Over the past months, I’ve been reading a great number of motivational and inspiring books on personal growth. I’ve also been listening to podcasts and watching videos on YouTube. This interest has sprung from a combination of factors as I’ve recently reached a few significant milestones in my life; I retired and turned sixty, and I have five grandchildren between the ages of three months and nine years. I am concerned with aging, health, and emotional wellbeing, as well as my children’s and grandchildren’s future challenges. I have more time to reflect and more things to reflect on, so I’ve found these books, podcasts and videos very helpful, especially in these uncertain and volatile times in which we can take nothing for granted. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you on Mondays.
This Monday I’m featuring ATOMIC HABITS, written by James Clear. Atomic habits deals with how we can gradually incorporate small habits into our lives, which will make a great impact.
In order to change bad habits or introduce new ones, we must believe it is worthwhile and possible and accept our personal responsibility in bringing this about.
Throughout the book, he insists on the importance of small changes. For example, if we improve by 1% each day, the accumulative effect in the long term will be considerable, and he gives ample proof of this in the book.
He links this thought to what he calls the two-minute rule, which is one simple and effective way to establish new habits.
This reminds me of Feel Better in Five by Rangan Chatterjee, which makes the same claims. Start small to get big results in the medium and long term.
Instead of starting by going to the gym for an hour, start by doing some exercises a few minutes a day at home and gradually build it up. Instead of giving up sugar completely, start with not adding sugar to your tea or coffee.
In this eight-minute talk, he explains the essence of his proposals.
James Clear tells us that our aim in changing habits is ultimately to change our lives and be the person we want to be.
If you want to ‘be’ someone, a writer, a doctor, a student, you need to build a habit or repeatedly do the actions of the person you want to become.
For example, if you want to be a writer you have to do something about it, which would be to write, because the habit of writing makes you a writer, just as the habit of studying makes you a student, or the habit of running makes you a runner, and so on.
Once we have decided which habit or habits we want to build in order to be the person we want to be, he suggests certain steps or conditions which will help us create this habit as part of our daily routine.
First, start small and make objectives clear and specific.
I’ll give you an example. If I want to be more healthy and decide I want to do more exercise, I could to start with 5 minutes a day and add one minute more a week, so in three months I should be doing at least twenty minutes a day.
The next stage is to make it as easy as possible, which he calls ‘the path of least resistance‘. That is to have the equipment, materials you need available and in sight. For example, I have my exercise bike in my bedroom, so I see it when I get up or go to bed and every time I use my en-suite bathroom. This makes it easier for me to actually use it. If I decide to use the bike for five minutes every time I brush my teeth, I’d pedal 15 minutes a day, which will make a difference and more importantly, build a habit.
Another requirement is to make it attractive. It can be boring to pedal on your bike looking at your bedroom wall, so you can place the bike by the window, or do something you enjoy while you’re doing it. For example, listen to an audiobook, watch a video on YouTube, or listen to your favourite song, etc. My trick is to phone a friend or one of my daughters, time flies!
Finally, we should reward ourselves for accomplishing our habits. One suggestion is to make a pact with yourself. For example, if you complete your week’s objectives, you can treat yourself to something, such as doing an activity you enjoy.
He makes many other useful suggestions such as, joining a group, because it’s useful to find support in other people who share our values or intentions, reading about the habit we want to create, to increase motivation, sleeping and eating well, for emotional strength, and choosing the ideal time and place for our habits, among other tips.
Atomic Habits gives us valuable reasons for building up good habits and tips to help us create these habits in order to improve our lives.
James Clear has a great blog and free newsletter you can sign up for.
Here’s the link if you’d like to read my other posts on #PersonalGrowth