The Easiest Way To Make Good Habits Stick [And Break Bad Ones]
I recently finished 'Zero To One.'
It was a great book with some near extreme views - but we're talking about Peter Thiel here so it comes as no surprise (to me at least).
The same day I finished the book, I ordered two new books on Amazon, one of which arrived yesterday.
The book, 'Atomic Habits,' is the book that I am currently reading now.
40 pages in, and I'm starting to think that I may have to update my 'Top 5 Books Every Entrepreneur Must Read' list.
Atomic Habits is a book that describes how small, micro-changes every day can compound into massive wins over the months and years to come.
The author, James Clear, doesn't believe in changing your habits overnight through bursts of motivation or discipline.
Like we've spoken about in the article about breaking bad habits, this is a strategy that never works out in the long run.
Whilst reading this book, however, there was one powerful concept that James mentions that I had forgotten to talk about in either of my articles about habits.
A strategy so powerful, that it alone can lead to life-changing habits when used to leverage good habits.
I have these off-days where I'm demotivated and see the worst in every situation - yesterday was one of those.
"What if I launched my product and no one wants it?"
"What if I can't get anyone to switch from the competition?"
"What if I'm too scared to spend lots on advertising?"
Although I have an article on the '6 Steps To a Profitable Business,' these doubts still creep up on me here and there.
My identity has always been like this and it's hard to change something so strongly instilled within you.
A few weeks ago, I sat down (worrying as usual), thinking about what I want to achieve and how I'll even reach my goals.
So I got a piece of paper out and drew a stick man with an afro (to match my hair).
At the top of this paper, I gave it a title that said 'Character For Transcendence.'
Very dramatic, I know.
What this essentially means, simply, is, the character I need to be in order to reach the goals I want.
These goals are what James Clear describes as the 'outcomes.'
Then, using different colour pens, I started to branch out from the stick man and write something - a 'habit' that this sort of character has.
A few of the habits I had outlined were:
- Constantly improves by 1% per day
- Wakes up between 6am and 8am
- Not afraid to take risks
- Focuses on factors that can be controlled
There were quite a few more, but these were some of the ones I could share here.
In relation to the image above, what I was mentioning above was the 'identity' I need to embody, the person I need to be in order to reach the goals I'm aiming for.
James mentions how many people go into habit-forming in the opposite way.
People have goal-based habits on habit-forming.
These habits would then shift their identities, meaning their beliefs and self-image.
If you've ever tried to reach a goal, you probably know that this strategy rarely ever works, never mind hold up in the long term.
The reason this approach doesn't work, James argues, is because goals are not the reason amazing things happen.
Let's talk about two different entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneur A and entrepreneur B.
Both of these entrepreneurs have the exact same goal, they both want to make $1 million in their respective businesses.
Entrepreneur B has a team of lawnmowers who go around mowing people's lawns.
After 2 years, entrepreneur B crosses $1 million in his business, whilst entrepreneur A is stuck in his habits and afraid to take risks because of a few small failures he had faced.
Was the reason entrepreneur B successful because of his goals?
It's highly unlikely because both of them had the exact same goals.
James argues that it's not the goals that were the deciding factor in entrepreneur B's success, but the habits that he formed as a result of his identity.
See, James believes that in order to successfully make good habits stick, you must first start thinking through an identity-first viewpoint.
You first want to think about who you need to be in order to achieve what you want to achieve - your goals.
This means that you first change your beliefs and self-image before you're able to change your habits.
Habits fall short most of the time because we try to change them based on a weak base level.
If I'm biting my nails and try to stop, I must first see myself as someone who doesn't bite their nails.
It's a subtle, yet powerful difference that can be the decider between sticking to good habits or falling back into bad ones.
Your habits are dictated by your identity.
Entrepreneur B was successful because he saw himself as a successful business owner before he even was one.
Entrepreneur A had a goal to be a successful business owner by reaching $1 million in his business first.
How do we adopt this identity-based viewpoint?
We must ask ourselves one simple question.
If your goal is to become a successful entrepreneur who makes $10 million per year in your business(es), you must ask yourself this question:
'What would a successful entrepreneur do?'
Good habits are always logical, but they would almost never stick in the long-term if they conflict with your identity.
If you don't start believing you're a successful entrepreneur, your habits and process will most likely not last long enough for you to reach your goals.
So the next time you want to go to sleep late, ask yourself:
'What time would a successful entrepreneur go to sleep.'
The next time you want to waste your time doing something unproductive, ask yourself:
'What would a successful entrepreneur be doing instead right now?'
A year ago, when I decided to read a book a month, I did it because I saw the blatant effect it has on everyone.
Billionaires and world leaders alike have handed their success partly to reading books frequently.
Where I went wrong is I made a goal of reading a book a month, once I reach this goal, it's over, right?
James says that goals are a destination to be reached whilst habits are what allow you to keep playing the game, going on your journey.
In order to truly reach my goals, I would have to first start by adopting the habits of these millionaires and billionaires.
Reading, although fun, can be very difficult to maintain.
In the early days, and even now, I fail to read some days.
Although I've managed to blaze past the 1 book per month, I still struggle to read every single day because when I set the goal, I didn't shift my identity.
Instead of reading a book a month, I should have shifted my identity and became a reader.
James clear describes this really well, so I recommend reading 'Atomic Habits' yourself, but he mentions how you don't have to aim for perfection in everything you do.
Failing to read every day is no problem, as long as the majority of the time you are making those habits work in your favor, you should prevail.
He compares it to a democratic vote.
Not everyone votes for the same person, but the person with the majority wins.
With breaking bad habits the same still holds true.
In order to break your bad habits, you must first shift your identity into someone who doesn't have those bad habits.
If you're a smoker, then your bad habit is to smoke.
If you're a drinker, your bad habit is to drink.
In order to break free of those bad habits, you must first shift your identity to someone who doesn't embody those habits.
You may want to start seeing yourself as someone who doesn't smoke or drink - a healthy person.
Whenever you want to smoke or drink, think about:
'What would a healthy person do in this situation?'
Instead of picking up a cigarette, you may want to pick up a healthy snack.
Instead of picking up a drink, you may want to pick up an apple juice.
Repeating these good habits every day is what counts in the long run.
It's never about how quickly you can break bad habits and make new ones stick.
It's about how consistent you can stick to these habits so that you see the massive upside from them.
I highly recommend that you sit down and think of the person you need to become in order to make your dreams come true.
It's highly unlikely that through our current identities, we would achieve the goals we've set for ourselves.
Do you agree with James Clear? Do you believe that to make good habits stick and break bad habits, you must first re-engineer your beliefs and self-image?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Till next time,
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