By Rebecca Francis, Contributing Blogger
I used start a morning workout routine every year. “Ugh. I have to fall asleep!” I’d say as I scrolled through social media to unwind. “If I hurry and fall asleep, I can get up early to workout.” The alarm would go off. I would feel groggy. The bed would feel warm. Why was I making myself get up early, anyway? Tomorrow would have been an easier day for this. “It’s okay. I’ll get to bed early tonight.”
If you’ve ever struggled to keep a healthy lifestyle change, the problem probably isn’t you.
Change can be hard, but according to Atomic Habits, most our failed attempts aren’t due to lack of willpower or motivation. It isn’t because it comes naturally to someone else, but not to us. And it isn’t because we’re a certain “type” of person. It really comes down to some simple equations. Simple once we can see them, that is.
The Book That Can Teach You To Do (Just About) Anything
Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is an essential self-improvement book for good reason—it teaches us how to recognize what we actually need to change, in order to get the more obvious change we want. And though it’s packed with wisdom, Clear delivers his genius with simplicity. Sure, he uses science and case studies (which I totally geek out over), but it’s his super-practical breakdown that makes this book as easy to apply to your life as it is to read.
The book covers everything from the value of smaller changes over big ones, to how to use what’s already working, to how to leverage your emotions to help create your desired new lifestyle instead of beat yourself up over so-called slips. It helps you capitalize on your surroundings, relationships, and even deepest desires, all to create the change you want. It demystifies the illusive concept of “discipline” and shows how self-control can come from a well-prepared system, not just impressive will power.
But the best part about Atomic Habits is that almost every chapter immediately applies to your day—that same day! You’ll want to read this book with a notepad handy, because each revelation includes practical applications. Your mind will start reeling with tiny changes that will give you big results.
Choose an identity or a process, not just a result.
Speaking of results, that’s exactly one goal Clear rips to shreds. Instead of focusing on specific results, he teaches readers to focus on developing the identity and processes that get those results. This, he says, makes us more likely to maintain the results later, but it also helps us stick it out on our way to first achieving them.
I was always a night person, for example. So each night that I couldn’t fall asleep early reminded me I may not have what it takes to ever have a morning workout routine. But every time I woke up early (even if I played video games instead of going to the gym), I achieved the “result” of waking up early. Taking the first action needed to get the result—rather than the result itself—becomes the win!
Through subtle shifts like this one, Clear teaches how to give yourself satisfying consequences you can control now, which things like the scale or the average mile pace will reflect later on. The wins become daily, and these “quick wins” further enforce the healthy changes you’re trying to make. One result—and it’s a big one, according to Clear—is that as you keep repeating a “good” habit, you see yourself differently.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become,” he says, and he gives you the tools to decide for yourself which actions actually need your attention.
And it works. His basic principles helped this lifelong night person develop a 5:00 AM workout routine… and keep it going since 2018! While I was at it, I applied a couple of tips (chapters 5 and 6) to change from flossing once every six months—you know, just before teeth cleaning—to effortlessly flossing every morning. Religiously. I don’t even notice myself doing it anymore. Now that’s a habit!
Growing in our health and fitness isn’t about fixing our problem areas (cue the end of cellulite shaming). They’re about allowing ourselves to become people who care for ourselves better: body and soul. Atomic Habits can help you achieve whatever “health” and self-care looks like for you.
What’s a habit you’ve tried to create more than once in your lifetime? Comment below.