his is a transcribed version of the podcast episode

We all want a James Clear’s Atomic Habits cheat sheet right ?

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 What I want to do in this podcast episode is break the belief that we have to change completely if we want to start implementing good habits. It’s often almost a scary topic because as soon as we hear or know we have to change some of our negative habits, we panic, get scared already and step back before we even try. Because we think it’s too hard. It’s too hard to look at ourselves and be ready to change. We think that it’s a lot of work, when, if we deeply look into it and breakdown the process, it really isn’t.

It’s a commitment, but it doesn’t have to be a very heavy commitment.

I want you to believe that implementing good habits is not as scary and difficult as we make it seem. It’s never been about a huge radical change that we have to do all at once. If we think of it this way, if we think that it’s a mountain that we have to move before we start becoming who we want to be or achieve our goal or whatever it might be, then that’s when it gets scary and discouraging.cheat sheet)

The power of habits and their impact lies in little tiny things, as surprising as it may sound. You know that for 1% improvement each day, we become 37% better in a year. I think it’s fascinating. Imagine you start improving a skill that you have today, next year you’ll be 37% better at that skill, how amazing is that? And if you were good at it already but you just wanted to improve it, that means you’d become a genius by then.

The change and transformation they lead to is massive but good habits really are little things we do.

What makes them powerful is repetition, the amount of times we do them.

One of the mistakes we make is to think that the bigger the change of a habit, the better the habit. Like the more I change in the beginning, the better. I’m thinking something like I usually wake up at 8am and I want to start waking up a little earlier. Well, waking up at 5am won’t necessarily make me a better me than waking up at 7am.

That can surely be true but it’s not really the way to look at it. What will make you a better you is the amount of times you can keep waking up earlier consistently. It’s never been about intensity, which actually leads me to another point.

Because another misconception we have about habits is to do with quantity. It’s not about how many habits I change. Not because I decide to start changing 10 habits means I’m necessarily going see a change in myself. Not because I suddenly decide that “Okay you know what I’ve had enough of myself, too many bad habits, I’m gonna change this all”, not because I start acting on all of those habits means I will be on the right path.

Let me say it again, the power of habits is in frequency and repetition. Once you understand that, you’ll understand that one little thing done every day is better than 10 things done once a month or once in a while.

I’m betting my life on the fact that I wouldn’t be talking today in this podcast hadn’t I kept doing that.

Do you know a quote that says “You are the average of your actions”? I genuinely love it. We are what we repeatedly do. And what I love about this whole thing, why I’m fascinated by this is that small habits are not just the fact of doing something, it truly is about identity. Habits are who we are and who we want to be. They shape us. It’s the little tiny things we do that shape us.

Because I mean if you think of it, we are all the same humans in the first place. What differentiates us from others is what we do and how we act. Of course we’re physically different and else but I don’t know both winners and losers have the same goals, they have the same aspirations. However, what shapes winners is what they do to be winners. Winners repeatedly do what makes them winners and losers keep repeating things and patterns that make them losers.

Okay, I don’t look at the world divided in winners/losers but the little things you do everyday are what defines you.

Now, if I say that changing our habits isn’t that difficult, why is it that we struggle with it ? Why is it that we know changing our habits will make us a better version of ourselves but we can’t keep with it ?

  1. Number One.

I think the most overlooked thing in the habit implementation process lies in our physical environment. There are so many things around us that make our habits be good or bad, by default. There are things we can’t always change because we don’t really have control over them. Like if I want to start baking more often and my kitchen is tiny, well surely that will make it difficult for me but there are many things we can change.

We can design our environment to make things easy for us. If I want to start reading more, I can put the book where I can see it, on my bedside table for example, so all I need to do is pick it up when I go to bed.

On a personal note, I can definitely tell you how big of a difference it makes. If you listened to previous episodes  follow me on IG, you see or hear me talking about piano. When I started, I used to have a small keyboard piano at the time and it was one that was easily foldable so I used to take it out of the closet, take it out of its protection, plug it and start playing whenever I decided to. When I decided I wanted to get better at it, I thought okay let’s actually leave it somewhere in the room where I can see it and jump on it whenever I feel like it.

Honestly, without realising it, I was playing so much more often than I thought and before I knew it I had become so much better at it because it didn’t feel like an effort to go and take it out of the closet.

