Atomic Habits

This book is based entirely on the premise that minor improvements every day will snowball into huge returns over time. You pick a keystone habit to change, and when you have that one down it becomes much easier to improve upon. The resulting success makes it easier to start stacking other new habits with the original good habit.

Many people have habits they need to change and think it’s always all-out or nothing. For instance, diet changes. You buy a book about the newest diet craze and pick a specific date to start. You’re gonna toss out all of your food and buy all the items on the list for your weekly meals and tell yourself it’s all gonna work this time. It’s all going to go swimmingly because so-and-so at work lost 30 pounds on this diet and all of these testimonials prove it works.

So you manage to meal prep and choke down all the meals for a few days or weeks, and then it happens. You forgot to make your overnight breakfast glop yesterday and now you have no time. You fly out the door and see the fast food place you always go to and veer into the drive-thru. You start wrestling with yourself about how you should order their version of the breakfast glop. While you are having this internal discussion and thinking you don’t even like the glop, the order taker interrupts you and you blurt out that you want the breakfast platter that you always order. AND a large soda. Well, it’s all or nothing, right? You blew it. Since you ruined the day, you may as well make it a cheat day, right? You’re a bad person and a failure.

It is possible to change all of your habits, usually after a major health scare or a severe disruption of your life. Even then, the success rate is around 37% for the minority of people who attempt it. You may know intellectually what you need to do, but that isn’t going to change your habits. Habits are in the realm of your subconscious and are guided by emotions.

Habits serve you a purpose. They are pretty automatic and only one or maybe two can be changed at once. It takes an average of 66 days to cement a habit down, with a range of 18-200 days. The old ones are still lurking in your brain, and will default when you’re unprepared for a situation.

This book addresses how to set a new habit up for success. First, they should be identity-based, rather than outcome-based. Focusing on outcome can lead to quitting when the goal is reached. Saying I am a healthy eater reflects who you are and sinks into your subconscious mind. Saying I’m going to lose 10 lbs. means that you’ve succeeded and are done with your new habits after you achieve that goal.

Structure your environment in such a way that your old habits are not triggered. Conversely, set up cues to perform a new habit easily. Sleep in your exercise clothes, hide or get rid of distractions and cues to your former bad habits. Make them difficult to fall back on subconsciously.

Stack habits with current ones. Set up your night/day routine with all the cues needed in the bathroom. Face wash, toothpaste and brush, floss, etc.

Make new habits specific to a time and place.

Have implementation intentions. If x happens, I will do y. So, if you forgot your lunch or someone brought in food, plan what you intend to do beforehand. If a novel situation comes up and you fall into an old habit, add an intention for that and move on.

Bundle new habits with pleasurable experiences. Watch your favorite show while exercising. Beware of stacking negative habits like I will have a martini after I exercise 10 minutes. Next thing you know, you’re drunk and there’s a kettleball in your tv.

A slip-up into an old habit is just that. The new habit is not yet fully established. The old one will always be there lurking. Figure out what made you slip back and regroup.

Keep a success diary or calendar. Track the positives.

All animals conserve their energy. This is not a bad thing. Habits are automatic shortcuts. Make it easy for you to perform the new ones and difficult for the ones you are trying to get rid of.

The provided link is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you install the Library Extension on your browser, you can see if they have it at your local library or check the internet archive at archive.org.

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