To be honest, there are more than 3 lessons you could learn from Atomic Habits. However, to keep it simple and short, we’d be learning about only 3 today.
The amazing thing about Atomic Habits, is how pragmatic it is. It’s not one of those self help books that will pump up your zeal and enthusiasm, yet, leave you high and dry. Because they don’t have an actual solution. With all talk and no action. Atomic Habits is different. It’s like a tour guide, taking you to all the places you need to be, when you are new to a city.
James did an excellent job showing applicable ways to build healthy and lasting habits. You’d agree that it’s your consistent day to day habits that determine which direction you’re headed. If your in the habit of reading for instance, overtime, you’d be knowledgeable.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the 3 lessons.
Lesson 1: goal vs systems
Most people are goal – oriented, which is a good thing, but it’s hardly enough. Both successful and non – successful people set goals. What we may not have realized is that, you do not rise to the level of your goals. Rather, you fall to the level of your systems. Truth! Systems are things you’ve put in place to help you achieve your vision/ goal.
Certainly, setting goals are not bad, but you have to follow through with it. For instance, you have a messy room. Your clothes are lying around in every corner of the room. The floor is greasy from dirt and your room smells like wet shoe. Moved by disgust, you decide to clean out your room, and once again, it’s super fresh and clean. Was your goal achieved? Yes it was.
However, this clean room is only temporary, until your next litter. If you want to always have a clean room, then you need a system that will ensure that. Perhaps, a basket for dirty clothes, so that you don’t have clothes littered every where. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Etc. This simple things you do daily (systems) will help you ensure that your room is always clean (goal). Do you get the point now?
Lesson 2 : the power of small things
According to James, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.
We tend to focus on the big things a lot. Not bad. But we also need to know that is the sum total of the small things we do every now and then that brings about the big stuff we’re aiming for.
Say you need to get grounded in a subject at school. A subject that you’re lagging behind in, and you don’t exactly like that. I mean who loves to lag behind?
So you decide to do the necessary; attend classes. Read your lecture notes after classes everyday. Read your text. Ask questions about stuff you don’t understand and so forth. Initially, it may not seem like you’re not making that much of a progress. However, in the long run, if you keep up with these small things you’ve been doing, you’d start to become knowledgeable and grounded in the subject.
Another way to look at this from, is to get 1% better everyday. If you invest even little of your time improving at something. That 1% will add up and yield bigger results for you. What small stuff will you do daily, to help you improve your life?
Lesson 3: the 4 laws of behaviour
James goes ahead to show what a habit loop looks like. Cue. Craving. Response and Reward. For instance. Let’s use a smoker for instance.
Cue: stress from work or stress in general.
Craving: smoke a stick to feel less stressed and relaxed.
Response: pull out a stick from pocket and smoke.
Reward: feels less stressed and more relaxed. Hence associates smoking with relaxation. To create good habits, James says to use this habit loop to your advantage. By making the cue obvious, craving more attractive, response easy and the reward satisfying. Say you want to write more.
Cue – you can make it more obvious by placing all the writing tools you’d need where you can see and easily reach them. – make it attractive.
Use beautiful journals to write and amazing stationeries, so that it will make you desirous to write.
Response – make it easy. Put your phone away, so that you can’t reach for it once you wake up. Instead, you take one of those beautiful journals and write something you enjoy as soon as you wake up.
Reward: Keep a calendar that measures your writing progress. Also tick Nike for any day you write. The impact this has is that you are able to visibly measure your writing progress and journey. Would you try this? In the same vein, to get rid of a bad habit, you also follow the habit loop. Only that, you’d make the cue less obvious, the craving unattractive, the response difficult and the reward unsatisfying.
Atomic Habits by James Clear is a timeless pearl. Every word and sentence is packed with workable day – day things you can do to set your life on a beautiful path. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. It will definitely change your life for the best. Keep soaring.