There’s a new best book about how to build good habits and get rid of the bad ones.
And then there’s another book on the same topic.
These two books about changing habits are probably the most important you need to get started.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Atomic Habits is one of the best books about habits I have ever read.
No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a framework for improving every day. James Clear gives you practical strategies to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again, not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
The book gives you a proven system that can take you to new heights. Learn how to:
- make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);
- overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;
- design your environment to make success easier;
- get back on track when you fall off course;
- … and much more.
The author draws on the ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create a guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success. You get the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits.
Visualize the four stages of habit as a feedback loop. They form an endless cycle that is running every moment you are alive.
The “habit loop” is continually scanning the environment, predicting what will happen next, trying out different responses, and learning from the results.
- the cue triggers
- a craving, which motivates
- a response, which provides
- a reward, which satisfies the craving,
and ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. Here’s an example
- You go the cinema.
- You crave for snacks.
- You get the popcorn.
- You eat the popcorn.
And you weren’t even hungry and you don’t like popcorn that much.
James Clear quotes
Here are some of the most important ideas from the book:
Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals. […] You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. ~ James Clear
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.
~ James Clear
You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results. ~ James Clear
Find out how to remember things that you want to build into habits.
Another book on habits: The Power of Habit
When comparing Atomic Habits vs. The Power of Habit, then I find the first book is more actionable. The Power of Habit goes deeper into the science of habits.
Check out the 13 Great Willpower Books, Motivation, and How We Think.
The key to internalizing new habits is:
- The trigger or cue (put your running clothes next to your bed
- The Activity or routine (the actual habit, running in this case)
- The reward (whatever works for you, the video suggests a small piece of chocolate)
Divide the habit you want to create or get rid of into subcomponents. Figure out which part is easiest to change or influence for you.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries. The book explains why habits exist and how they can be changed. Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
Learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying. Why others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work. Where, exactly, they reside in our brains.
Discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.
Charles Duhigg quotes
Here are the quotes about habits from the book that help you better understand how to change:
Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. ~ Charles Duhigg
Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. ~ Charles Duhigg
This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. ~ Charles Duhigg
The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it. ~ Charles Duhigg
Why are habits important?
The habit is a thing you do almost unconsciously. The action that does not require your thought saves you mental energy and willpower. If you can do something automatically, then you can concentrate on the finer points and achieve mastery in that skill.
The habit is why martial artists endlessly practice their basic moves. When the basics become automatic, then you can focus your energy on more demanding tasks.
Try to make everything that’s basic but important in your life a habit. Create routines that will take the effort out of your day and let you become a master in your field.
Willpower gets you started. Habits get you results. ~ Priit Kallas
Replacing old habits with new ones
One of the great ideas in Atomic Habits is that you should replace one habit with another. The change doesn’t even have to be that big.
If you have a habit you want to get rid of, then find something to replace it with.
For example, I have a short fuse. That’s putting it lightly; I have no fuse, just bomb. When things don’t go as planned, I often lash out and get into aggressive fight-or-flight mode.
It is a habit.
I should find a way to change that, but the habit loop is so fast. When I notice what’s happened, it’s already too late. I even know what reaction to replace it with. Attention, curiosity/interest, surprise.
Attention is important because, in an unexpected situation, you have to evaluate it.
Interest or curiosity about what happened and why it happened. You will evaluate the situation and decide on a course of action.
Surprise about the situation happening, as opposed to annoyance, fear, or aggression. Surprise makes you evaluate the situation even further and every now and then there might be something to learn from.
Now the only question is how to trigger that response before the built-in fight or flight reaction happens?
Start with small things.
Situations where you are mostly in control and remember to use the new behavior every time.
As you keep doing it, you will be able to use it in more and more explosive situations.
Routine is freedom!
Changing eating habits
But the habit you want to change doesn’t have to be that hard to change.
When you have a habit of eating snacks while doing something, you don’t have to stop doing it.
Just replace the snack with carrots.
As it’s easier to give up carrots than tasty carbohydrate, salty, fatty snacks, you will eventually stop snacking altogether.
Probably one of the most effective ways to train your brain to deal with impulsiveness is meditation. I have struggled with meditating for years. It is so easy not to do it. And if you don’t meditate, then you feel no difference.
But there is a difference!
Meditation will help you improve your self-control and discipline, in turn, will lead to all the things you want to achieve in your life.
Update: I’m now on the 156th day of my meditation streak — nothing to report yet. Meditation has become slightly easier, but I don’t feel any changes in self-control.
Quality is not an act, it is a habit. – Aristotle
Let it go
Another great way to improve your self-control is to intentionally defer to others in situations where you have self-control. I wrote about it here, but the key is that you let other people have their way. When you train that in safe situations, then this might give you a little more time before your lid flies off in important situations. For example, take traffic and let others have their way every time.
Start a new habit
I have created long lists of things that most people would like to have as a habit.
Figure out what’s the smallest thing you can do every day do start building that habit.
And then do it.
Let us know in the comments what habits are you trying to get rid of.
Image credit VisualHunt.com