James Clear is an author and speaker specializing in habits, decision making, and continuous improvement. He is a New York Times bestselling author with his book Atomic Habits, a book that has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 50 languages.
Now, the 3 key ideas that we take away from the book are: understanding comes before desire. All habits are based on 4 processes; and how to get one to follow new habits.
The first key explains that desire occurs when we give meaning to a signal.
If we have a why bigger than our how, that’s how we overcome it. If our motivation and desire are great enough, we will do it even when it is difficult. A great desire can lead to great action, even when the conflict is imminent.
Motivation and discipline mean more than intelligence because they encourage you to take action and allow you to move forward. To do something, we must first develop a desire. Emotional appeals are often more effective than rational appeals. Our thoughts and actions are based on what we find attractive and yet logical.
Emotions come before and after action. Feelings motivate us to do something. The reward teaches us to repeat the action in the future:
Cue > Desire (feeling) > Response > Reward (feeling).
The way we feel affects our behavior, and the way we behave affects the way we feel. Desire and pleasure are two things that motivate a person. If it is not desirable, we have no reason to do so. Desire and longing are what initiate behavior. But if we don’t like it, we don’t have to repeat it. Pleasure and satisfaction are what supports a behavior. Feelings of motivation push us to do something. The feeling of success makes us repeat it.
The second key tells us that all habits are based on four steps: the signal, the desire, the response and the reward.
For example, consider the habit of looking at our cell phones. We are working and we feel the need to distract ourselves because we are not enjoying what we are doing. When we feel this, we want to get out of our discomfort, and do something that distracts us, which in this case can be the cell phone.
When we do this we get a reward, we find something that is distracting, something that we like to do. But by doing this, we have associated the feeling of discomfort or boredom with taking out the cell phone. And we combine the act of taking out the cell phone with a reward, and with it we make a stronger connection with a not so favorable habit.
Once we understand this, we will see that the key is to find the signals that make us fall into our habits and replace the habit that we do not want with the one that we want to increase.
Finally, the last key to changing our habits according to the author, says that there are 4 laws that govern the creation and transformation of habits, and each of them is associated with the 4 steps that we mentioned above. First we have to make the new habit we want to implement in our lives obvious and easy. For example, if we want to exercise when we finish working or studying. We must have our sportswear visible, close at hand so that it is easy for us to do the action later. Or, if we want to start eating more fruit, we have to put it more visible in the refrigerator, making it the first thing we see to make us want to eat that fruit.
The next step is to make the habit attractive, for example, we must start with eating the fruit that we like the most; in the beginning it is better to focus on that we can do the habit and not that it is the best possible habit. And when we eat our favorite fruit without thinking about it, we will start adding fruits or vegetables to our meals that are not so much to our liking to form the habit.
Another step to form a new habit is to make it satisfying.
for example, if we want to go to the gym and beforehand we are already thinking that we are going to be tired or that our body will ache, we are already associating going to the gym with pain or tiredness. But if we start doing a little exercise or sport every day, and gradually add it to our routine, we will realize that we are doing everything we want and more.
And finally, create a habit of self-assessment. Every week we have to check with ourselves the progress we have made. It is good to write what we have achieved and what we have not, why and why not, and write everything done. By doing this, we are creating an image that we are a person who does follow the habits we propose to ourselves and over time it will be easier for us to follow our new habits.