Atomic Habits Chapter 3

Welcome to the last chapter of The Fundamentals. Here we get into Clear’s view on habits.

Idea 1: Why your brain likes habits

Habits are automatic behavior.

Here’s a quoted quote from Jason Hreha that sums up habits nicely:

“Habits are, simply, reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment.”

Habits save you and your brain a whole heap of work. How much is 4 x 8? You probably have that memorized. You recalled the answer without needing to solve the problem. That’s what habits do.

Idea 2: James Clear’s 4-part pattern

Clear’s habit pattern is a slightly expanded version of Charles Duhigg’s 3-step pattern in the Power of Habit. (This isn’t a secret. Clear says that he’s expanding on Duhigg’s work.)

Duhigg’s version:

  1. Cue
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

Clear’s version:

  1. Cue – a trigger for your brain that is directly tied to a reward through programing
  2. Craving – the transformation of the trigger into desire
  3. Response – you do the thing
  4. Reward – you feel good – that’s how your brain programs itself

I’m not sold on Craving being its own step. And I’m not sure what to do with Reward. I know it’s the key player when you have a bad habit that’s hard to change. But I also can think of scenarios where the habit is nothing more than Cue and Response.

We’ll see if and how my views change when we get to the actual sections of the book.

Idea 3: the 4 laws of behavior change

This should get your wheels turning. These are Clear’s Four Laws of Behavior Change.

There are actually 8 laws because each of the 4 has a reversed version to use against bad habits.

  1. Make it obvious / invisible.
  2. Make it attractive / unattractive.
  3. Make it easy / difficult.
  4. Make it satisfying / unsatisfying.

Key takeaways and implementation

We’re still in the pre-work stage. Start looking at the habits you have. What are the cues that trigger the habits?

Spend some time thinking about the habits that have failed. Did you violate any of the laws of behavior change?

Additional thoughts

This sounds a lot like the rider and the elephant analogy. (It was originally used by Jonathan Haidt and popularized and popularized by the Heath brothers in their book Switch: How to change things when change is hard.)

The idea is that the rational part of your brain is the rider and the emotional part of the brain is the elephant. The rider is in control as long as he has the energy to fight the elephant and the elephant is mostly cooperative. When the elephant is out of control, there’s nothing the rider can do.

The Heath brothers added a powerful twist.

What happens when the elephant and the rider come to a fork in the road and want to go in different directions? The elephant always wins.

But what if:

  • there was no fork in the road?
  • the elephant’s path was scary or gloomy or otherwise unattractive?
  • the driver’s path had more enjoyable features?
  • there was a third path that was a compromise?

I could keep going, but I’d rather get to the point:

We’re not limited to being the driver. We can play god and shape our environment to make it easier to make the right decisions.

The environment is a third player. And this player is your secret weapon.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Author: James Clear
Amazon rating: 4.8
Amazon price: $14.99
Amazon data gathered on 1Oct2020
Review status: In progress

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