The psychology behind habits. This week I started reading the book… | by Amaanath Mumtaz | Sep, 2021


Amaanath Mumtaz

This week I started reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

I’ve completed reading the “Fundamentals” section so far and it mainly talks about the psychology behind habit formation and what are habits.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far from this book — Is, habits can be changed, it requires an effort from the brain and can help you create more freedom in life.

Your habits compound over time to have a huge impact on your life.

I’m no expert, but these are the lessons I’ve learned from the book so far and have started implementing them in my life.

Changes that seem very small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results over time if you stick through.

Figure extracted from the book Atomic Habits from Page 16

In the book, James Clear writes:

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.

Thinking of my current sleep schedule, I know I have a pretty bad schedule. Though I have not started acting towards making a change, I’m happy that I know that I have a problem, because self-awareness is the key towards improvements.

If you’re not self-aware of the problems you have in your life, it could be very tough making changes and improving yourself, so I would recommend spending some time with yourself, note how each day of yours goes by, and list down all the possible improvements you can make and from there start taking a small action step by step.

This is where “The Power of Atomic Habits” kicks in — Many of us think that once we’re self-aware of our situation, we need to change everything with immediate effect. It might make you feel happy for a few days or week, but that change is gonna make you feel burned out very soon, unless you’re badass.

That’s why small improvements are the key to long-term success.

In my scenario, it all started with me staying up late one night, which continued the next day and on for over a month — That’s how habits are built.

Habit ≠ Great Lifestyle
Habits compounded over time = Great Lifestyle

When you start making a change in your daily habits, you’re going to go through different phases. In the early and middle stages of any change, there is the Valley of Disappointment.

You expect to see results too soon.

That’s not how it works.

Did you expect that sleeping late one night would make you a night owl? No.

The same goes for sleeping early a day, it won’t make you an early bird 😉

If you think about entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, they were once just like you and me, maybe a little more organized and disciplined, but nobody paid attention to them.

All of a sudden they were considered overnight successes and everyone starts talking about them.

You and me could be one of those overnight successes that come in the next 5–10 years.

Keep working hard, have the patience, and realize that success doesn’t come overnight, but rather it is the compound of all the hard work, good habits for years that make you an overnight success.

Figure extracted from the book Atomic Habits from Page 30

Everyone who’s thinking or working towards betterment but feels like they’re not making any progress is stuck in this loop where their habits shape their identity and their identity shapes their habit.

(It’s confusing but you’ll understand in a moment, I promise!)

Figure extracted from the book Atomic Habits from Page 31

In the above conversation, both of them are working towards quitting smoke. One considers himself as someone who’s trying to quit and the other considers himself as a non-smoker.

You might feel guilty when one day you decide to wake up in the morning and you consider yourself an early bird, but as James Clear says in Chapter 2:

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

“New identities require new evidence. If you keep casting the same votes you’ve always cast, you’re going to get the same results you’ve always had. If nothing changes, nothing is going to change.”

This reminded me of an instance where I considered myself — I’m terrible at numbers.

I was at this Marketing Meeting a week ago and the CEO asked me for some numbers on our email marketing (Open rates, click-through rates, etc. — Don’t worry about the jargon) and I struggled to answer them — I thought to myself “I’m really bad with my numbers.” and that shaped me to be in that position.

If I had considered myself as someone who’s good with numbers, I wouldn’t have been there struggling.

So I decided to change my identity — Now I consider myself as someone who’s good with numbers and each action I take, I ask myself — What would a person who’s good with his numbers do before a marketing meeting? What would he do every time he sends out an email? And then act upon it.

You have the power to change your beliefs about yourself, which eventually leads to a change in identity.

Figure extracted from the book Atomic Habits from Page 49

Habits are simply mental shortcuts learned from experience.

It’s like a bot that’s created within the human brain that helps you with automating tasks, so you don’t have to be making decisions all the time.

Here’s why habits are so important:

“Habit formation is incredibly useful because the conscious mind is the bottleneck of the brain. It can only pay attention to one problem at a time. As a result, your brain is always working to preserve your conscious attention for whatever task is most essential. Whenever possible, the conscious mind likes to pawn off tasks to the nonconscious mind to do it automatically. This is precisely what happens when a habit is formed. Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks.”

Habits can help improve your focus.

Once you have your day-to-day activities on autopilot, your brain can focus and put more energy into the work that matters, than spending time thinking about what to eat, what to do when you wake up, should I exercise or not? etc.

Habits create freedom.

When you have good financial habits, you will succeed financially. When you have good health habits, you will have the energy to do the work. When you have good learning habits, you will always be developing yourself and your skills.

Habits are formed in 4 steps: cue, craving, response, reward.

Cue — The indication of a reward aka satisfaction.

Craving — The motivational force to take action to attain the reward.

Response — The habit you perform, which can either be a thought or an action.

Reward — The end goal of the habit.

Habits are formed because they satisfy your craving. It goes both ways for the good and bad habits. That’s why it’s difficult to break bad habits.

Your brain keeps convincing you to do it because it makes you feel happy and makes you feel satisfied. If you can figure a way to make you feel unsatisfied and make it difficult to do it, little by little you’re going to break out of the bad habit.

Over the coming weeks, I’m gonna write more articles breaking down each section — Cue, craving, response, and reward.

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