Atomic Habits: Become Aware (Part 2)

This is the second week of exploring the book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.

In the first part, the book focused on why habits form, break, and impact your life in major ways. In the next part, we get to work by first becoming aware of habits and cues.

Become Aware of Your Habits

Before you can change your habits, you need to become aware of them.

The concept might seem straightforward, but the implementation can be surprisingly challenging. Many of our actions are performed subconsciously, making them difficult to recognize and evaluate. The solution? Verbalization. By articulating your actions as you perform them, you bring them from the subconscious into the conscious. For example, saying out loud, “I am getting out of bed to get coffee,” helps pinpoint a routine action that might otherwise go unnoticed. This practice of verbalizing your activities serves as a form of self-observation, allowing you to become a detached analyst of your own behavior.

Awareness is more than just observation; it’s about understanding the frequency, triggers, and outcomes of your habits. It requires patience and honesty, especially when confronting habits that may not align with your goals or self-image. This initial step of awareness is crucial for setting the stage for meaningful change. Without recognizing the habits that shape your daily life, it’s impossible to accurately target or modify them.

Become Aware of Cues

Cues are what lead you to take action. You might not even notice them, but something triggers you to do something. James Clear describes cues as “silent conductors” orchestrating our actions. Understanding these cues is essential for anyone looking to reshape their habits, as they are the first domino in the chain of behavior.

Cues can be anything: the smell of coffee brewing, the sight of your running shoes, the sound of an alarm clock. They can be environmental or emotional, tangible or abstract. But they all share a common trait: they signal to our brain to initiate a behavior. For example, the mere sight of a remote control on the couch might be all it takes to prompt an unplanned TV-watching session. The challenge lies in identifying these triggers, as they are often deeply ingrained in our routines and surroundings.

Becoming aware of cues requires a blend of observation and introspection. Start by reflecting on your habitual responses and what precedes them. What environment are you in? What time is it? How do you feel? These questions can help unearth the cues that lead to automatic behaviors. Once identified, you can begin to alter your environment to reduce negative cues and introduce positive ones. For instance, hiding the remote control can remove the visual cue that encourages TV watching, while placing a book in its place can create a new cue for reading.

Create New Environments

Our environment, which could be your house, workplace, or school, contains our cues. New environments can be particularly conducive to forming new habits because they lack the established cues that trigger old behaviors. This explains why people often find it easier to adopt new behaviors while on vacation or after moving to a new house. By understanding and manipulating cues, you can design an environment that fosters positive habits and discourages negative ones.

Breaking bad habits starts with making their cues invisible, removing the triggers from your surroundings, and thereby disrupting the cycle of habitual action.

Habit Stacking

Once you’ve become aware of your habits and the cues that trigger them, the next step in your journey towards self-improvement is to build new, positive habits. One of the most effective strategies from the book “Habit Stacking.” This method involves integrating new habits into your existing routine by pairing them with established ones. This technique leverages the momentum and familiarity of your current behaviors to naturally introduce new actions without overwhelming your daily routine.

Habit Stacking?

Here’s how you can stack habits. Start by identifying a current habit with its cue, then add on a new behavior you want to adopt. For example, if you already have a habit of drinking a cup of coffee every morning, you could stack a new habit of meditating for five minutes immediately after you start brewing your coffee. The existing habit provides a built-in cue for the new habit, creating a seamless transition between the two. This not only makes it easier to remember the new habit but also embeds it into the fabric of your daily life.

The cool thing about habit stacking lies in its flexibility and adaptability. It can be applied to virtually any scenario and tailored to fit any schedule. This is something that YOU (I mean ME) can do right now.

Checking In

How’s your progress?

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