the minutia of a life make it whole. the little things we do complete the big things. the biblical book of Acts describes a vocation, saying, “The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day (2:46).”
2018 revealed to me a niche within Lifestyle and Business learning: Productivity and Habit Change. As a keystone (albeit unconscious- we’ll get to that) part of my life, it is inevitable we dig in. James Clear’s, Atomic Habits, and Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habits have brought change within reach by simplifying tenets and methods. Here, we examine Clear…
start small and build
- The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
The journey is long, the skyscraper tall. We can try to take a giant bite, but the elephant won’t be eaten unless you take it one bite at a time.
Habits are the tool to parse change. The thesis of Clear’s book is this: “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick to them for years.”
This is the basis of Malcolm Gladwell’s, 10k hour rule (the minimum quota to become an expert in something) and a key factor in creating change.
prep your environment
One of the easiest steps in habit change and pursuing a life you really want, altering the space you occupy can be a massive change that rewires your neural pathways (the roadways of our brain that become ingrained with patterns- called habits- that we follow routinely and effortlessly).
Moving your phone charger away from your nightstand (or, dare I say it, out of your room) and leaving a book in its stead can begin a reading habit.
Clear talks about how environment is the “invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” He writes, “the most common form of change is not internal, but external: we are changed by the world around us.”
Jerry Seinfeld notoriously popularized the practice of marking each day on a calendar with an ‘X’ to track, and continue, a writing practice. This is an internally motivating way of forcing a habit, and one that works for certain people.
For those habits (or people) that require flexibility, Minimalist filmmaker, Matt D’Avella, simply created a rule of habit that allows a break, misstep, or cheat-day in your rhythms. Requiring that you never miss 2 days in a row creates a sense of urgency and activity for your habit after missing a day. This can be paired with negative reinforcement when missing consecutive days and can lead to great success for those calendar-minded many!
change your mindset
While Clear’s following statement is true, another precept stands: “The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.” Clear refers to outcome-based habits and identity-based habits.
Focusing on what you want to achieve (outcome) will lead to “behavior that is incongruent with the self”, while finding who you want to become (identity) will make change that is intrinsic and permanent.
A last note about the indomitably optimistic: we can never discount the power of positive thought in behavioral or organizational change. Expect to fail, and failure comes knocking. See change, and you can create a tidal wave.
James Clear, Atomic Habits.
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit.