August 2020's featured Book Review will be on "Atomic Habits," by James Clear. In reality, all of our successes and failures in life revolve around a core set of habits we each have, so the better we understand habits, provides a fantastic foundation of chaning your life for the better.
I picked this book because it is a "how-to" book on how to generate new "good" habits, and how to get rid of old "bad" habits. As Mr. Clear states, "Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. But in order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau—what he calls the Plateau of Latent Potential. When you finally break through the Plateau of Latent Potential, people will call it an overnight success. An earthquake erupts. Change can take years—before it happens all at once."
Mr. Clear goes into the science as to what a habit is (cue, craving, response, then reward), and why our brains are hard wired for habits to form. So, it behooves us all to develop a ton of good habits, and discourge and dispower bad ones, right? It discusses the "Habit (Feedback) Loop."
Examples of a Habit Loop:
Problem phase 1. Cue: Your phone buzzes with a new text message. 2. Craving: You want to learn the contents of the message. Solution phase 3. Response: You grab your phone and read the text. 4. Reward: You satisfy your craving to read the message. Grabbing your phone becomes associated with your phone buzzing.
Problem phase 1. Cue: You are answering emails. 2. Craving: You begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed by work. You want to feel in control. Solution phase 3. Response: You bite your nails. 4. Reward: You satisfy your craving to reduce stress. Biting your nails becomes associated with answering email.
Problem phase 1. Cue: You wake up. 2. Craving: You want to feel alert. Solution phase. 3. Response: You drink a cup of tea. 4. Reward: You satisfy your craving to feel alert. Drinking tea becomes associated with waking up. You get the idea. Mr. Clear suggests in his book to invert these laws to learn how to break a bad habit.
But my favorite technique in the book is something called "Habit Stacking." Habit stacking is a special form of an implementation intention. Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit. This method, which was created by BJ Fogg as part of his Tiny Habits program, can be used to design an obvious cue for nearly any habit. The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
For example: Meditation. After I pour my cup of tea each morning, I will meditate for one minute. Exercise. After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes. Gratitude. After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.
The key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next—a positive version of what is called the "Diderot Effect." Your morning routine habit stack might look like this: After I pour my morning cup of tea, I will meditate for sixty seconds. After I meditate for sixty seconds, I will write my to-do list for the day. After I write my to-do list for the day, I will immediately begin my first task.
Well, that is about it for my book review. Go out and get your copy today! I hope you enjoy it and learn some new good habits to implement right away!
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