Atomic Habits is my favorite self-help book. I strongly believe that this is one of the core books that you can build your entire life as a productive human around. James Clear’s simple and to the point approach with Atomic Habits lays the ground work on what you can do NOW, to inch forward in your hero’s journey. I constantly caught myself stopping in the middle of reading in a orgasmic epiphany of “Ohhhhh I need to do that right now” or “as soon as I finish this page I will change such and such…”. In the book, Clear breaks down the habit mechanism into four distinct phases: 1.cue, 2.craving, 3.response, 4.reward. In existential terms, these phases fall under a problem phase and a solution phase. With cue and craving acting as a reminder that you’re not “good”enough and feel suboptimal, and response and reward phase a mechanism to obtain a hit of the feel good chemical we self-help junkies have became all too familiar with…dopamine. As a matter of fact, I feel my dopamine levels surge as I write this book review. Yay, i’m contributing to society(I hope I get laid), to some capacity, hopefully.
But back to the topic at hand. How these phases play out in real life could look something like the following. You scroll through you instagram feed(Cue), you feel anxious because it seems like everyone else’s life is awesome and your sitting there in your mother’s basement or some instagram model has bigger boobies than you and now you’re insecure so you want to alleviate the internal tension(Craving), you reach for your pipe that you hid in a orange Nike sneaker box and fumble through your underwear drawer trying to find your friend Marie. J. Wanna(Her family comes from Gaelic roots). You set her on fire(terrible friend you are) and inhale the smoke of Marie J’s body into your lungs(you sick SOB)(Response). Now you lay there numb, looking half Chinese(I can make those jokes i’m Chinese) feeling nothing except an intense craving for Taco bell, or in my case Burger King. I’m a more refined individual if I do say so myself. But you don’t feel that angst anymore(Reward).
So how does Clear think we should combat this. Well I broke the advice into three principals because that made sense for me. The three principles are awareness, proactive laziness, and patience. How are you supposed to fix something you don’t even know is broken? Well, this is where awareness kicks in. We have a goal in mind and anything that deviates us from achieving our goals we can generally define as a “bad” habit which inevitably follows the cue, craving, response, and reward train. Clear wants you to become aware of the cues that set you up for bad habits, even going as far as to literally say out loud “I am doing *insert self sabotage*”. With that clarity you can now change the unfavorable actions. How you do it? Be “proactively lazy” as James Clear would say.
As humans we have a strong tendency to conserve time and energy. This information is backed by a multitude of selp-help books and I’m sure I can find a couple of peer reviewed studies that also suggests this pattern of behavior, but I’m too damn lazy. So just take my word for it. How does this play out in our lives. Well, it plays out through our habits and behaviors. For example, how often do you piss on the toilet bowl and think to yourself, “Ill just clean it later, and close the lid”. Tis something I am guilty of and I would assume a significant sample size of the male population as well. You act in that sequence of behaviours long enough and soon you’ll find yourself with a toil bowl stained yellow and a very angry female companion. Yet, it isn’t your fault in one way of looking at it. You are on autopilot. You are barely conscious of what you are doing because your caveman/cavewoman brain wants you to save that mental capital and will power, in order for you to gather resources and avoid sabertooth tigers. Which brings me to my next point, we also have limited will power. Every-time you make a conscious decision to do or not do do something, your store of mental capital for the day decreases by a little bit. Thats why at the end of a long day in the office, you catch a glance at the Uber eats app and Netflix remote and the next thing you know your down 40 dollars on Thai food, and its 4am with Joe Exotic running for office. You feel a regret creep in the back of your mind whispering *you lazy piece of s#*t*. However, you are not at the mercy of your thai food Joe exotic loving caveman brain. You can actually use this mechanism to help you. Take one day out of your schedule, maybe Sunday and Saturday and free up a block of 2 to 4 hours. In that time period you want to write out the habits that you want to engage in. Next write out the SPECIFIC time you will complete said habit. You can stack one habit after another, a term Clear coined as habit stacking. In that time period you will also re-arrange and prepare your environment to make it so you exert the least amount of willpower as possible while you take action on your habits. For example, I fill up my water bottle the night before hand and set it next to my alarm which is a significant distance away from my bed, just so I can swig water immediately after I turn off my alarm in order to wake up fully. I also prepare coffee the night before and put it in the refrigerator so I can just grab it and drink while I plan my day out on a whiteboard. As soon as I write out my last task on the whiteboard, I set my timer and sit down to meditate… you get the idea. Moral of the story, MAKE LIFE EASY FOR YOURSELF! You will however have to exert some effort in the front end on planning and organizing your space/week. But like a rocket blasting off into orbit, you use the most fuel in the beginning after you are out of Earth’s orbit you glide through space gracefully. 0 effort.
Now that you have committed to the habit forming process, you just got to be patient. As Clear said in his book, there will always be a lag time between your habits and results. Clear compares this process to a bamboo tree, which spends 3 to 5 years underground before it suddenly shoots up growing at cartoonish speeds. Seemingly overnight, the once frail bamboo grows into a large panda snack. So if you are already on your journey to better habits, stick f*@king with it. Say you have been hitting the gym hard for 4 months and see no significant gains. You’re sore and mentally fatigued, but dog gone it you are gonna continue to go. Good for you, keep going, because before you know it the six pack gods will endow you with cheese grater where your stomach once was. If you’re female reader, your booty will soon be poppin, and you will be the royal and triumphant voluptuous bottom heroine that society needs but doesn’t deserve. If you are just beginning you journey of building better habits, think long-term. Think of it as a lifestyle, like you are in this for the long-run. You won’t get the results you are looking for after a month. Maybe even after a year. But you will get to that place, where you will thank yourself for not quitting.
All in all, James Clear’s Atomic Habits is a must read. I highly recommend you reading it because you will solidify the concepts further into you brain. By reading you are also telling yourself that you are serious about changing, and willing invest something into yourself. this will give you some skin in the game providing the emotional leverage needed for follow through. If you read this far and are a fan of my writing, I wanted to let you know I also do free lance copywriting work for businesses, email me if you want to discuss further(shameless plug).
Until next time,
Mind Man aka Mind Guy aka Squidward