People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions
This is a recommended book for all Building Better Business Book Club Members.
William Buist –
Resilience is always about doing the right thing in the circumstances and when we habitually do the right thing we will always be more resilient. In what has become a seminal work on habit formation James Clear explains the mechanisms by which habits are formed. Readers quickly learn why bad habits tend to stick and good habits need work.
That provides a context (and a clarity of the consequences of habits) that frames the model for habit formation that he goes on to detail. (Make it obvious; make it attractive; make it easy; and make it satisfying). He also recommends the converse to help break bad habits. (Make it obscure, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying)
Habits define us and are a key part of the identity we have, for other, but perhaps more importantly for ourselves. James Clear highlights that: “The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” This was a powerful realisation, if you have a habit of reading every day, you are a reader, If you take a photograph on every walk you gradually become both a walker and a photographer.
In difficult times our bad habits can come to the fore. Atomic habits shows us that the reward for a bad habit is instant, a beer when you get in from work is a pleasure, but a beer, followed by another, every day over years can be a problem. A trip to the gym every day for a week won’t make you lean and healthy, more likely it makes you sore. This is where James Clear’s advice stands out.
He suggests ‘stacking’ habits, so if you already do something regularly add a new behaviour to it so that it becomes regular too. For example, you might make a new habit follow brushing your teeth, or sitting at your desk. Clear is also (ahem) clear that the environment is important. If you leave the biscuits out you will likely take another one, so put them in the tin and put the tin away. If you can’t avoid the pull of social media as a distraction, turn it off, or buy an app that time limits you. Your self control is not failing, you are not failing, you are just being human. Setting the right environment will reset the behaviours and habits you want. How might we apply this to resilience? Resilient people don’t react to the stimulus of stress in the same way as those who are not. They ask questions, they seek out ideas, they engage others, and they plan a course of action that is likely to bring a better future. All of these actions can be habitualised through the small changes that James Clear recommends, and if you do that, you will create a more resilient, more confident identity.