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This chapter shows us how to remove willpower from the habit cycle.
James Clear discusses 2 approaches to making “good habits inevitable”: automation and onetime choices that shape the environment.
Remember the rider and elephant analogy? Short version: You’re the rider. The elephant is your desire. You can control your desires when you have the energy and the desire isn’t too strong. But the easiest way to control the elephant is to control the environment: shape the paths before the elephant gets to them.
This is all about shaping your environment.
Automate what you can – especially things that are a challenge for you. This takes you out of the equation. The elephant doesn’t have a chance to give your problems because it was never involved.
You can’t forget.
You can’t change your mind (in the moment).
You’re not using any willpower. You don’t even have to remember.
Clear also talks about shaping your environment with onetime decisions. His examples include improving your sleep by getting a better mattress or getting your TV out of your bedroom. This is a great example because this can be done by adding something or removing something.
He also mentioned blackout curtains – they’re my best onetime decision for productivity.
There’s a dieting saying that’s a great example of this: you diet at the grocery store. When I had to lose weight, changing the way I ate didn’t work until I changed the way I shopped.
You can make some bad habits impossible. You could remove programs from your phone or computer so they don’t distract you. Clear had his assistant change his social media password every week.
Act when the rider is strong and the elephant is asleep.
It’s easier to make food decisions when you aren’t hungry. It’s easier to make money decisions when you aren’t surfing through Amazon.com.
When you’re full of willpower and motivated, do as much as you can to shape the environment so that you’re set up for success when things get hard.
The main way to implement this is simply looking for points of friction that come up over and over. And then removing the friction. I was distracted by cars driving by my office window so I put up heavy curtains.