xoNecole's I Read It So You Don't Have To is a recurring series of self-discovery that breaks down self-help books into a toolkit of takeaways and tips that are meant to assist you in finding the best life you can live. Take what works for you, and leave everything else where it is.
When I first embarked on this journey of self-compassion, self-care, and self-love, I was told to readAtomic Habits by James Clear. Admittedly, this book recommendation did not make me want to jump up for joy and read this novel the first chance I got. For one, I didn't think that I had any 'bad' habits. Well, at least any that were detrimental to my health and/or worth changing. Or, at least, so I thought.
If anything, I believed my habits were well beyond what anyone would consider 'good.' Hell, they were great. I woke up on time. Made it to work on time. I completed school work and errands with fidelity. I paid my bills long before the collector thought to knock on my door. I scheduled times to talk to friends and family. I was committed to whatever task I said I would, and managed to also feed myself at the end of the day. I had systems that were so well placed, it would be ludicrous for me to change them. So, why add a book about 'atomic' habits to my reading list when I had my habits in order?
When I posed this question, I was given a follow-up; one that shut me up and sat me down. If my habits were so great--if everything had been going so well...why was I still so unhappy?
Yes, I woke up on time, but I laid in bed for 45 minutes before I would start the day. Yes, I made it to work on time, but it was often with watery eyes and unshed tears. Yes, I completed school work and errands with fidelity, but this was after I panicked about all the time squandered before the inevitable deadline arrived. Yes, I committed to whatever task, but this did not go without resentment to have made the commitment in the first place. And yes, I managed to feed myself at the end of the day, but this meal was often my only. I got through the day, but that didn't mean I did so without taking hits at every turn.
After minutes of being unable to come up with a decent response, I was told again to read Atomic Habits. And this time, I managed to listen. With the assistance of this truly exceptional, easy-to-read, and helpful-as-hell novel, I realized that though I had great habits, the bad ones were the ones that ruled my life.
This book gives readers strategies for maintaining modest routines that gradually add up to have the impact they desire for the life they want. Remember, this is meant to be a collection of suggestions on how to live a happy, wholehearted, purposeful, and intentional life, though it is by no means a “how-to guide” on how to live life. Take what works for you, and leave everything else where it is.
Here's how to form better habits for the life you aspire to obtain.
First Law of Building Better Habits: Make It Obvious
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Creating awareness of your habits is the first rule of developing healthy habits. Unless someone points out our habitual behaviors, we frequently miss our cues (or the actions that trigger the habits we perform), since we are not aware of them. We must, therefore, become more self-aware if we are to fulfill the first law.
To make your habits obvious, list your everyday routine for a moment to become conscious of your behaviors. What occurs when you first open your eyes? Then what? Then what? Make a list of your routines and activities, from every day, without exception. After that, evaluate each activity and ask yourself whether it is a 'good,' 'bad,' or 'neutral' habit.
It is crucial that you prioritize self-compassion above shame while you make this list. This is not the time to punish yourself for the bad habits you may or may not have. Instead, this is the time to just acknowledge the good and bad habits that you possess.
Once your behaviors are clear, it's time to design an implementation strategy. A strategy for implementation is crucial because this is the point where most habits fall by the wayside. Those plans we have are just that—plans—without a proper implementation system. Making an implementation plan is straightforward; you simply list the new habit you want to develop, the location where you want to establish it, and the time of day you would implement it.
For example, "I will [insert new habit] at [insert time] in [insert location]." This formula will ensure you are making space for your habit in your daily activities, while consciously becoming aware of when it has to be completed.
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Habit stacking is another technique for implementing your new habit throughout the day. Pairing a new habit with an existing one is known as habit stacking. By using your old, inescapable habit as a cue to start the new habit, you will guarantee the new habit is completed. Therefore, combine your new habit with a positive or neutral behavior from your list using your implementation formula.
The Motivation Myth:
Keep in mind that motivation is not a factor as you go about putting your new habit into practice. We won't always be motivated to do something, and waiting around till we are motivated won't result in anything getting done. Your environment, not your motivation, plays a role in the development of your new behaviors. For instance, depending on the environment we are in, we act in habitual ways.
We know to hush when we enter a library. We know to keep quiet when we go to the movies. Habits will be encouraged by the environment to become associated with their surroundings, therefore do your best to connect habits to a location. You may need to select fresh locations on occasion to prevent negative habits from persisting.
Second Law of Building Better Habits: Make It Attractive
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"Make it attractive" is the second step in habit building. Most of the time, when we create a new habit, we do so resentfully, as though our new ambition suddenly transformed into a new challenge. Make your habit irreversible, rather than thinking of it as something you must do. You'll find yourself enacting the new habit more frequently if you pair a habit you want with something you already enjoy doing. For example, if you want to read more, but you can't find the time between long drives to work and home, start listening to audiobooks on the long drives to work.
Utilizing our inherent herd-like mentality is another way to make habits more appealing. Be among people who already practice the behaviors you want. You are more influenced by others around you than you may realize. Spend more time with people who are already practicing the behaviors you desire, you'll be more likely to stick with them. It will be simpler to develop the habit because your desired conduct will be considered "normal behavior" by the group.
Third Law of Building Better Habits: Make It Easy
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The third law is to make your new habit easy. Finding strategies to make our good habits less frictional while making our bad habits more frictional is a big part of the effort to develop better habits. For example, if you want to exercise more and watch television less, place a pair of exercise clothes on the couch, the bed, or wherever else you find yourself watching television. You can start forming good habits where exercising is possible by keeping your workout attire in an accessible place.
Also, starting as small as possible is another strategy for making it simpler to form new habits. This is referred to as the "Minimum Viable Effort." For example, if you want to practice meditating more, instead of focusing on the goal of 30 minutes a day, start off with one. Then gradually increase this number over time. If you start small, the new habit you're cultivating doesn't seem so daunting and you are much more likely to stick with it.
Fourth Law of Building Better Habits: Make it Satisfying
The fourth law is to make your new habit satisfying. This can easily be done by giving yourself a reward upon the completion of your new habit. You need a motivating factor at first to keep on course. Because of this, quick rewards are crucial. They maintain your excitement as the delayed benefits build up in the background. What we're actually discussing here is the cessation of a behavior. Any experience's end is crucial because it's the part we tend to remember the most.
Your new habit should stop in a gratifying way for you. Reinforcement, which is the process of utilizing an immediate incentive to raise the rate of behavior, is the best strategy. Therefore, at the end of your new habit, give yourself a reward that will keep you coming back. For example, if you're creating the habit of exercising, reward yourself by grabbing your favorite smoothie or favorite food spot to go to, seeing a movie, enjoying a massage, or something else incentivizing upon completing your time at the gym.
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