This Magic Monday, we talk about how to build new habits or transition bad ones into good.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” or so the saying goes. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, would very much disagree with that statement. Clear digs into the science behind how we build our habits, how they work, and what we can do to break undesirable ones and start building our long-term success by making small, everyday changes.
An especially enlightening excerpt from the book describes the analogy of a plane taking off from Los Angeles on route to New York. If the pilot decided to adjust course just 3.5 degrees to the South after takeoff, while no one outside the cockpit would notice the change, confused passengers would arrive at the end of their cross-country flight in Washington, DC, not New York!
In the same way, one does not naturally wake up and run a marathon — unless you’re Errol Yudelman on our Boston team. But even Errol at one point had to work up to it in daily increments. A tiny change in your behavior will not transform your life overnight. However, if you turn that action into a habit you perform every day, it can lead to significant changes.
So, how do you do it?
Clear suggests a few tips to help you build desirable habits today:
Habit tracking – Keep a log of the habits you notice yourself performing daily, so you notice patterns, desirable or undesirable, and start from there.
Habit stacking – Do you want to introduce a new practice, such as meditation, but struggle to find the time? Stacking it onto a habit you already perform, such as committing to meditation after drinking your usual morning coffee, is a way to build on the natural momentum of your existing habit to start creating change.
Environment change – I think we can all attest to the fact that if we see unhealthy snacks, we will all eat them. But if we change what we can see, maybe display a bowl of apples instead, we can adjust that visual trigger and the effects of our habitual response. You can apply this principle to many different scenarios.
Again, it can start small! As with the airplane analogy, a small difference over time can have a huge impact. What are some small habits you’d like to start introducing into your routine today?