Atomic Habits Book Review
Ep. 102
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    This is our monthly book review episode. This month we’re reviewing Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is a book I read at least once a year. It is an amazing tool to better understanding your brain so that you can set yourself up for success. Check out the episode breaking down the biggest points in the book but also make sure you read it!

Show Transcript
So let's jump right into Atomic Habits. Okay, I love this book and if you haven't read it, I highly, highly recommend taking the time to actually read it. You can still listen to this episode and get a little synopsis and I'm sure maybe that'll make you want to read it more.

But I do think it's an important read. I am making a habit reading it every year because I think it's also easy to listen to this or read it and get great ideas and then never actually implement. So I think beyond just reading it, commit to yourself that you're going to pick one thing that you can try in this book and start changing your habits. And I think by the end of this episode you'll understand why. Maybe that's so important. But yeah, that's my advice kind of going in. So let's jump in before we get into what habits are and how to change them. He talks a lot about the power of and why habits are so important. And it's such an important point because so many of us are convinced that we need massive action to change our lives. We think we need to upend everything.

We have to lose 30 pounds in six months. We, you know, we have to have a business that's making millions of dollars in a year. And they’re all things that are not sustainable. We all know that motivation and willpower wane and it’s not a way to make massive change. And I've talked about this previously on the podcast and I think we're gonna do a book review of Darren Hardy's Compound Effect as well. But really the point is the power of the compound effect and taking small actions over alarmed periods of time will transform your life. You know, I think a lot of us have heard the example of an airplane flying from LA to New York. If it's off by just a degree or two, it will end up in Washington D C right. It doesn't have to be this huge change. It could just be small miscalculations or small things that we're doing that really end up throwing us off course.

Another example that he gave that was really astonishing in the book is a story of the British cycling team and this was a team that was basically not doing very well. It had, they had never won a gold medal or I think they won one gold medal in the last hundred years. They'd never won the tour de France. They just had a lackluster performance on the world stage and they hired a coach in 2003 or whatnot and he started implementing just 1% improvements all over the place. So yeah, he gave them more aerodynamic clothing and he changed the shape of their helmets and they made the seat cushions a little more comfortable and he made all of the cyclists use a specific type of pillows so that they could sleep better. I mean just really small things that maybe you don't even realize are connected to cycling, but anything that he could make a marginal increase in.
He did and the results were astronomical. They ended up winning 60% of all the gold in Beijing. They did even better in London setting all these world records. They won five out of six tour de Frances and in the following six years they went on to become a powerhouse. And it's just really incredible because it wasn't as though they got these superstar cyclists, it was just making small changes. And I think we all realize that. I know in Darren Hardy's book, and again I'll probably talk about that when I do that book review, but he really goes through with the numbers and he talks about two different people who start out the same weight. One person adds a hundred calories a day and the other person takes away a hundred calories a day, which it really is nothing. It's less than a latte.
It's less than most of the snacks that we eat. But just by doing that, you don't see a change in three months, you maybe see a nominal in six months, but if you follow those people over a year, two years, three years, the Delta between them is startling. It's something like 30 pounds, right? One person has gained 15 pounds and the other person has lost 15 pounds. All because of really small changes that don't really affect your life that much. And I think that knowing not only the good, but also knowing that negative things compound. So stress, negative thoughts. When we get into these cycles of doing, you know, things to numb ourselves, to buffer it, to not feel the emotions we want to feel. It doesn't seem like a lot. Right? And we've all experienced this, maybe it's just scrolling Instagram or social media and that becomes more and more and it starts taking away from more time that you can do productive things and it all compounds and all of a sudden you see that your year has passed, two years have passed and you haven't done the things you want to do because you've been so distracted with social media or something like that or and understanding that in the instant it may not seem like a big deal, but compounded over time.
It really is what makes your life a good motivator to change that now it is hard to implement because our brains are still looking for instant gratification. It's really hard for us to envision and work for our future selves because we're mostly concerned about our present selves. Right. And so it's hard to do something for five years down the road or 10 years down the road. And he talks about this later in the book, but it's really startling to think about the fact that our brains haven't really evolved, like the structure of our brains haven't evolved in over 200,000 years. So they were looking at the last change of the prefrontal cortex and the size of our brain and they've linked it to 200,000 years ago. So we're walking around with the same hardware that caveman had. And clearly our society has advanced, especially in the last 200 years at kind of breakneck speeds.
