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Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear – this book is one of the most actionable guides to building habits. If you haven’t read it yet, please do so. Early 2019, I first bought an audio book on audible, then I bought a copy on kindle. That wasn’t enough, since I wanted to underline so many things and make my own notes, so ended up getting a physical copy as well which I keep revisiting and taking notes.

I am sharing my key takeaways from this master craft, things that fundamentally guided me to build habits.

1 => Systems over goals

Many of us are obsessed with achieving the goal e.g. scoring well in exam, reducing weight in 6 months, getting that dream job etc. James makes a clear distinction between goals and systems to achieve them.

If successful and unsuccessful people share the same goal, then goal can’t be what differentiates the winner from loser!

Goals are the results you want to achieve but system is about the process that lead to those results. You are left with same outcome every time if you don’t change the system behind it. Goals create “either-or” effect; either you achieve the goal and you are successful OR you are a disappointment! The purpose of setting a goal is to win a game. The purpose of building a system is to continue playing a game! One of the key thing that stuck with me is,

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

2 => Habits build your identity

Habits are simple and reliable solutions to problems recurring in our environment, they are mental shortcuts learned from experience. Your habits are how you embody your identity. The process or system of building the habits is actually a process of becoming yourself!

Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become!

No single action will transform your belief, but as votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. Instead of saying I want to run regularly, build your identity as runner. As Naval Ravikant says,

To write a book, you must first become a book!

3 => Environment over motivation and self-control

Behavior is the function of the person in their environment. We are changed by the world around us and every habit is context dependent. Our most powerful sensory ability, the vision plays an important role in building that context around us. The human body has ~11 million sensory receptor and ~10 million of them are dedicated to vision. So it is important to design the space around you in such a way that it increases you exposure to positive cues and reduces the exposure to negative ones.

E.g. one space one use i.e. have a separate space for study, work, exercise, watch television and stick to it etc. so that your brain does not mix things together. If want to stop browsing at night and not sacrifice on sleep time, keep your phone away from bedroom. Over time, brain begins to associate bed with sleeping only and not crave for meaningless browsing.

Another way is to reinforce things again and again. E.g. If you want eat more healthy food, keep those apples in sight and easy reach than pack of chips.

If you want behaviors that are stable and predictable, focus more on designing an environment than motivation or self-control.

Make the cues of good habit obvious and cues of bad habits invisible.

4 => The key is repetition and not perfection

We are so focused on figuring out the best approach to do something that we never get around to taking action. This fact is particularly true in my case where I usually spend lot of time in trying to figure out the best possible way even before starting something.

So if you want to master a habit, the key is start with repetition and not perfection. All habits follow a trajectory: effortful practice to automatic behavior i.e. ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which occurs when non-conscious mind takes over. You have to standardize your behavior before you can optimize it. You can’t improve something that does not exists. Therefore the point is to master the habit of showing up! So the key takeaway is 2-minute rule which states that –

When you want to start a new habit, it should take less than 2 minutes to do !

It helps to break down big goals in simple 2-minute steps to get into the habit of showing up.

“Read before bed each night” becomes “read one page”

“Run 3 miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes”

Train your mind to do these simple 2-minute things same time every day, day after day, to ritualize the beginning of the process and rest will follow. One key insight that James talks about is – Don’t break the chain, never miss twice! Even 1% improvement every day compounds the result by 37 times in one year!

5 => Shared Identity

Human beings are herd animals, we want to fit in, bond with others to earn the respect and approval from community. We tend to imitate the habits of 3 social groups: 1) Close friends and family 2) The tribe or community 3) The powerful people around with status and prestige

A Shared identity begins to reinforce your personal identity!

Our behaviors are more attractive when they help us fit in. Therefore, it is important to join a culture where you desired behavior is a normal behavior. New habits are achievable when you see others doing it.

Most days, we would rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves!
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Above key takeaways don’t do complete justice to the wealth of knowledge this amazing book contains. James Clear breaks down the science of good habit building in 4 simple rules based on cue-craving-response-reward system of human brain. His writing is fluid and examples are aplenty but to the point.

So if you haven’t read it yet, start by showing up, pick up the book and read at least one page a day. You surely won’t be able to stop at that!

(Note - Content summarized from Atomic Habits as it is in most cases. Entire credit to James Clear!)

1 comentário

07 de jul. de 2021

This is such a well written article. Proud of you Aashi. Keep shining💛

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