So, there's this really cool dude and his name is James Clear.
This guy is the real deal.
He's a Habits MASTER.
James Clear practices what he preaches 110%. He coaches,writes best selling books, and speaks on the topic of habits and the science behind them. He helps people create better habits and ditch bad habits, belief systems and routines that undermine our very existence. These are habits that literally make us sick and seemingly have more control over our lives than we think WE do. He teaches how to design our daily habits so that they eventually create the person you want to be. How flippin cool it that!
Our habits literally create who we are and who we are is the result of our habits. This includes the habits, routines and belief systems that we were born into (our culture), what we learned from our parents, teachers, elders, and peers. These are the ways that we operate that are so deeply embedded in us, that we think, "it's just who I am".
Our habits literally form our identity. Here are a few examples:
"I'm a night owl" - My parents stayed up late, so I do too. I'm wired and tired.
"I can't eat before 7 pm" - I was raised to eat late. I'm 20 lbs. heavier than I want to be.
"I'm a yogi" - I practice yoga every day. I value my health and the teachings of yoga.
"I'm a writer" - I write every day and am working towards my goals.
"I'm someone that feels well rested" - I get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.
"I'm a healthy eater" - I love to cook my own healthy meals 5/7 nights per week.
"I'm a marathon runner" - I train 5 times per week.
Often we want to be a yogi, a writer, a healthy eater, or a more well-rested person, and yet, we struggle to build the habits to actualize this.
To become healthier we need to design our daily life around the habits that build a healthier body, a healthier spirit, healthier relationships, and healthier mental habits.
The first part of this process is to get clear that we are going to need to change some habits and let go of outdated patterns. As I said, many of these patterns are unconscious. The process of making the unconscious conscious and purposeful is the practice of yoga.
Learning how to build better habits into your daily routines is a good time investment and guarantees your success in becoming healthier. The science and strategy behind habit change can give us the tools to become the kind of person who has the habits of the person we want to become!
According to habit change expert, James Clear, the process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps:
1. CUE/ REMINDER-The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior, which leads to the craving.
2. CRAVING- This is the motivational force behind every habit. Without craving a change we have no reason to act. Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state.
3. RESPONSE/ROUTINE- This is the actual HABIT you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. A response delivers a reward.
4. REWARD- The end goal of every habit.
The CUE is about noticing the reward. The CRAVING is about wanting the reward. The RESPONSE is about obtaining the reward.
This applies to ALL habits- the good, bad and the ugly.
Here are a few examples:
The habit of using alcohol when you're stressed out.
1. Cue/ Trigger- You've had a stressful day at work, you come home and want to escape from the day.
2. Craving- Craving for relaxation and escape.
3. Response/ Habit- You pour yourself a glass of wine to relax.
4. Reward- You satisfy your craving with feeling temporarily chilled out and associate relaxation with drinking alcohol.
Here's an example of a healthier habit:
The habit of going to bed earlier.
1. Cue/ Trigger- You set your phone alarm for 8:30 to turn off all screens and start winding down.
2. Craving- To feel well rested.
3. Response/ Habit- You turn off all screens, take a bath and get ready for bed. Your routine may include meditation, journaling, or reading a book. Whatever you love to do to get ready for sleep.
4. Reward- You wake up early, satisfying the craving to feel well rested and energized for your day. You associate going to bed early with waking up feeling great.
The habit of checking technology.
1. Cue/Trigger- Your phone buzzes with a new text.
2. Craving- You want to learn the contents of the message.
3. Response/ Habit- You grab your phone and read the text.
4. Reward- You satisfy your craving to read the message. Grabbing your phone becomes associated with your phone buzzing.
Changing habits is not usually easy, as many of our habits have been with us for years. However, when we can really wrap our heads around the mechanics of HOW habits are formed, THEN we can reverse engineer them, and create the better habits that support us, not diminish us, in becoming the person we want to be.
Often, we desperately want to have better habits. We want to feel better, live healthier lives and ditch habits that don't serve us. Yet still, we fail to make the changes that we know would have an impact on our lives and overall well-being for the long term. As humans, we are creatures of habit, even if those habits make us sick, hinder us from living into our greatest potential or even disrupt our relationships...the list goes on.
There are so many reasons/ excuses that stop us from changing our habits.
A few examples are:
• It's too hard.
• I might fail.
• I don't have the discipline.
• It'll upset the people I live with.
• I'm scared to change because my life will be different...even if I'm not happy, it's what's familiar.