And it's hard for our brain to keep up with that. A lot of what's happening in our world right now is delayed gratification, but our brains still operate under instinct gratification. And so knowing that and knowing that you sort of have to put yourself in the best position to be successful because your brain will constantly go for instant gratification. And we'll talk about some of the things that you can do, but you're sort of fighting against your own lizard brain, right? You're sort of like, you have to use the rational prefrontal cortex to set yourself up to not fall into the traps that your lizard brain is going to take you to. Right. And what he talks about with progress, which I think it's a good reminder, is that when we don't see it happening, we obviously a lot of us lose motivation.
When you're working out and after a month you don't see anything, you think it's pointless, but it's not that it's pointless, it's that it compounds, it takes time. And so he gives the analogy of an ice cube sitting on a table at 25 degrees, it’s fine in a 25 degree room and then the room begins to heat up one degree at a time. So you know, it goes to 26 then 27 then 28 and nothing is moving, right? 29, 30, 31, still nothing. Right? At 32 it starts to melt and it's not that it was the degree between 31 and 32 it's all of the work that went to heat up that room from 25 up to 32 and what's hard is that you don't see that progress. But again it's about convincing yourself and reminding yourself that that progress is there and that it is slow and that if you stick with the habits the results will come.
So that is what we're working with now. The other thing that I liked that he talks about is forgetting about goals and focusing on habits instead. I actually think this is such a smart way of looking at your actions. We've all obviously been taught goal setting and I do think goals serve a certain purpose of motivation or giving you kind of a North star of where you want to go and we all love daydreaming and thinking about, you know, I don't know, some future self of ours that's going to be perfect and not have problems and have everything together. I think there is some benefit in that, but what he says makes a lot of sense in the sense that the problems with goals, number one, we all assume that once we reach that goal, then everything will be okay, right? Then I'll be happy.
And so we're putting off our happiness until we get to the goal. So once I make a million dollars, once I lose this weight, once I stop smoking, once I hit whatever, then I'll be happy. And so you're waiting to be happy and it can be an excruciating process because a lot of times it takes a long time and spoiler alert, we've all done this and then you get to the goal and you're like, Oh, I'm still not happy because I have the same brain and the same thoughts and you know, it's not much has changed. Yeah, I might be lighter or I might be a little more athletic and maybe I'm happy about that. But it doesn't transform your life. But when you focus on the habit, it allows you to be happy just in the process. When you focus on, instead of I want to lose 10 pounds, you focus on, I want to go for a walk every day or I'm going to do 20 minutes of yoga to stretch my body every day.
You can be happy just doing the yoga, right? You can find the thing, you're not putting it off until you get to some goal. You've decided that this is going to be a part of my life and you can allow yourself to enjoy that journey instead of focusing on the destination. Number two is that goals are black and white thinking that you either hit it or you don't. And a lot of us have, it felt kind of that sting of not hitting it and then beating ourselves up for not being motivated enough or not being disciplined enough or whatever. And it really goes through this shame spiral of you laying it on yourself. But if you actually love the habit, the system, if you like the thing that you're doing and you focus on that, then you can be happy regardless of what the outcome actually is.
Right? So if your focus is, I'm going to walk every day, maybe at the end of the year you don't lose the 10 pounds that you wanted. Okay? But it's not a success or fail. It's that you've walked every day, right? And you feel successful because you'd done the process that you were focused on. And I think three, the problem with goals is that achieving a goal is a momentary thing. So let's say you lose the 10 pounds and then what? This is what happens all the time. People think they want to lose a certain weight because they think they're going to feel a different way. They lose the weight, and then they don't feel any different. So what do we do? We just move the goalposts. We just say like, okay, well maybe if I lose another 10 pounds, then I'll be happy.
Or let's say some other goals. Let's say the goal is to run a half marathon. Okay? Then what happens when that half marathon is over? Do you just stop running? I've actually known a lot of people that have done that where they had a goal to run a marathon, which is great and it's an accomplishment, but then they just stopped running afterwards. And that's okay if you just wanted that accomplishment. But if your goal is to be a runner or your goal is to exercise regularly, then yeah, the focus should be on the running every day, not on running a half marathon. That could be a byproduct and that's great, but that shouldn't be the main focus. And he says, you know, if you fix the inputs, the outputs will fix themselves. We all know that's true, right? If you're putting in good things into your life, you will get good things out of it.
