Welcome to the Lizzie Book Review for Atomic Habits by James Clear.
All Lizzie Book Reviews are a 3 minute read, and in this format:
- Why I Chose This Book.
- The Review (under 300 words).
- My scores for Creativity, Insight and Precision.
1. Why I Chose This Book.
Many conversations I have involve people wanting to change behaviours. We know that our behaviour are a series of habits pulled together. These are the things that we know so well we do without thinking about. Doing more of some and doing less of others is generally what we aim to do. Drawn to this book to build on this and to see what simple practical tips that can be applied. I wasn’t disappointed.
QUOTE: “…to become the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity” p36
2. The Review.
Although much of what James Clear talks about you might find obvious, how much of it you take notice of on a day to day basis is questionable. Most people want to change a behaviour or start something new. He explains the importance of recognising your identity. How this shapes us in our conscious and unconscious thought. Your habits are your behaviour and your behaviour is your identity. These can be positive compounding like productivity, knowledge and relationships versus negative including stress and negative thoughts. He shares the process of behaviour as cues, craving, response and reward and emphasises importance of the system or environment you are in to shape this.
The book has nuggets of practical application like how to take action.
Firstly, starting with awareness, notice time spent on this behaviour and saying the behaviour out loud. Then, labelling what you did was good or bad. This can be followed with:
“Does this behaviour help me to become the person I wish to be?”
“Does this behaviour cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” p66
When to start. We know that it is easy to put it off until tomorrow. Create a first day that fits the calendar like the start of the week, month or year. But once you get going or as I would say the ball gets rolling it creates a spiral effect of momentum. (Diderot Effect, p73). If you add a new behaviour to a current habit it makes it easier. For example, when you sit down to eat supper say something that you are grateful for. If you want to take more exercise. When you get home, you swap office shoes for gym shoes change and go.
To simplify things James created 4 Laws for habits to create new ‘good’ behaviours:
1. Make it obvious (cue) Just like the Japanese rail system, point and call out obviously things like when the train is leaving the platform and the lights change.
2. Make it Attractive (craving) Dopamine is the brain chemical that feeds our habits. Make it pleasurable and connect it with another pleasurable habit. E.g. watching Netflix and going on a stationary bike.
3. Make it easy (response) Friction prevents habits from forming. Have the gym shoes ready, the vegetables pre-cut, join a tribe like Park Run. Another way is how you label what you do from “I have to” to “Get to”..bed earlier, gym, park run. Use friction to stop bad habits too place the biscuit tin out or reach or only take to the table what your new habit or identity would.
4. Make it satisfying (reward) Have immediate gratification or its very hard to create the habit. Anything however large can work.
And the antidote or how to stop bad habits are:
1. Make it invisible – if you cant get work done. Leave your phone next door. Leave the biscuit tin out of reach or best still don’t buy them in the first place.
2. Make it unattractive – Reframe what you are doing by showing the benefits of not doing your ‘old habit’.
3. Make it difficult – Add some steps to the process. If you cant stop playing games then unplug everything each time. Take apps off your phone so it’s not as convenient.
4. Make it unsatisfying- Get an accountability partner. Create a habit contract that is shared. Making the cost of not committing to the new habit publicly humiliating.
Like all mastery we read about, it is practice that gets us there. So I’m afraid this book doesn’t come with a magic wand as its repetition that will get you there.
And when you are there. You need to be careful though. There is a need to evolve.
We know when we have cracked the next behaviour or habit there can be a tendency to get stuck in a rut. This is the point when there is a need to evolve. So when you start to feel comfortable with your new identity you can avoid complacency through system (environment) reflection and review. Keep on your toes.
QUOTE: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate” p62
3. My scores for Creativity, Insight and Precision.
CREATIVITY – How interesting and innovative was it?
With simple ways to apply.
Supported by well known facts about what influences us and our brains. Brought to the conscious the things that affect what we do and why we do it. The sequence of events to a behaviour and the need to be attentive to these.
CREATIVITY SCORE: 8/10
INSIGHT – What will it teach you?
Consciousness is key.
The system or environment are influential.
Work on things that are on the edge of your current abilities.
Its simple but you need to be conscious of what is happening, do the behaviour through deliberate conscious practice to form mastery. Mastery will only continue when you avoid complacency through system (environment) reflection and review.
INSIGHT SCORE: 7/10
PRECISION – How exactly can you apply what it teaches?
With system reflection and review.
This book has simple tips and tools that will support you building your and your team(s) by not ‘merely reinforcing current habit’.
PRECISION SCORE: 7/10
OVERALL SCORE: 22 / 30
“If you are having trouble changing your habits. The problem isn’t you its your system” p252