Trust me, we are very weak human beings and our level of distraction can be ridiculous. I personally know that on my way to getting a book off the shelf, I know I can be distracted by ridiculous stuff like picking up clothes on the floor or something I hear on TV or a notification on my phone. Next moment, I can be doing anything, just not reading that book. Honestly we are weak so whatever we can do to make things easier for us helps.

Habit-stacking is also a good one that makes implementing habits easier. Habit-stacking is where you start implementing a habit while you’re doing something that you regularly do anyway.

After I had a leg injury last year, I’ve been trying to do more balancing exercises to help with the strength back . Because I felt finding an additional time for this in the day difficult, I actually do those balancing exercises while brushing my teeth! Honestly, life changing hack. It doesn’t feel like an effort or something additional I have to do.

If you want to read more but struggle to find the time to add this activity during the day, read 2 or 3 pages while you have your coffee in the morning. It might not seem like you’re doing much but 3 pages of a book every day is a lot trust me. Remember, it’s not even 3 pages I was reading in the past 5 years, it was only one quote every day and here I am so remember, it’s about little things. Doing small teeny tiny things is how we build habits and their power lies in their invisible impact.

Have you ever noticed that every time you ask a successful person or a business man or an athlete, whenever you ask them what’s your secret for being so amazing, for being who you are or for mastering whatever skill they have, they all say I do this this and this every day. And 90% of the time, it’s something I don’t want to say silly but it’s something you don’t expect because you would naturally expect something big, ie they must have had ridiculous tough habits to get where they are. But no. They only got where they are because they were consistent in doing those teeny tiny things.

Which leads me to the following point. The best way to fail straight away whenever trying to build good habits  is to set goals or habits so high you can’t even follow. It’s not about intensity. Like I said in the beginning, waking up at 5am vs 7am won’t make you a better you if you actually can’t follow and stick to the plan.

  1. Number Two.

So not only we are weak as I said earlier but we are also very impatient, and that is the second element that prevents us from being good with habits. We expect everything we want to happen in a blink of an eye. We don’t see the outcome out of our efforts so what do we do, we give up. “Ah this isn’t working” or “I’m doing this wrong”. To be honest, most of the time we like having these as excuses so we don’t have to keep doing what we need to be doing.

We want to see something before we keep working on ourselves. We want a reward, and quick. I understand it’s difficult but there are other ways to measure habits other than the outcome, the ultimate thing we want from them. If you keep a track of all the little things you do everyday, you’ll see that you’re doing much more than you think.

I love that thing in the mediation apps I use, Headspace or Calm,  or even other apps like running apps where they give you run streaks stats. Like whenever you do something in a row, they will congratulate you for doing that and for keeping consistent. They will even give you the clapping sound to congratulate you. Well that is a sign that you’re on the right path, you may not be a runner yet but you’re becoming one. You might not be perfect at mediation yet but you’re becoming someone who mediates regularly.

The actions you take provide evidence for who we are. The more we see something about ourselves, the more likely we believe it.

We don’t necessarily need to see the end goal, we just need to see we are currently doing it right. The habit process works better if we focus on the process itself not the result. Before you know it, you are where you need to be. You probably heard this many times but if you want to lose weight, don’t focus on how much weight you need to lose and how far you are from that goal, focus on doing those small little things you need to do everyday and again before you know it, you are there already. 

  1. Number Three.

I think overall, most people don’t lack motivation to change their habits. They rather lack clarity. They don’t know what it is they need to change and more importantly what it is they truly want in the end.

If you don’t know who you want to be, it’s hard to take actions to become who you want to be. It’s that simple. Simple but not easy. Complicated.

And this is where I say that habits really are linked to identity. If I know I really want to be a runner, I know what I need to do to be a runner and therefore I know what I need to change. That’s where the process starts. If I don’t know who I want to be, how am I supposed to change anything?

Find that out first and your daily habits will start to become clearer and easier to implement.

They will start to be the daily stuff you do without thinking of them as an effort.

Habit change doesn’t have to be aggressive, it can be soft. Like water pierces and shapes rock not with force but with consistency.

I’ll finish it off here with what James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits. “The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader”. The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. Trust the atomic habits and they will take you where you need to be.

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