This is part two of a series of posts on habit change. Make sure to read the first post, The Art of Self-Discipline. I will explore the different disciplines to help unlock the power of the 1% effect: harnessing small habits for big changes. The inspiration for this post came from the book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Habits. I have a love/hate relationship with them. The good ones require energy, discipline and consistency. The bad ones, they are easy to establish and difficult to break. They are like Cousin Eddie from Christmas vacation, they always show up, unannounced, ready to disrupt any good plans you have. They are unashamed and persistent, much like Cousin Eddie.
Take heart, there are tried and true ways to establish good habits that stick and ways to break the bad ones. As a result you will unlock the power of the 1% effect and learn to harness small habits for big changes. Continue reading and take action to rid yourself of all the Cousin Eddie’s in your life!
What is the 1% Effect?
The 1% effect of habit change refers to the idea that making small, incremental changes to a habit can lead to significant improvements over time. The concept is based on the idea that small, consistent changes are more sustainable and easier to stick to than big, drastic changes. By making small changes to a habit, such as reducing the amount of sugar in your coffee by 1%, or walking for an extra minute each day, you can gradually build up to larger changes and achieve your goals over time.
How to Build Atomic Habits?
“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” is a book by James Clear that explains how small changes in behavior can lead to big results. The book is based on the idea that habits are the compound interest of self-improvement and that small improvements in habits can lead to significant long-term gains.
Clear explains that the key to building better habits is to make them small and easy to do, so that they can be repeated consistently. He also emphasizes the importance of creating an environment that supports the habits you want to build, rather than one that makes it harder to maintain them.
Clear introduces the concept of “atomic habits” which are defined as small, incremental changes that are easy to implement and maintain, but that add up over time to create big results.
What is Habit Stacking?
He also introduces the idea of “habit stacking,” which is the practice of using existing habits as a cue to create new ones.
The basic idea behind habit stacking is to take an existing habit that you already do regularly and “stack” a new habit on top of it.
The Habit Stacking Formula
Clear suggests following a simple formula called “habit stack” to implement this, which consists of three parts:
- The cue: a specific time or trigger that reminds you to perform the habit.
- The routine: the new habit you want to build.
- The reward: the benefit you receive from the new habit.
For example, if you want to develop the habit of reading for 30 minutes before bed, you might use the cue of brushing your teeth, the routine of reading for 30 minutes, and the reward of feeling more relaxed before sleep.
Another example, if you hate flossing your teeth (everyone does), stack it with your daily shower. Leave the floss in the shower as a reminder.
My brother-in-law has built the habit of riding the stationary bike. Personally, I hate to do cardio indoors. How did he do it? He stacked something he enjoyed doing along with it. He played one game of Madden during the bike session. To this day he still has this habit!
The idea is that by linking the new habit to an existing one, it becomes easier to remember to do it and it becomes more likely to stick.
What is the Habit Loop?
Another important concept is “habit loop” which is the cue-craving-response-reward cycle that governs our behavior. By identifying this loop and manipulating it, we can change the way our brain reacts to certain cues, making it easier to adopt new habits. There is a lot of overlap between the habit loop and habit stacking.
The habit loop is a concept that refers to the three-step process that underlies all habits:
- Cue: This is the trigger that initiates the habit, it could be a certain time of day, a certain location, an emotional state, or anything else that prompts you to perform the habit.
- Routine: This is the habit itself, the action or behavior that you perform.
- Reward: This is the benefit or outcome you receive from performing the habit.
According to Clear, habits are formed when the brain begins to associate the cue with the routine and the reward. The more you repeat this cycle, the stronger the connection becomes, and the more automatic the habit becomes.
Clear suggest that by understanding the habit loop, you can use it to your advantage to create new habits or to change existing ones by identifying the cue and reward of the habit you want to change and experimenting with different routines until you find one that sticks.
Also, it’s important to note that not all habits have a clear reward, some of them are formed because of the cue and the routine itself, but as it’s repeated, the brain starts to associate the habit with a sense of accomplishment, comfort or other internal rewards.
Breaking Bad: How to Break the Bad Habit
The book also covers the process of breaking bad habits, which Clear believes can be achieved by reversing the four laws of behavior change: identity, cue, craving, reward.
In the following list are several strategies from the book for breaking bad habits and forming new ones:
- Inversion: Instead of focusing on what you want to do, focus on what you want to avoid. For example, instead of trying to find time to exercise, make a list of the things that typically get in the way of exercise and come up with a plan to avoid them.
- Make it invisible: Make it harder for the cue to trigger the habit by removing the cue from your environment. For example, if you want to break the habit of snacking on junk food, remove it from your house.
- Make it unattractive: Reduce the reward associated with the habit by making it less appealing. For example, if you want to break the habit of procrastinating, make a list of the negative consequences of procrastination.
- Make it difficult: Increase the friction associated with the habit by making it harder to do. For example, if you want to break the habit of checking your phone too often, put your phone in another room or put it on airplane mode.
- Create a new identity: Instead of focusing on breaking the bad habit, focus on creating a new identity. For example, if you want to become a non-smoker, start thinking of yourself as a non-smoker instead of someone who is trying to quit smoking.
It’s important to note that breaking a habit is not a one-time event, it’s a process that requires patience and persistence, and it’s not always easy. Clear suggests that when trying to break a habit, it’s important to be kind and compassionate to yourself and to remember that progress is progress, even if it’s small.
Overall, the book encourages readers to focus on small, incremental changes and to be patient with the process of habit formation. Clear argues that the key to success is making a plan and sticking to it over time, and explains how anyone can use the principles of atomic habits to improve their lives.
Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.George Washington Carver
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.Jim Ryun