Forming habits to reform your life

The butterfly effect describes the hypothetical phenomenon where a butterfly flapping its wings in South America sparks a chain of increasingly dramatic events ending in a tornado in the Great Plains. It is a term rooted in high-level physics and mathematics that basically describes the way in which small changes in initial conditions can result in drastically different outcomes over an extended period of time. Human behavior is like that as well. Even the smallest change in habits, on the atomic level so to speak, can greatly impact our success in life. In Atomic Habits, James Clear studies the science of habits and how to apply it to your life.

Human beings, like most animals, are highly responsive to stimuli in our environment. We are genetically wired to pursue positive outcomes and avoid negative ones. Accordingly, we can very quickly learn and integrate small, simple tasks that give us a rush of dopamine, of instant gratification. Once a repeated action becomes truly habitual, we do it without even thinking.

For instance, it does not take a lot of conscious effort to make a cup of coffee in the morning, provided that you are a regular coffee drinker. It is just a part of the routine. There is a clear immediate benefit: the increased energy and focus you get from the caffeine. It is very easy to slip into negative habits, such as unhealthy eating, spending too much time on social media, in the same ways. Atomic Habits is all about using this same brain circuitry to form positive, transformative habits that can hugely improve your life in the long run.

One of the books greatest strength is that it conveys its basic concept in a variety of practical, actionable ways. One example is that of “habit stacking.” Say you want to begin the practice of meditating every morning. If you already have the habit of drinking coffee everyday, you can “stack” meditating on top of your coffee drinking. When you drink your morning coffee, you meditate. This is a very natural way of integrating a new habit into your routine.

It is also important to remember that any task, no matter how small or insignificant, if repeated daily can become a transformative habit. In fact, the more specific, the better. Instead of resolving “get more exercise” or “jog everyday,” it’s better to resolve to just put on running gear at a specific time of day, everyday. Anybody can put on their running gear, but once you get the boll rolling you are much more likely to actually workout.

Atomic Habits is a bestseller for good reason. It is well written, engaging, and presents its central concept in such a way that you can immediately put its advice into effect in your personal and professional life.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is available for purchase here.

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