there is unseen retrogression. The book teaches systems that help to build an identity of continuous improvement - even after habits have been honed.
I hope you read the book even if you have read many like it before. Upon reflection, I realized that I practice most of the concepts it uses prior to reading the book, without even knowing where i learned them. I found this interesting and concluded that through curiosity, exploration, experimentation, and analysis anyone can figure outlasting principles on an intuitive level. Books just give you the information directly.
I enjoyed reading this book, and recommend that you do too. :)
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Looking for what to read? Here is a list