Why did you fail at your New Year's resolutions? Learn the secrets of creating habits.
Most important lessons learned from "Atomic Habits" by James Clear
How do your days look like? #
If your anything like most people (or like me), you often feel sleepy or tired. Instead of exercising or working on your business you sit on the couch and watch Netflix or scroll Facebook. Even when you get some motivation to do something it doesn't last more than a couple of days and you go back to your old life. Your New Year's resolutions are all forgotten in a couple of weeks. Why does it happen?
Atomic Habits #
Most of the habits we try are way too big. At least too big for the first time. You want to get your results fast, and it's silly for you to pick an easy habit. You've heard of 1 push-up habit and make fun of it. Your plan is going to the gym every day. Yet your last try failed after 2 weeks. It was a busy day, and after that, you gave up. You went back to your old life.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Your habits need to be small. Like really small. The maximum time of the habit is 2 minutes. If you can't do the entire habit in 2 minutes then it's too big!
Do you know what's better than affirmations? Doing something every day. Instead of telling yourself "I am a star", spend 2 minutes on picking up your guitar and practicing. The best thing you can do to change your behavior in a big way (but in the long term) is to change what you think about yourself. Repeating obvious lies won't change much, but sticking to something—even really small—Will.
Set Goals? #
Your New Year's resolutions were goals, not habits. Losing weight is not a habit, but a destination. If you want to change you have to change what you do every day.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
Your habits are your systems. Start with something small and treat is a foundation upon which you will change your life.
Benefits of small goals #
- New habit has to be easy. Shorter is always easier.
- If you automate the beginning of your long term habit, e.g. putting your running shoes. In time, you will put them without thinking about it. It will be easier to go running from there.
- It's easier to chain habits if they take a short amount of time. This way you can add more good habits just after your existing ones.
- What's important is not days like in
how many days does it take to form a habit, but how many repetitions you did. It's easier to get many repetitions if it takes 2 minutes to make one count.
- 1 push-up won't make you that much healthier, but you want to start thinking about yourself as the person who exercises every day. What's best is that even on the bad days (and they always happen) you can do one push-up and still make this day count. It will be easier to add more exercises in the days when you have more time or energy while sticking to the baseline that's doable every day.
Other important things #
- Your new habit needs to be pleasurable. At least a little. You won't stick to it if it's a total nightmare. Fortunately, you can:
- do something pleasurable just before your new habit to correlate fun with the new behaviour
- do something pleasurable at the same time (e. g. exercise while watching Netflix)
- If you add some other rewards remember that you need to get the reward immediately. You need to convince older parts of your brain that this new thing is really fun.
- Notice your surroundings. Reading the book I realized that I try to write blog posts in the chaotic home environment. It won't happen. Consider changing your surroundings. Move to the new place—it's easier to make a new habit in a new place.
- Try to track your goals. It's not for everyone, but if it's fun to mark the habit on paper or in some app then it can help with your motivation.
It's one of the best books I've read. Highly recommended.
Link to the book page: Atomic Habits
If you want to buy it in Polish then please use my affiliate link: Atomowe nawyki. Drobne zmiany, niezwykłe efekty – James Clear
Update after 2 months #
Looking at my successful and failed habits form the last 2 months I want to emphasize the importance of two methods that worked best for me. They're not entirely separate so it makes sense to think about both of them.
- Implementation intention
- After work goes to the second tram stop. Thanks to that I walk a lot more.
- When going home use the stairs. Because I live on the 6th floor I started moving way more.
- Habit Stacking
- After eating breakfast:
- Clean up
- Take vitamins
- Go to work
Most of my failed habits lack lacked some kind of trigger or previous habit to add them into. I strongly recommend using them when planning your new habits.
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