Building Better Habits: A Deep Dive into James Clear's Method
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Do you sometimes make plans but don't follow through?
The answer to this question can be found in the four laws of behavior change described by James Clear in his book "Atomic Habits." The book serves as a guide to improving your habits and achieving long-term goals.
Clear is a well-known author and speaker in the field of productivity and personal development.
The four laws are designed to help establish successful good habits and break bad ones.
They are as follows:
Law 1 - Make it obvious.
Law 2 - Make it attractive.
Law 3 - Make it easy.
Law 4 - Make it satisfying.
Clear dedicates a chapter to each of these laws, explaining how to create a good habit. Here, I'll share the tips from the book that have worked best in my experience.
Law 1: Make it Obvious
The more automated an action is, the less we consciously think about it. To change a habit, we must first become aware of what we're doing.
Clear recommends filling out a habit scorecard to recognize current habits. For example, you might list what you do automatically when you wake up in the morning:
Wake up, turn off the alarm, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth ... .
Then, determine whether these habits are positive, negative, or neutral. Use a "+" for a good habit, "-" for a bad one, and "=" for a neutral habit:
Wake up =, turn off the alarm =, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth + ... .
How you rate the habit depends on you and your goals.
An implementation intention is a plan created in advance for how to achieve a specific habit, specifying the action you will take. Clear provides this template:
"I will [behavior] at [time] in [location]."
For example, it might look like this for you: I will exercise at 5 p.m. at the gym. I will write a page of my book at 8 p.m. in the evening.
Habit stacking is a special form of implementation intention. Here, you link a new habit not to a specific time or place, but to an existing habit:
"After [current habit], I will [new habit]."
For example, "After I take off my work clothes, I will put on my workout clothes."
Clear recommends organizing your environment so that it becomes obvious and clearly visible for good habits. This means, if you want to read more in the evening, place books visibly on your nightstand. If you want to drink more water, distribute full water bottles around the house.
Law 2: The Second Law of Behavior Change - Make it Attractive
The likelihood of finding a behavior attractive is higher when you engage in a favorite activity at the same time.
Link something you want to do with something you have to do.
"After I make ten potential customer calls (necessity), I will scroll through social media (desire)."
Proximity has a big impact on our behavior. We tend to adopt the habits of people we spend a lot of time with. Friends and family exert a kind of invisible peer pressure, which is detrimental when it comes to adopting bad habits. New habits, on the other hand, are easier to establish when you see that others do them daily. So, join a culture where your desired behavior is normal.
Difficult habits can become more attractive if we combine them with a positive experience. For example, change your language and don't talk about what you have to do during the day but what you are allowed to do. Both versions are true. By emphasizing the benefits of a habit, you reprogram your brain to find the habit more attractive. Create a motivation ritual by doing something enjoyable immediately before a challenging habit.
Law 3: Make it Easy
Habits are easier to establish when they fit well into your daily routine. If the gym is on your way to work, you're more likely to go than if it's far away. Prepare your environment for the new habit and create an environment where it's as easy as possible to follow through with your new habits: Lay out your workout clothes in the evening to make it easy to exercise in the morning.
Clear recommends applying the 2-minute rule. Reduce the habit until it takes a maximum of two minutes. From reading every evening to reading one page. This makes the habit as simple as possible. Everyone can read one page. And once you've started, the habit is much easier to maintain.
Automate your habits through one-time actions. Do you want to sleep well? Buy a good mattress and remove the TV from your bedroom.
Law 4: Make it Satisfying
Reward yourself when you've followed through with your habit. Ideally, the habit itself should be the reward, although you may not initially see it that way. When rewarding yourself, make sure it doesn't conflict with your new habit, so avoid sweets for successfully completing a workout program, for example.
Use a habit tracker to easily monitor whether you're consistently practicing your habit, such as marking it off on a calendar. This way, you also have tangible evidence of your progress. Clear also emphasizes never skipping two days in a row and resuming the habit as soon as possible.
In other words, if you want to change a behavior, you can ask yourself:
How can I make it obvious?
How can I make it attractive?
How can I make it easy?
How can I make it satisfying?
"Atomic Habits" by James Clear provides a practical and actionable method for changing habits and achieving long-term goals. By implementing the four laws, small changes can result in significant successes. Therefore, this book is a personal recommendation for anyone looking to self-improve and transform their habits.