So I have been very much enjoying reading through James Clear’s excellent book on habits and how to build and change them effectively, which is titled: Atomic Habits.
I highly recommend this to any one who wants to better shape their lives and to get more meaningful results and enjoyment along the road to becoming who you want to be.
Here’s what I have been taking away from this book:
First off, this incredible quote from Carl Jung sums up much of the theme of the book rather neatly:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”C.G. Jung
So one of the first steps to take towards changing your habits is to become aware of them.
James Clear suggests to make a list of all of your habits, everything you tend to do regularly, and fill it out as a Habits Scorecard. Try to get everything that you do some what predictably, and then assign them a score of Positive, Negative or Neutral as pertains to your goals of who you want to be.
Ahhh, but who do you want to be?
That’s the million dollar question.
James instructs us that while most people approach change from a goal-oriented perspective, this is the least effective means of long term habit building.
In this book he instead suggests that we work from the inside out, first deciding what type of person you want to be and then devising systems to bring your actions more in to line with that type of person.
What James is hammering home is that when you identify yourself as something: a musician, a hockey player, a smoker, a runner – that it is more natural and easier to figure out what actions would be consistent with that archetype of person.
Or rather, that internalizing an identity makes it simpler and more impactful to carry out the habits.
One example he lists is two people declining a cigarette when offered:
Person A simply says “No thanks, I’m trying not to smoke.” <- This person is more likely to back down and start smoking again.
Person B states “No thanks, I’m not a smoker.” <- This person is much more likely to stick to quitting as they have brought their identity in to line with their goals.
Further James points out that goals don’t give any where to go after achieved, and that this is where many motivated people fail and back pedal in to old bad habits.
Instead, by working from the identity and then setting systems to keep yourself moving more in to alignment with said identity, you drasticly up your chances at keeping the habit you are trying to build.
Consider the difference between wanting to lose five pounds
Considering yourself a person who lives a healthy life
If you identify yourself as a healthy person, you are more likely to do healthy things such as make better eating choices or work out regularly.
Opposed to the person who hits their five pound weight loss and then really has nothing else to work towards and inevitably backslides in to bad eating and exercise habits.
This is something I love to think about and talk about and I might write more about this in the future.
I recommend this book to everyone.
Who do you want to be?