How to Build Good Habits and Make Them Stick (4 Steps) - Atomic Habits by James Clear

Pim Meijer

Jun 23, 2019
Hi There,
Short term Lurker on the forums. I'm an avid reader of self-development books of all kinds including productivity. Recently I came across the book: Atomic Habits and I thought I would make a video on it. The video is about the core message of making your environment fit your desired habits.

Video Link:

Here is a Text version if people would like to skip the video:

In James Clear’s new book - Atomic Habits - He makes it clear that goals, shouldn’t be your main focus. What you need is frequent actions and you need systems for these actions to make them stick.
An Atomic habit is a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.
So forget about setting goals, focus on your systems first.
This is the Habit loop: The cue (something that triggers your brain), the Craving (The feeling that the action will deliver), The response is the actual habit you perform, the reward is: creating a reward for yourself and there's a secret one, it's liking this video.
The more you practice this habit loop with any particular habit, the more it becomes automatic.

Step 1: The Cue (Make it obvious)
For good habits, we want to make the Cue obvious and for bad habits, we would want them to be invisible.
For example: If you want to get better at playing guitar, we need something that triggers us to remind us to play the guitar.
One way of doing this is by putting the guitar in the middle of the living room so that your brain gets triggered more often.
And if you realize you watch too much tv and feel that you're wasting too much time. Consider placing the tv in a closet or put it in a separate room where you would go solely to watch tv.
This will make it less likely that you get enticed by the tv when you should really be doing something else.
Another great way to introduce new cues is by creating a habit stack. Habits stacking is simply the act of adding habits before and after each other.
For example: If you shower in the morning, then you could say. After I shower each morning, I will meditate, and after I meditate, I will go for a short walk. In my personal opinion, this is the best way to do your positive habits anyway since this will free up the rest of your day to do anything you want and you won’t be constantly thinking about what you still need to do.

Step 2: The Craving (Make it attractive)
To make the habit stick, it's good to get positive feedback. A good way of doing this is by temptation bundling.
Temptation bundling basically says that you’re more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time.
For example, if you want to watch sports but you need to make sales calls. You could say:
After I get back from lunch break, I will call three potential clients (need).
After I call three potential clients, I will check ESPN (want).
The hope is that eventually, you look forward to calling three clients each day.
The 2nd method you can use to make your craving more attractive is by joining a culture where:
Your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
So if you want to become more well read then you could join a book club. This will hold you accountable in the future, and it will be more fun!
And of course, if you want to break bad habits you want to do the inverse by joining a culture that doesn't endorse your bad habit.

Step 3: The Response (Make it Easy)
Conventional wisdom holds that motivation is the key to change a habit. If we just want it enough then we will change. But the truth is that human behavior follows the Law of Least Effort.
We naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. We can use this to our advantage by creating an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
For the good behaviors, you should reduce friction.
If you want to get fit you could join a gym that is on your route to work. This removes the friction of having to go out of your way to get to a gym.
You could also get your gym kit organized and ready the night before.
For the bad behaviors, you should increase friction.
If you want to watch less television only turn on the TV after you say out loud the name of the program you want to watch. This will stop mindless viewing and switching channels.
The second way of making your response easier is by following the two-minute rule.
Do you want to read more? Read a page a day.
Do you want to write more? Write 10 sentences a day.
There are 2 reasons why the two-minute rule works:

  1. It's a "gateway habit" that naturally leads you down a more productive path.
  2. It reinforces the identity you want to build. If you show up at the gym 7 days a week, even if it's just for 5 minutes, you're becoming the type of person who doesn't miss workouts.
This is a temporary starting block, after a few weeks or months, you will improve this habit by doing more. The key is to cement your habit into your brain.

Step 4: The Reward (Make it Satisfying)
As humans, it can be hard to pick up new habits. This is because the beginning of a new habit is mostly sacrificing without reward.
You go to the gym a few times and nothing changes. It takes months to see real results. So if you want to get a habit to stick, you need to figure out a way to give yourself an immediate reward.
One technique you can use when the reward is long-term is to set up a loyalty system for yourself. For example, imagine you want to give up alcohol. On its own, there is no satisfaction in simply abstaining.
But what if you transferred $25 to your holiday bank account every week you went without alcohol. You’d be immediately rewarding yourself for your new habit.
While the first three steps: make it obvious, attractive, and easy, increase the odds that a behavior will be performed.
The fourth law, make it satisfying, increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated. So reward yourself for a job well done.
If you want to know everything about making habits stick I highly suggest picking up the book: Atomic Habits by James Clear. The link is in the description.

Thank you! I hope this had some value!