Building a habit

Of late I haven’t been reading personality development books too much as most of the times these books are contradictory to each other, that rules out the universal applicability of these texts; thus often ending up leaving their readers in quandary. Few weeks back, I came across a short review written on an online newsletter about the book, “Atomic Habits” written by James Clear. Being a chemistry student myself, word ,”Atomic” mentioned in the title of the book tempted me to have this book, as most of the chemistry rotates around the smallest particle of matter called “ATOM”. Thus without a second thought, I ordered this book, unlike my usual dilly dallying in reading texts, I started reading this book without any distraction and ended up finishing its in one go.

In a world full of distractions cultivating a good habit and getting rid of a bad habit has become an important part of our existence, and to learn these lessons about philosophy behind habits, world-renowned habits expert James Clear reveals exactly how minuscule changes like doing two push-ups  a day, waking up five minutes earlier, and reading just one more page, can grow into life altering outcomes – he calls them atomic habits. As per the author, a habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automated. The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward. These fours steps form a backbone behind every habit.

Cue triggers our brain to initiate a behaviour change. Craving is the motivational force behind every habit. Response is an action we tend to take and reward is the end product of every habit. Thus, the cue is about noticing the reward, the craving is about wanting the reward, the response is about obtaining the reward and we tend to chase rewards for satisfying results. This can be understood with a simple case; suppose our phone buzzes with a new text message and we want to check this pop-up message. For this, we need to grab our phone to read it and after reading the message suppose we end up smiling. In the above case, buzzing of a phone is our cue, grabbing the phone to open a message is our craving, reading a message is our response and smile on reading a message is our reward.

So, if we want to create a good habit, we have to make our cue VISIBLE, our craving ATTRACTIVE, our response EASY and our reward SATISFYING. For example, if we want to build a book reading habit, for this to happen our cue i.e. books should be visible, for this we should keep our books in our visible range so that they are always tempting us to read them, like keeping them on bed, sofa and table etc. Next step is to make craving attractive, for this we can add attractive bookmarks in our book so that we can easily keep a track of our reading or we can create an attractive ambience for reading. Next is our response i.e. reading and for response to be easy, we have to keep our books in hand pick range while sitting or by our bed side while trying to sleep, so we don’t have to look for books to read. Last is the reward and for a reward to be satisfying we have to read the book as the per situation or our mood, that will certainly lead to satisfying reward.

Now if we want to get rid of a bad habit, we have to do opposite of what we have done in the case of creating good habits; means we have to make our cue INVISIBLE, craving UNATTRACTIVE, response DIFFICULT and reward UNSATISFYING. Suppose if we want to get rid of bad habit like digital slavery or addiction to smart phones, for this to happen we have to keep our cue i.e. smartphone invisible by keeping it out of reach or by hiding it so that it isn’t tempting. Next for a craving to be unattractive we have to keep on reminding ourselves that by constantly fiddling with smartphone without any reason one tends to get nothing good so that our craving for smartphones gets subdued with time and we no longer develop this craving. Next for our response to be difficult, we need to remove our face or finger unlocks and instead having a strong twelve-digit password which includes capital letters, small letters, numbers and special character’s. So whenever we start unlocking  our phone via this password, we will have to spend ten to fifteen seconds for unlocking phone, this way our response will be difficult and we will stop unlocking our phone frequently, because for shorter emotional relief our brain hates to type this complex password regularly and last for reward to be unsatisfying we should delete time wasting apps like social networking aps. and if one is more addicted to smartphone it is better to keep screen mode in grey scale.

Along the way, author narrates inspiring stories of Olympic gold medallists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientists who have used the science of atomic habits to stay productive, motivated and happy. Author reveals a handful of simple hacks like, forgotten art of habit stacking, trick to entering the Goldilocks zone etc. Overall the book talks about small changes that will have transformative effect on your career, your relationship and your life.