Do you ever wonder why…
You start off your day a certain way- with a cup of coffee or soda or water…
You always take a specific route to work...
You have a hard time stopping after one episode when you start watching Netflix series...
If you pause and look at your routine and habits, I'm sure you’ll find that there are things you do everyday, some intentional and some unconscious. The point is, we all have a daily routine and set of habits that are either serving us or hindering us to become the person we aspire to be. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear is a fantastic resource to understand the science behind our behavior and how we can use it to our advantage.
Here are 7 key takeaways, I have implemented from the book:
Focus on the identify
Change is hard! Research data shows that approximately 80%-90% of the people who lose weight eventually gain it back. James Clear shares an awesome model to understand the reasons for this behavior and why we slide back once we achieve something. He shares that change happens at 3 levels: Outcomes, Process and Identity. The problem is that the change that comes from focusing on outcomes (weight loss in the above example) is short-term and we lose motivation once a goal or an outcome is achieved. If you only focus on the process, you might lose the motivation to be consistent. The focus should be on changing your identity- the type of person you want to become. So, in this instance, the focus should be on identifying yourself as a healthy person and making choices that align with your new identity.
Habit Stacking and Implementation Intention
Let me start by saying that these are my favorite techniques for building long lasting habits. They are so simple to implement, yet so effective! Habit stacking is simply tying your desired behavior with existing behavior. Implementation intention means being very specific with your intention. If your intention is to workout, implementation intention means you schedule your workouts and know exactly when and where you will exercise. Here’s how I leveraged these techniques. I am very passionate about personal growth and development and a few years ago I decided to invest in my growth on a daily basis by reading books and listening to podcasts. Initially, it was hard for me to stick with it until I used these two techniques- I combined listening to podcasts with my daily commute to and from work. I talked about this strategy in the Leading Yourself podcast hosted by my friend Carolina De Arriba. She has 3 additional guests on the podcast sharing their takeaways as well. Don’t miss it, check it out!
Align your environment
“Behavior is a function of the person and the environment” - Kurt Lewin
It’s so true that motivation can only take you so far! Our environment matters a lot! Once you know where you’re headed ( the person you want to become i.e identity), it’s important to align your environment accordingly. A few years ago, I decided to reduce dairy intake and initially struggled with it as we would always have dairy products in our refrigerator. It became so much easier to reduce dairy intake when I changed the environment and stopped bringing it in. Reducing dairy became so much easier when I aligned my environment to support my habit.
As stated in the book, another great strategy to make a habit stick is by making it attractive. Ever notice that when you are working on a critical project, it’s not always reaching the end goal that excites you but it’s also the anticipation of the success you’re working so hard to achieve? Well, this strategy takes advantage of that human behavior. It works really well when paired with habit stacking. With this strategy you pair a habit you want to do with a habit you need to do. For example, I would pair a habit I need to do (read a book) with a habit I want to do (have coffee).
“You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” Jim Rohn
In order to form lasting habits that align with the person you want to become, you should leverage communities that align with your aspirations. According to the author, we should join a culture where the desired behavior is the normal behavior and you have something in common with the group. Interested in improving leadership skills and learn from other women?- join a women's resource group at work or perhaps a local women in leadership circle.
2 minute rule
This is a great hack to avoid procrastination! James Clear states that habits are the entry point and not the end point. So, we master the entry point and we are on the right path! Any new habit you are trying to incorporate, break it down to the first 2 minutes. If you want to start meditation in the morning, mediate for 2 minutes first and slowly build up to 10 minutes. The key is to standardize before we optimize. It’s not how much we meditate in a day but rather the repetition or frequency of how often we meditate that matters most in forming a habit.
Reflect and review
Over a period of time once habits are formed, the dark side of habits is that it can hold us back and set us up to doing things a certain way. Hence, it’s vital to set aside time and space to reflect and review if the habits continue to serve us. We should also continue to enhance our habits and add deliberate actions to achieve excellence. If working out 30 minutes a day has become a part of your routine, perhaps you add additional time or perform a more challenging workout to keep it interesting.
Are you ready to transform your life with one small change at a time? Implement these small habit change tactics, focus on the identity of the person you want to become. Don’t wait, read the book or listen on Audible to get a deeper dive!