Forming Healthy Habits

October 12, 2023

Healthy habits are the basis for success in any field, from becoming a world-class athlete or businessman to reaching your academic potential. Such habits are not magically built overnight, but require a select number of steps to be implemented most efficiently. The book Atomic Habits by James Clear outlines the four main steps required to adopt any practice, those being making it: obvious, easy, attractive, and satisfying.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Making it obvious:

The easiest way to make a habit obvious is to connect it with a pre-existing habit. This can be done through the creation of a habit stack.

With habit stacking, all you say is: After [current habit], I will [new habit]. For example:

● After I pour my morning coffee, I will read the news for 1 minute

● After I get into bed, I will read for 5 minutes

● When I start to [make myself a plate of food], I will put vegetables on first

Making it easy:

In order to build a habit, you need first to start off small and then build up progressively. James Clear uses the term ‘ Habit Shaping’ to explain how to work your way up to big goals. You simply take a goal (which we’ll identify shortly) and break it down into a series of smaller habits that will lead there. This is the case as it is inhuman to, for example, want to start reading for 2 hours if you are not used to reading before.

Forming Healthy Habits Chart

Making it attractive:

Humans are naturally drawn to activities that provide immediate pleasure and satisfaction. Therefore, in order to create a long-lasting habit, you should make it as attractive as possible. This can be done by rewarding yourself after completing a habit or by pairing it with something you already enjoy.

Use Temptation Bundling:

This technique involves pairing an enjoyable activity with a habit you want to cultivate. For example, listening to your favourite podcast only while exercising can make working out more attractive.

Making it Satisfying:

Clear argues that the more satisfying an experience is, the more likely you are to repeat it. This means that in order to try to pursue a habit actively, you need to make it as satisfying as possible—however, Clear cautions against rewards that directly contradict your new habit. So, ice cream wouldn’t be a good reward for eating a healthy meal. But it could be a fine reward for reading more books, making sales calls, or any non-health-related goal. You can achieve this by:

Celebrating Small Wins:

Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, even if they seem insignificant. Celebrating small milestones can create a positive feedback loop that keeps you motivated.

Using Immediate Rewards:

Make sure there is an immediate payoff for completing a habit. This provides a sense of satisfaction and reinforces the behaviour. For example, if you’re trying to read more, reward yourself with a small treat afterwards.

Avoid Breaking the Chain:

Maintain a streak of successful habit completions. The longer the chain, the more satisfying it becomes to keep it unbroken, which can help reinforce the habit.

I wish you the best in your journey to create good habits and recommend that you read AtomicHabits in order to get an even greater understanding of the process.