Atomic Habits by James Clear

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I came across the book Atomic Habits by James Clear when I was looking to learn more about setting and achieving goals. Like many people, I had no problem creating goals but struggled to achieve them. I even thought there was an issue with the goals I was setting because the success would never last. Eager to be successful, I explored “Atomic Habits”.

An atomic habit is a tiny habit that is part of a larger system. You take a small habit, make it easy to do, and build upon it to achieve remarkable results. The power of 1% is used to compound a tiny habit into a powerful system.

James breaks down building a good habit into 4 Laws:

Atomic Habits First Law
Make it Obvious
Atomic Habits Second Law
Make it Attractive
Atomic Habits Third Law
Make it Easy
Atomic Habits Fourth Law
Make it Satisfying

Let’s see how we could achieve a goal of budgeting by following the 4 laws.

First Law: Make it Obvious

In order for something to be obvious, we have to be aware of it. To change our behavior and build new habits, we have to first be aware of our current behaviors and habits. To discover your current habits, James shares the Habit Scorecard.

In this lesson, I finally understood why I struggled so much with achieving my goals. I never looked into why I wasn’t already doing what my goal was. When we decide we want to budget, we have to discover why we aren’t already budgeting.

Create a concrete plan of action with implementation intentions. An example is “I will REVIEW MY BUDGET at 7:00PM in my bedroom.” Use habit stacking to add your desired habit to an existing habit to make the new habit more obvious. Continuing with the example this would be “After I TAKE A SHOWER, I will REVIEW MY BUDGET.” Last, design your environment to make your desired habit more obvious. One example is to have a chair in the bedroom you sit in for the budget review.

2nd Law: Make it Attractive

We do what is attractive to us because it motivates us. To be successful with a new habit, we have to make it attractive. Most of our habits are imitations of those close to us, those we want to fit in with, or those we admire. The lesson that stuck with me is to join a culture where the desired habit is normal. I’ve heard that you have to associate with the type of people you want to be, but I never looked at this from a habits standpoint. Who we associate with sets our expectation for what’s normal. If we want our habits to change, we have to associate with people who have the habits we want. To be successful budgeting, we have to associate with people who budget successfully. 

3rd Law: Make it Easy

This law is my favorite because it goes against conventional wisdom. Conventionally we think change has to be hard. Who knew we could make it easy? We actually make it hard on ourselves. We spend so much time on planning, strategizing, and learning about our goal. Yet, we fail to take action and start. As a perfectionist, I’m guilty of this at times with the belief I need to know before I can go. We can’t improve on what we never start. So, rather than trying to find the perfect budget and amount for each category. Start and make adjustments as you go. 

My favorite lesson of this law is the Two-Minute Rule. It states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” The idea is to make habits easy to start and create a gateway habit that is built upon to get to the desired habit. So instead of trying to create an entire budget. Start with one category. 

We are lazy and do what is convenient. There is nothing wrong with that when it’s used for us rather than against us. One of the best ways to make laziness and convenience work for us is to automate. So, if we wanted to be successful in budgeting. We could automatically track our transactions with a budget app or software rather than manually document every transaction.

4th Law: Make it Satisfying

This law focuses on making the new habit repeatable. We are more likely to repeat a behavior when it’s satisfying. Making progress is satisfying. James recommends using a habit tracker to track progress. My favorite less for this law is to have an immediate reward for when the habit is completed. We should celebrate our success. If there is no reward, it won’t continue? When budgeting, give yourself fun money and celebrate your successes to make budgeting enjoyable rather than restrictive.

None of us are perfect, and there comes a time when we won’t complete our habit or break the streak. It’s critical to never miss back to back and to get back on track as quick as possible. When we overspend on our budget it’s not a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn, adjust, and improve.

Atomic Habits can transform your life. Goals are the results you want to achieve. Systems are the processes that lead to those results. Focus on results rather than goals and let tiny habits compound for you.



Discover your habits.

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