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Atomic Habits; Newsletter #18

4 Little Wonder Bites 💭

📖 Current Read; Atomic Habits — James Clear

What are habits? Why are they important? What are the key steps in forming habits, and therefore achieving goals? James Clear outlines all these key ideas in his bestseller, Atomic Habits.

To begin, habits are the compound interest of self improvement. This definition is quite wordy and a little complex; habits are just daily activities that you perform almost effortlessly.

They are small activities that are natural to you, they do not involve much friction, and you perform them without strenuous thought. Of course, they do not start out frictionless, you usually have to spend a lot of time grappling with a habit, trying to make it stick. But when you have mastered a habit, with the steps Clear goes on to outline, it becomes effortless, easy almost.

Habits are important as they feed into the rule of time. And if you form good habits, you will improve. As Clear says,

Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.

Time multiples whatever you feed it, so if you feed it good habits, those will compound upon each other, becoming stronger and stronger. All the good habits serve to strengthen each other, and in turn, strengthen you. And so, overtime, you will get better. This brings us back to the earlier, wordy, definition, regarding self improvement. If you stay consistent with good habits, they will compound, and you can reap the benefits.

Habits are also important due to the foundation they provide; if you’re having an off day, you can fall back onto the strong habits you have curated to keep you going.

How do you form strong habits? According to Clear, to create good habits, there are 4 major steps;

  1. Make It Obvious.

Habits, over time, become effortless. They need to be able to be performed without much strenuous thinking. To do that, they have to be obvious. They have to be ever present, so that it would be almost impossible to skip it.

To ensure that they are obvious, and that they do not require much thinking, you can do two things;

The first is to make it small; if you break the challenging habit you want to form in small, easy and achievable parts, it’ll be much easier to get started.

And the second factor is to make it present; put the habit everywhere. If it is everywhere, the friction between you and that habit is minimized.

Say, for example, you want to start eating a little healthier. To make it small, challenge yourself to one less energy drink each day, or to eat one fruit! And to make it present, you can put the fruit bowl out on the table, so that when you walk past, you’re more inclined to grab the fruit.

2. Make It Attractive

It’s unlikely that you will form a strong habit if it doesn’t appeal to you. You need to play to the human desire of aesthetics; make it attractive. There are lots of hard tasks, such as working out or studying, that we have to do, but often look pretty boring and difficult. Try make those things pleasurable!

This can be done, for example, by changing the environment, so that the place of work is somewhere you actually enjoy being.

3. Make It Easy

The less friction between you and the habit, the more likely you will complete it.

If you set yourself an incredibly hard task, and offer no support, you’ll likely struggle, potentially even give up with the habit. But if you set yourself something manageable, small, atomic, you’ll be more inclined to give it a go, and more likely to succeed!

Make it so easy that to skip the habit would be almost embarrasing.

4. Make It Immediately Satisfying

As humans, the majority of us prefer instant gratification; the process of immediately receiving a reward after we accomplish a hard task. Play to that instinct, reward yourself each time you complete the habit! If you get a feeling of joy after you perform the habit, you’re more likely to want to perform it again, to relive that same joy.

In essence, forming habits are key. They are the foundation to success and improvement. They are atomic, effortless, attractive activities that we can implement into our daily life, almost on autopilot. Ensure that you build good habits, and time will work in your favour.

🎧 Current Podcast; Mark Lost His Productivity! — Know What I’m Saying?

This episode was released in mid January, the time where many struggle. Most of us are still in ‘vacation mode’, where work is the last thing we want to do. We know that we have to get back into the grind, yet it isn’t so easy to sprint after a long time away, and Mark, one of the podcast hosts, was feeling that struggle.

Mark realised that he simply wasn’t working as he used to. He had lost the flow, and wasn’t on top of things as he wanted to be. He also knew that this was an obstacle he could beat, so the first thing he asked himself was,

‘What changed?’