• I'll actually have to show up MORE in my life. It's been easy to sit on the sidelines
• Fill in the blank_________________________________________________________.
It can feel difficult to keep good habits going for more than a few days, even with sincere effort and occasional bursts of motivation. Habits like exercise, meditation, cooking, going to bed early, are reasonable for a few days than become a hassle. However it seems that once your habits are established they seem to stick around, especially the unwanted ones. Even though we have good intentions, the unhealthy habits of eating junk food, staying up late, drinking wine at night, or procrastinating can seem impossible to break.
James Clear, in his best selling book, “Atomic Habits”, says that the reason that changing habits is challenging is that A. we try to change the wrong thing B. we try to change our habits in the wrong way.
He says our first mistake is that we try to change the wrong thing. He says there are 3 levels that change can occur. Think of them as layers of an onion.
The first layer is changing your outcomes. This layer is about changing your results: losing weight, sleeping 8 hours, mediating daily, quitting smoking, publishing a book, making more money. Most of the goals we set are associated with this level of change.
The second layer is changing your process. This level is about changing your habits and systems: implementing a routine at the gym, developing a mediation practice, decluttering your desk for better work flow. Most the habits you build are associated with this level.
The third and deepest layer is changing your identity. This level is about changing your beliefs : your worldview, self image, your judgements about yourself and others. Most of the beliefs, assumptions and biases are associated with this level. Identity is about what you believe.
Most people try to change their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads to out-come based habits. Instead, what we want to focus on is identity based habits. When we do this our focus is on WHO do we wish to become?
He uses the example of two people trying to quit smoking. When offered a cigarette one person says, “No thank you, I’m trying to quit”. The other person says, “No thanks, I’m not a smoker”. The first person still believes they are a smoker who is trying to be something else. The second person no longer identifies with being a smoker.
This is a very different way to look at making changes in our lives. Most people think for example, “I want to be thin (outcome) and if I stick with this diet I will be thin (process).” They set goals, and determine the actions they should take to achieve those goals without considering the beliefs that drive their actions. They never shift the way they look at themselves and they don’t realize that their old identity can sabotage their new plans for change. This is often why someone that loses weight, gains it back soon after.
There is always a set of beliefs and assumptions that shapes our identity behind our habits. You may want better health and to be 20 lbs. lighter but if you continue to prioritize comfort over accomplishment, you’ll be drawn to relaxing rather than training. It’s hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behavior.
The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say, I’m the kind of person who wants this. It’s another thing to say, I’m the kind of person who is this. If you’ve decided to quit drinking alcohol and you’ve managed to do it through willpower alone (which is not very reliable or recommended) and you’ve begun to see and feel the changes in your body, your mental clarity and in your overall health, there is a pride that you feel. You may feel like you glow and people have commented, you may have lost 10 lbs, you may be feeling more confident in yourself for taking control of a habit that you may have felt out of control with. You feel proud of yourself for quitting drinking thus making it easier to maintain the habits associated with it. If you’re proud of your tight abs. you’ll never skip a workout. If you’re proud of how your hair looks, you’ll develop a medley of habits to care for and maintain it.
True behavior change is identity change. Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits. You might start a habit out of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with it, is that it becomes part of your identity.
Anyone can convince themselves to eat healthy or work out a few times a week, but if you don’t shift the belief behind the behavior, then it’s hard to stick to long- term changes. The goal is not to read a book, it’s to become a reader. The goal is not to run a marathon, it’s to become a runner. The goal is not to learn an instrument, it’s to become a musician. The goal is not to lose 20 lbs. it’s to become a healthier more vibrant person.
First we start to look at WHO WE WANT TO BECOME NEXT. What is the new identity that we are desiring? Then we ask, what are the habits of that person? When we can see which habits we WANT to have to make the changes in our lives that we want to see THEN we can map out the steps to get us there. Changing our identity is not easy, so when we can get crystal clear on our WHAT & WHY behind our desires for change it’s like having a rocket in your pocket.
Making the changes we want to see in our lives takes work, courage and a willingness to CHANGE. Having a community of other people that are also making awesome changes in their lives is KEY to success. When we have accountability, structure, support, cheerleading and guidance- our success rate goes through the roof (studies have proven we're 80% + more likely to reach our goals when we do it in a group, than trying to go it alone). Joining a dynamic group like my “Be BOLD & THRIVE” - 10- week habit changing and healthy living course, gives you the structure and support to make the changes you’re ready to make.
My next blog will be on “How our environment creates and supports our habits and identity”.
That’s it for now.