When people ask me questions about health and well-being I can normally give some kind of (hopefully) helpful answer. I’ve spent a long time studying and thinking about these topics, and I generally have some thoughts.
But one thing people often ask me about where I don’t really have anything useful to say is about habits: How to make good ones and break bad ones. This is not something I have known much about – until now.
James Clear’s book Atomic Habits is a lovely, easy to read and extremely practical book all about the making and breaking of habits. It has loads of tips and advice, including lots of things you can do with minimal effort to help to develop good habits or break unwanted ones. The tag-line for the book is ‘Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results’ and I reckon that’s not far off the mark.
The book includes chapters on
- The best ways to start a new habit
- Why motivation is over-rated
- The importance of environment
- Finding and fixing the causes of bad habits
- How to stop procrastinating
- and more…
He really covers the topic from all angles from the mindset and psychology that underpins habits through to simple ‘hacks’ that you can apply straight away. The book is based on the scientific evidence on the topic, and Clear will sometimes desribe experiments that have been carried out in the field, but he keeps it interesting and the book never becomes dense.
Habits are, of course, extremely important in our lives, and we all have them. They can be helpful, or they can be destructive. And they’re powerful – habits, by definition, don’t require much thought. You just do them. And you probably do them regularly. The habit to brush your teeth every morning and night is simple, easy, only takes a couple of minutes and requires no conscious thought or willpower. But done consistently, it stops your teeth from going rotten and falling out: it’s a small thing, but with big, important results.
On the other hand, the habit of always having a biscuit with a cup of tea – also simple, easy, quick, and requiring no conscious thought or willpower – that will also have results over the long term, but maybe not the ones you want!
Being aware of our habits is one thing, but changing them is another, and that’s where Atomic Habits comes in. I have personally introduced a few of the techniques in the book into my own life and found them super-helpful. I hope you will too.