In getting back on track, finding the point where you wandered off the track is key. If you know where things went wrong, its much easier to correct it, and improve. You can go to the point where it went wrong, and create an action plan to prevent it.

For Mark, he was stuck in vacation mode. Taking time off for Christmas caused his productivity to falter, as he was still in the fun, party mode, even though he knew he had projects to complete. The other host, Connor, has also experienced that type of thing, where he fell off track and was wrapped into vacation mode.

One thing, slightly extreme but that does have benefits, that Connor did to bring himself back on track was to be extremely strict and disciplined. He put himself in a position where procrastination wasn’t an option.

He realised that his problem was giving himself slack, saying things along the lines of, ‘I didn’t go to the gym today, but I can go tomorrow, it’s fine’. For him, this turned into a bad habit that compounded. Each time he said that it was fine, and he cut himself slack, there was less chance he’d actually go to the gym, or do the hard task, and skipping it became the norm.

And so, he took dramatic action to regain that productivity, by completely shutting out the option for procrastination, and doing the opposite of what his mind told him to do.

Any time his brain would tell him that it was okay to skip on that study session, etc, he would go entirely the opposite way. He would block out the noise of the brain, and do the opposite of what it was telling him to do. This meant that the only option for him was to do that hard task. He even took what his brain was telling him and challenged it into the hard task!

This helped him regain productivity, for there was no alternative; he put himself in situations where there was no opportunity to do anything else, where skipping, procrastinating etc is not an option.

If you are truly struggling with productivity and getting things done, put yourself in a position where there is no alternative; you can only do the hard task.

Idea Of The Week 💭

Focus on How Many Seeds You Plant

What constitutes a seed? In short, anything that pushes you out of the comfort zone and challenges you is a seed. It is something that encourages you to go that little bit further, that pushes you to improve!

It can be something such as ‘read one non fiction book’ or ‘meditate for 10 minutes’, it just has to be something that encourages growth.

With these seeds, focus on planting as many of them as you can. At any time, in any place, on any day. If there’s a chance to plant that seed, go ahead and do it.

Forgo any fear of failure, and forgo any desire to look for results. The key is to simply plant them, and encourage them to blossom.

The more of the seeds you plant, the more of a chance that some of then will sprout. Each seed has the potential to sprout, but the more you plant, the higher the chance.

It has been famously said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take; you miss the success of all the seeds that you don’t plant.

The second part of planting the seeds, and this is the one caveat, is that you have to be consistent. You have to show up for yourself, you have to plant and water those seeds day in and day out. If you do so, over time, they will compound, and blossom into beauty.

Stick with it, and don’t focus on the harvest, the results. Just focus on planting the seeds, and they will compound into great things.

Tweet of the Week ✍🏻

The Rooms Razor

If you have a choice between entering two rooms, choose the room where you are more likely to be the dumbest one in the room.

Once you are in the room, talk less and listen more.

Bad for your ego, great for your growth.

Too many of us have the desire to be the smartest in the room. We want others to look up to us and praise us, and it all stems from the innate desire to be important.

Yet, have you considered that trying to be the smartest in the room was actually harmful for your growth?

If you are always the smartest, there’s less of a chance for you to learn! You are the one with the most knowledge, so ways of advancement are limited.

Instead, choose the room in which you lack intelligence.

To begin, it’ll be scary, maybe even embarrassing, and definitely harmful for your ego.

However, surrounding yourself with those who have more detailed and advanced knowledge is infinitely more beneficial for your growth. Take time to listen to them, absorb their knowledge, and you will improve.

To end, here’s a question from me! ⚡️

How can you exploit the simplicities?

Sports writer Andy Benoit has outlined this in the way that geniuses work,

“Most geniuses — especially those who lead others — prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.”

Thanks for reading!

Sam. 😆

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Sam M

Sam M

happiness in all areas of life. student 👨🏻‍🎓. 2 weekly newsletters, daily stoic meditations + occasional articles and book summaries.