I just finished reading ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. It caught my eye because of its mostly five star reviews. The topic of habits never excited me before. My big ‘ah ha’ is we are our habits. By this I mean our habits drive our behavior. When you consider most of our habits are unconscious, they drive what we do and who we are. It reminds me of the story of the rider and the elephant. The rider believes they are in control but the elephant will do what it wants to do regardless of the rider. In our case, the rider is our conscious mind, the elephant is our unconscious mind.
Habits represent 1% improvements
If we work on developing good habits and gradually eliminate bad ones, we will continuously improve. And better has no finish line. 1% improvements add up over time, and this is what our habits represent. They are the small things that in aggregate make a big difference.
So how do we change our habits? It starts with understanding our habit patterns. James Clear describes four habit stages.
- The Cue – This is what we experience that triggers the habit.
- The Craving – Following the experience we are motivated to take action.
- The Response- This represents the action we take.
- The Reward – The satisfying feeling after taking action.
The very good news about habits
Habits are easily developed, especially if the reward is strong. That can be good or bad. Many of our bad habits developed subconsciously and they have become stronger with repetition. The good news is we can just as easily develop good habits if we set up the above cycle.
I’ll talk more about how to develop positive habits in another blog. For now, the best starting point is to notice our habits. Creating a habit inventory is a powerful way to start to understand the forces driving us. If we see these then we give ourselves the option to choose to change them. If we are blind, the possibility is not available to us.
What habits are serving you well and which ones are limiting you from leading the life you are seeking?