James Clear’s book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones is a #1 New York Times bestseller, has sold over 5 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages. And it’s easy to see why. Its message of making habits by breaking them down into “atomic” size small changes makes total sense. You can get 1% better every day, and those small changes lead to big results over time.
Whether trying to form new good habits or eliminate old bad habits, consider first:
Change Your Identity
Our identity emerges out of our habits, and what we do reinforces our identity. If you want to run more, call yourself a runner. Even if you only run for 1 minute a day, self-identifying as a runner will help you stay committed and motivated.
Stack Your Habits
Try pairing your new habit with a current habit, making a stack. For example, if meditating is your goal, and you start each day with a cup of coffee, meditate for 1 minute after your first cup of coffee. Over time you can expand the time spent meditating, and you can also continue to stack: after coffee, meditate, then write your to-do list for the day. After you write your to-do list, immediately begin the first task. It all starts with that first habit that’s already an established part of your routine.
4 Laws To Build Good Habits (and break bad ones)
Make it obvious – Try to make the cues, or reminders, for the new habit obvious and visible. If morning yoga is your plan, roll out your yoga mat the night before. If eating healthy is important, move the cut veggies to the front of the fridge shelf. And conversely, you can remove bad habit cues from your environment. Move the not-so-healthy food to the back of the fridge.
Make it attractive – This could be anything from investing in new running shoes to finding a sunny window to do your yoga in front of. You can also try reframing your habit to make it more attractive. Instead of saying, “I have to get up and do my yoga now”, instead say, “It’s time to build strength and improve my well-being”. Likewise, you can make a bad habit unattractive by highlighting the negative impact of these habits.
Make it easy – Start small and make repetition the goal. Start your running routine by just putting on your running shoes, even if you don’t make it out the door. It’s more important to show up every day in some way. You can also make it easy by removing friction or obstacles that might prevent you from showing up. Conversely, if you’re trying to stop a bad habit, add obstacles.
Make it satisfying – For many people, tracking your progress can be satisfying, like putting an X on a calendar or sharing updates with friends. Find a way to track, honor and celebrate your new good habits.
Finally, Clear reminds us that the greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. Once your good habits are in place, it’s the ability to keep going that makes the difference. His motto: miss once, but not twice. Never stop making improvements. Start small; start today. And let those small atomic habits lead you to big changes.