In the simple yet profound book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear demonstrates the significance that small changes can make in maximizing your potential. He emphasizes the power of getting 1% better each day, and how the results don’t just add up but compound exponentially over time. We are given the Four Laws of Behavior Change, which lay the ground rules for developing good habits and breaking bad ones. The following is a breakdown of these four laws, including what I found to be the most impactful lessons and strategies that anyone could use to take a step closer to becoming the person they strive to be.
The 1st Law: Make it Obvious
- Using a Habits Scorecard, where you list out your habits and give them a rating (positive, negative, or neutral), makes you aware of your habits that you may no longer be conscious of.
- Implementation intention is a strategy where you commit to doing a specific thing at a certain time and location.
- Habit stacking is pairing a new habit with a current habit, so that the current habit reminds you to do the new habit that you want to adopt.
- Habits are initiated by cues, and we pick up most cues from our physical environment. This stresses the importance of designing your environment for success.
Inversion of the 1st Law: Make it Invisible
- People who most would consider to have high self-control tend to simply spend less time in tempting situations.
- Relying on self-control can work in the short term, but is not sustainable.
The 2nd Law: Make it Attractive
- Temptation bundling is the process of combining habits that you want to create with things that you already enjoy. You essentially reward yourself for working on a new habit.
- Cultural norms greatly influence our decision making and habit formation, so we should attempt to join social groups where our desired behavior is the norm.
Inversion of the 2nd Law: Make it Unattractive
- Highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit.
- Create a ‘motivation ritual’ by associating a habit with something you enjoy. For example, if you play the same song before working out every day, eventually you can use the song to whenever you need a boost of energy or motivation.
The 3rd Law: Make it Easy
- Planning and strategizing can be useful, but actions (however small) are what actually bring you closer to your goals
- Time is less important than repetitions when trying to develop a new habit
- Human nature subscribes to the Law of Least Effort, so reduce friction associated with good behaviors.
- Use the Two Minute Rule when trying to adopt a new habit by limiting the habit to less than two minutes.
Inversion of the 3rd Law: Make it Difficult
- Use Commitment Devices by making good choices today that will affect decisions in the future. For example, buying healthy food at the grocery store so that is all you have to cook for the week.
- Use technology to automate productive behavior as much as possible
The 4th Law: Make it Satisfying
- You stick with habits that are immediately rewarding, so try aligning short term rewards with behaviors that are good for your future self.
- Habit tracking is satisfying because it feels like you are making progress on day one.
- Its okay to break a habit streak, but never miss twice
Inversion of the 4th Law: Make it Unsatisfying
- An Accountability Partner makes avoiding a good behavior immediately painful because we care about what others think of us.
Use a Habit Contract, complete with signing your name, to feel more committed to a behavior.