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I always felt that if I had more free time, I could do a lot of things before I went to bed. I thought, “If only I had a bit more time today, I could have done this, that and so on…” The thought of not doing enough in a day was less irritating than the feeling I got every night before going to sleep. I remember telling myself that ‘tomorrow is going to be a better day,’ only to realize that I had failed again. As the days passed, this routine had turned into a bad habit and I realized it was becoming more difficult for me to change my habits.
My second semester came to an end in May 2020. With the things that were happening in the world at this time, I felt lucky to have an internship offer but felt a bit sad to see my offer getting postponed until August. This feeling was soon overshadowed by the happy thought of finally having 3 months on hands with no coursework and no job. My plan was set – get online certifications, read a novel, jog daily, work on my hobbies, learn a new language, etc.
The failed attempt
It was somewhere around mid-June when I realized that it had been more than a month and I hadn’t achieved anything significant from my list. I went into a shock thinking “what went wrong?” Even after having so much time, I was not able to finish off my daily list.
It was mid-June when I came across a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. The book focuses on implementing small/atomic habits for building and sustaining good habits. This book changed my life in a matter of two weeks.
Here’s the four laws that the book revolved around:
- Make it obvious! Make your habits automatic in nature. The more tightly bound your new habit is to a specific cue, the better the odds are that you will notice when the time comes to act. As kids, we all start drawing sketches and with time, some of us just stop doing it. I wanted to reignite my childhood hobby of sketching. By keeping my sketchbook in the vicinity of my living room, I was able to make it look obvious to my eyes. Whenever I had free time, I used to glance around and immediately see the sketchbook. This built a habit of just picking it up and starting a sketch, hence making this habit an obvious one.
- Make it attractive! It is the anticipation of a reward – not the fulfillment of it – that gets us to act. The more attractive a habit is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming. I wanted to instill the habit of reading novels. The thought of sitting near a tree with a cool breeze around and a novel in hand made it look attractive in my mind which eventually led me to keeping a separate daily session of 30 minutes time for reading. If you want to make/create a new habit, think of something attractive related to it and this will make you feel good and establish the habit.
- Make it easy! Reduce the friction associated with good habits. We naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. I always wanted to get up early in the morning and go for a jog, which I consistently failed to do. That’s when I realized that not waking up early was the cause of not going for a jog. I soon made things easy for myself to go for a jog whenever I could, irrespective of the time. I finally achieved a consistent schedule of going for a jog at 8 p.m.
- Make it satisfying! One of the most satisfying feelings is making progress. Maintain clear evidence of your progress and never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible. I was determined to learn the Spanish language, and the most satisfying feeling for me was when I reached a straight 40-days streak on the Duolingo app. By tracking my progress every day, I learned to stop delaying things and my daily achievements automatically motivated me to get consistent results.
The book takes you on a journey that not only brings a complete transformation in your life, but also makes you feel that you are getting closer to achieving all the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
Happy reading and good luck on the continuous improvement!