Disclaimer: This is just an over-the-top summary of the book ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. If you have time and access to the book, you should skip reading this blog post and read the book instead. That will do you wonders. If for some reason you can’t, then you may continue.
Habits are what make us who we are. The only difference between those who have been successful in life and those who haven’t been are the habits they have. It won’t be wrong to believe that if you can build a few good habits and continue following them over the long run, your chances of being successful will drastically increase.
The definition of success is different for every person and in every profession. For a surgeon, being successful would mean the percentage of successful surgeries he performs. For a sportsman, it might mean the number of times he leads his team to victory. For you, it might be saving X amount of money by the time you are 40. Whatever your goal is, good habits will help you get there.
It might be saving $10 every week. It might be going out of your comfort zone to make one extra call to build your connections. It may be getting up 15 minutes earlier every day to get 3 hours per week to work on something that you wanted to for so long.
Good habits are what we all want to have but we never quite get them. We start going for the evening walk twice but then life gets in the way and weeks pass before we can get another rep in.
So, how do you build good habits? It’s just a simple four-step process.
Make it obvious. Whatever habit you want to adopt, make sure that the cues for doing it are right in front of you. Want to hit the gym? Make sure you keep your gym attire on the bed so when you come back from work, you see it right away. Want to save more money? Manually log each expense either on your phone or in your diary. That will give you a good idea of how much you are spending and on what.
Make it attractive. Give yourself a temptation to get into the habit. It’s a concept called temptation bundling. What you want to do is to combine your habit with something that you love to do. Love watching TV but also want to get fit? Keep the treadmill in front of the TV. Have to get better at writing but getting started seems tough, give yourself a small reward each time you get started. The reward may be as small as a sweet or a few extra minutes of break.
Make it easy. The reason why we leave a habit before it gets into our routine is that we make it too tough. We start out with an unrealistic goal. It may be catching up with 2 friends every day or reading a research paper every day or studying for 3 hours every day. We are usually able to do it for a few days but once life gets in the way, we can’t. And then before we realize it, it has been days or weeks a since we last did it. The solution is to make it extremely easy. A little too easy. Write just a few sentences each day if you want to become a writer. Study only 10 extra minutes each day. Read just one section of a research paper each day. Remember, we are forming a habit that sticks with us and is not a one-off event.
Make it satisfying. In order to make a habit stick with you and to ensure you continue doing it in the long run, you have to trick your mind. The trick is that you associate something that you want with the long term goal you are trying to achieve. This is different from making a habit attractive since that is to make you get started with the habit. This is to help that you continue doing it. Let’s say you want to become better at saving money, so the way you can encourage yourself to save is by promising yourself that once you save X amount, you will buy yourself something good using it. That way, you have a short term goal which helps you on your way to the long term goal.
If you enjoyed this post, then I think you will really like my previous post on some practical tips on how you can manage your finances better.