Atomic Habits by James Clear
There are probably a million books on habits and even more articles on them. Unfortunately, I haven't found the time to read them all, but fortunately for me, that may not be necessary. James Clear's Atomic Habits has been a fabulous influence on my life. I'll share a bit of what I enjoyed most about his book and then I've attached my notes form the book as a file available for download. Obviously the notes do not replace reading the book and if you haven't guessed already, I highly recommend reading or listening to the book.
The first thing I love about his book is what he talks about upfront: habits and behaviors are that much more successfully implemented when we see them as a part of our identity, someone we are or want to become. If we try to implement a habit or behavior simply because we "should," it doesn't stick very well. Nor does it stick well if we try to implement a habit or behavior to achieve a specific goal (say running a marathon or losing 10 lbs), because as soon as the goal is achieved our brain moves on or doesn't know why it's continuing to move forward with the habit or behavior.
You will likely see me talk about this again and again and again in videos, articles, posts, etc. because it is constantly a "thing" for us. So, if I stay on this topic and in the context of James Clear, he writes that habits created around an identity we want to embody are the ones that stick. If you start to exercises so you can call yourself an athlete, if you quit smoking so you can call yourself a non-smoker, if you lose weight so you can call yourself a role model for your children. These are the identities that enable habits to stick better. The marathons and the lost ten pounds are the milestones along the way to becoming an athlete or role model for children.
Tied to this, I enjoyed how Clear talks about the significance of habits. Many people see habits as a way to create the identity referenced above: a person who gets up at 4am, who reads every day, who runs 40 miles a week, etc. As stated above, these are fabulous things, especially when the identity is something you really value and find meaning in. However, habits are critical for us because of all the mental space they create. The more actions you can make habits, the less your brain needs to think about those things and can focus on other, likely more important, decisions or items in your life. If you have a morning where you automatically get up, walk the dog, run, shower, make breakfast, meditate, journal, read the news; all without any internal arguments or decisions needing to be made, your brain can spend all of that time ruminating on what you want to do with your life, how to complete that complex analysis, what to say in that big presentation, how to approach that person on that difficult conversation you want to have with them. Not only do habits allow you to complete those specific actions more easily and with more efficiency, they actually enable more in your life.
The rest of the book is set up in such a simple and straightforward way, it's not only an easy read but it's easy to start looking for opportunities as you read. One of the struggles I find with some self-help/improvement books is that you almost feel like you have to get to the end of the book to start implementing the author's advice. Then, once you've got to the end, you need to go back and track down all your flagged pages or notes to start implementing what he or she spoke about upfront. Clear's book isn't like that. While you could wait until the end so you have all the details about his four steps, you don't need to do that. He tells you enough about the four steps so you can focus on step one, making the habit obvious, as soon as you're making your way through that section. We can all put our gym clothes by the bed or door so that we put them on as soon as we wake up or return home from the day. We can all make tweaks in our environment to better enable the habit we are trying to kick off.