Three Big Ideas from Atomic Habits
I’ve been wanting to sit down and write about this book for a while now. I keep waiting for the “perfect” time. But truthfully, right now, in this season - the “perfect” time does not exist. What message do I want to share? I was so jacked up about this book while I was reading it, yet now - weeks later - am I even incorporating any of the strategies to make my habits happier? Was it just another personal development book that I read and I love, but still do not use in my everyday life? Let’s reflect, shall we?
The book, itself, was structured so amazingly. There was a great mix of stories, research & diagrams that allowed my brain to take it all in! As I read through the book, I thought mostly about my poor nutrition habits. Racooning*, giving in to temptations too often, telling myself that it’s ‘hard’. None of these things serve my body well, yet, I continue to do them. My true self doesn’t want that third bowl of ice cream. My tired self reaches for it as if it’s the only thing in the world that will make her less tired. Tired Shannon just needs a damn nap - or a good 6 hour stretch of sleep - cannot WAIT for that!! #newbornmomlife. I also thought about my Dad and his smoking habit he’s giving up - or trying to give up - I haven’t heard an update on that recently! Anyways - moving on.
As I started flipping through the book to refresh my memory of what I loved about it, I realized there is just WAY too much to share in one post. So this is dedicated to THE BIG THREE. The umbrella ideas, ah-has, the overarching way to think about habits. Here we go.
First - the author talks about ENVIRONMENT being the main thing that influences habits.
“The most powerful of all human sensory abilities is vision. Some experts estimate that half of the brain’s resources are used on vision. Given that we are more dependent on vision than on any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior. For this reason, a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do.”
Here are a few ways I’ve worked this tip:
1. It’s inevitable that Drew will order pizza almost every weekend. I take my pieces and as soon as we are done eating, I put the leftovers away - in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge. If it were up to Drew, he’d probably leave it out all day. If it’s left out in plain sight, I’m likely to grab a piece or two even if I’m no longer hungry.
2. I’ve been trying to figure out what my relationship with God looks like in this sleepless season of life. I leave my devotional, journal and bible out - either in the living room or Hollis’ room - prompting me to pick it up. Sometimes leaving it out reminds me that God is more important than the dirty dishes or pile of laundry.
Going a step further on that one - the author points out that we need to pay attention to OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR ENVIRONMENT. For example - to one person, their couch could be a place where they relax with a hot cup of tea and a book. To another, their couch is a place where they binge on Netflix and ice cream for hours. The couch is the environment. The relationship is fueling either a better or worse version of yourself.
Next - The layers of behavior change and the idea of making your habits your IDENTITY.
“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”
The book gave this example:
“Imagine two people resisting a cigarette. When offered a smoke, the first person says, ‘No Thanks. I’m trying to quit.’ The second person declines by saying, ‘No thanks. I’m not a smoker’.
The first person still believes they are a smoker and they are trying to be something that they are not. The second person no longer identifies as someone who smokes. So rather than asking yourself what outcome you desire - try asking yourself WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE? Are you becoming the type of person you want to become?
Sometimes I’ll put this into action with my affirmations.
I am a woman of God.
I am an amazing mother and wife.
I am the type of person who pushes past her false beliefs and helps others do the same through coaching.
All of these things automatically send my brain into brainstorm mode and I think “How does a woman of God act? What can I do for my family today that makes me an amazing mother and wife? How can I encourage myself and others today?”
The last of THE BIG THREE, my friends, blew my mind. GOALS vs. SYSTEMS. Basically my entire life the world has told me “Get clear on your goals! Write your goals down and keep them visible. Focus on your goals. Goals. Goals. Goals.”
What does James Clear say??
FORGET ABOUT GOALS. FOCUS ON SYSTEMS INSTEAD.
Excuse me? What??
Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.
Someone who says they want to lose 20 pounds can’t simply achieve that goal just by thinking about it all the time. It’s way too easy to fall back into bad habits. How many people actually want to workout? And how many people don’t want cookies? Like. Seriously. When you ‘fall off track’ it’s not because you are a failure. It’s not because you don’t want it bad enough. It’s probably because something about your system is flawed.
“If you completely ignored your goals and focused on your system, would you still succeed?”
If you’ve actually made it through this long-ass post, perhaps you’re geeking out with me and now you want the book! You can get it here!
Next up - I’m gonna geek out more and share some Atomic Tid-Bits. A few of the smaller strategies I tried out!
*racooning [ ra-koon-ing ] verb : The act of rummaging through your cabinets to put together any sort of sugary concoction you can come up with and eating anything and everything you can find.