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Gloria Edem: A review of Atomic habits by James Clear

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This is a review of atomic habits by James Clear sharing key lessons on the laws of behaviour change and how they can be applied in our daily lives.

James Clear in his book ‘Atomic Habits’ shares how small habits and adding a tiny margin of improvement in everything we do accumulates into remarkable results helping us to fulfil potentials. The book is founded on the idea that the effects of our habits multiply as we repeat them — this is the same for good or bad habits.

James uses a personal challenge he experienced from a severe head injury in high school to drive home his point. In his recovery process, he discovered the changes that seem small and unimportant at first compound into remarkable results if one is willing to stick with them for years. We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits as success is the product of daily habits — not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. For e.g, he opines that “your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits; your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits; your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits.”

Image credit: Heart Foundation

He identifies four laws of behaviour change — systems that help one learn good new habits. These laws can also be reversed to break bad habits:

– Cue (making new habits obvious)
– Craving (making it attractive)
– Response (making it easy)
– Reward (making it satisfying)

In this review of atomic habits by James Clear, I have broken down my key learnings from the book and how the four laws listed above can be applied:

Cue — Make it Obvious

When building good habits, create obvious visual cues and vice versa. This is more effective than relying on self-control.
Design your environment to reinforce a habit — your environment is the invisible hand that shapes behaviour and it is more important than motivation.
Set specific and clear call-to-action (indicate what, time, when, how)
Stack new habits on old habits to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behaviour leading into the next.
Adopt the rule of ‘one space, one use’. Make each context (environment) associated with a particular habit. If you live in a small apartment, divide it into activity zones by creating a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, cooking, sleep, etc.

Craving — Make it Attractive

To increase the odds that you’ll take action, make the habit attractive. Apply the idea of ‘Temptation Bundling’ by tying activity to a reward; e.g, only listen to your favourite podcast while jogging or watch Netflix after reading.
Surround yourself with people who have the habit you want to build.
Response — Make it Easy

Prime your environment so it’s ready for immediate use, making good behaviour easier and bad ones harder.
The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do (reverse the 3rd law, make it difficult).

Reward — Make it Satisfying

When learning a new habit, make it satisfying and enjoyable; when trying to break a bad habit reverse the 4th law and make it painful.
Learn habit tracking. The most effective form of motivation is progress and tracking your habits is satisfying and keeps you honest.
Recording a streak is satisfying. If you miss a day, never miss twice. Interrupting your compounding streak often leads to a lapse if you don’t get back on track immediately. I have found this to be true and practical.
Pick behaviours that align with your natural abilities, personality, and skills — the secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.

Additional: Mastery Pro Tips

Do not obsess on planning or figuring out the best ways to imbibe a new habit — the most effective form of learning is ‘practice’ not ‘planning.’ The frequency of action taken is what forms a habit, not the duration spent.
Establish a system for continuous reflection and review to keep refining and improving.
To achieve your goals, focus on implementing a system (processes) of continuous small improvements while relying on goals for strategic direction.

Gloria Edem is a Marketing Communications professional, a personal finance content curator and a bibliophile.

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