I learned a LOT about habits by reading James Clear’s blog. He has heaps of great posts on his site, but if I were to pick one, it is this: Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year. The gist is that: Building good habits and changing ourselves for better is all about our identity (what we believe of ourselves and who we try to become), not performance (the actions we take) or appearance (what others say about us). Performance and appearance are great, but for habits to last, they should start from within, from your identity, from what kind of person you think you are. This powerful idea changed me for better over the last few years.
James recently delivered a great talk in which he talks about the power of small habits. Check it out here. It is about 25 minutes and is very well worth your time.
Following are my notes from that talk.
Aggregation of marginal gains.
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
Good habits make your time ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
Framework for forming better habits.
Four stages of habit formation: Noticing, Wanting, Doing and Liking.
Stage 1: Noticing
Action step: Have a plan
Stage 2: Wanting
Design environment for encouraging good behaviors.
Put more steps between you and bad behaviors. Fewer steps between you and good behaviors.
Stage 3: Doing
Quantity vs quality. Put in the reps.
Repetitions matter. Iterations matter.
David Allen of GTD’s 2 min rule.
Put all energy into starting. It is all about milestones. Optimize for start line, not finish line.
Stage 4: Liking
The only reason we repeat behaviors is because you enjoy them.
Good habits have a problem: cost at the moment but reward is delayed. Bad habits : reward at the moment but consequence is delayed.
Figure how to bring reward into present moment: Seinfeld strategy of building the chain of actions.
The best way to change the long-term behavior is to act on the short-term feedback. You need a way to enjoy the moment. Don’t break the chain. Never miss twice.
Why habits are so important? The ship of Theseus. Change happens habit by habit: Evolution; Not Revolution.
It is all about identity: the actions you take provide evidence to who you are.
Over a broad span of time actions you do once or twice fade away. Actions you do for the bulk amount of time day after day week after week accumulate the bulk of the evidence of what you believe of yourself. Every action you take is a vote for the type of the person you wish to become.
You don’t need to be perfect all the time. You just need to have the body of good work.
True Change is not behavior or results or process change, but it is Identity Change.
The goal is not to read a book; but to become a reader.
The goal is not to write a book; but to become a writer.
The goal is not to run a marathon; but to become a runner.
The way to become someone is by doing something. Your identity emerges from the type of habits you have. It is about getting you to believe something.