Habits: Make it Easier to do the Right Thing (and Harder not to!)

I’m currently reading James Clear’s, Atomic Habits; a book that I’m both really enjoying and also getting a lot out of.

In the past, habits were something that I rarely thought about. When I thought about what I wanted to change and improve in myself, my focus was unconsciously pointed towards me – my failing in character and personality. Self-improvement therefore, went hand-in-hand with a feeling that I, as I was, was somehow lacking; not enough.

Nowadays, my focus is on habits and behaviour. I know that I am enough, failings and all; that if there’s something I don’t like about myself, it’s likely the result of a habit. This is a much more comfortable perspective from the viewpoint of self-worth, but also in terms of looking to make changes.

i.e. you don’t need to change who you are… you just need to change your habits.

Still, it’s easier said than done, right? Especially if that habit is something that you’ve unconsciously spent years – decades even – repeating.

Of course, there are lots of different strategies to consider when changing habits, but here’s a really basic one that James mentions, a strategy that’s been working for me over the last few years:

Make it easier to do the right thing and harder not to.

Case in point – my Six-Minute Diary – something that I’ve been using for a few years now, writing for 3 minutes in the morning and 3 at night. Gratitude, kindness, intentions and all that jazz. I love it, but in the first few months, I was really hit and miss at actually filling it out.

So what did I do? I set about moving the diary each day, as a routine. In the morning, I fill it out and leave it on top of my made bed, which means that when it’s time for sleep, I actually have to have the diary in my hand in order to get into bed. When I’ve finished, I place the diary on top of my workout clothes outside the bedroom door, so again, I both see it and have to have it in my hand before I get dressed. This little change in habit has caused led me to consistently write in my diary (and truly reap the benefits ) for years now.

In his book, James Clear talks about the principal of the least effort, built upon the truth that human beings will usually choose the easier, most comfortable, most efficient way of doing things. I mean… of course – we’re wired to seek comfort!

Knowing this, we might have some success in making it harder, and more uncomfortable to make poor choices, and easier and more comfortable to make good ones.

 

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