And the opposite is true. So I do think this is a really eye-opening way and a good reframe from the way that we typically focus on goal setting and getting to some destination or someplace and instead shifting our focus to what are my daily habits and how can I work on those in little ways. It doesn't have to be huge sweeping changes, but what can I do today to change 1% what can I change? One simple thing in my life that I will stick to that's not maybe a huge deal or that I actually enjoy that I can increase my enjoyment and I will exponentially increase my success rate in a year, two years, five years. So the next thing before we jump into how to actually change your habits, and I actually think this is the most important. He talks about how your habits shape your identity and why we have such a problem.
Changing our habits is because we're focusing on the wrong thing. We're trying to change the wrong thing. And so he lists it as three layers of behavioral change. There's changing outcomes, which is what we all typically do. We focus on changing things such as I want to lose this weight, I want to run a half marathon. It's just some outcome. Then there's changing the process and so maybe you're changing the way that you're working out or you're changing some system that you're using to get to that outcome. But the third level is changing your identity and that's really the key in sticking with habits. It's that you're not going to change your habits if you don't change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behaviors that you hold about yourself. Right? The goal isn't to read a book, it's to become a reader. The goal isn't to start a business is to become an entrepreneur.
The goal isn't to run a half marathon, it's to become a runner and so you have to change those thoughts that you have about your identity and the more deeply a thought is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change it. And the reason we end up failing sticking to the habits is because that self image gets in the way. And now we've all experienced this like you want to lose weight, you have a very clear goal, you clearly have the motivation, you're sick of feeling a certain way, you want to feel more healthy. But what happens as soon as you start doing it or are you engaged for a little while, your thoughts about your past self come in. I'll never stick to this. I'm not motivated enough, I'm too lazy. This will never work. Whatever those thoughts are and that's what derails you.
That's what gets you to give up the motivation and so you have to start changing those identity thoughts - The core thoughts that you have about yourself and the, I didn't. Any that you have right now is only because you believe that there's proof of it. There was proof of it in the past, so each habit is a suggestion like, Hey, this is the person that I am, and I said this a lot on the podcast before, but your brain will find evidence of whatever you tell it. It is true. This is really eye opening for a lot of people when we talk about it in my coaching calls or when I work with them and it's been really eye-opening for me that there is really evidence for lots of contradictory things about your personality and I'll give you myself as an example.
I have a story from when I was a child growing up that I'm a lazy person. That's my number one story is that I'm lazy now. It's honestly kind of funny to me when I think about it because I was always a 4.0 student. I was always top of my class. I never missed a day of school. I went to a top 10 law school. I studied day and night. I worked hundred hour weeks at my jobs and so there was clearly evidence that I'm not a lazy person. I have accomplished a lot of things in my life by society standards that can maybe prove to me that I was not lazy, but my brain is fixated on the thought that I am lazy and so I seek evidence to prove that I am lazy to myself. So anytime I want to take a nap, anytime I feel tired when I want to wake up and I feel like I didn't sleep enough.
Anytime I don't have the energy to work out or I just want to lay and watch TV, my Blaine keeps running the script of, see, you're so lazy, you're so lazy or whatever that is. Right. And it's the same with all of us. I love when people say, Oh, I'm always late. And I say, no, you're probably not. Because you've been able to hold a job, which means you show up to your job on time. Or if you have a doctor's appointment, you show up to your doctor's appointment on time, or when there's somewhere where you have to be, you show up on time. It might be that when you're going out with your friends, you tend to be late, but you're choosing to believe that your identity is somebody that is late and your identity is not set in stone.
It's just your past behaviors have informed what you think about yourself. And so it's really important to start proving to your brain that there are examples that exist of the things that you do. So if you want to feel like you are an athletic person, then you have to cast votes for yourself to prove that you are an athletic person. Right? And so that's what he's talking about with doing these habits is to decide the type of person you want to be. And then prove to yourself that you are that person and so you have to give your brain evidence of, look, we are athletic. Well, we are a nonsmoker. We are, I don't know a business person. Whatever that thing is, is every time you do that habit, every day when you go walk, we'd like to diminish the things that we do.
We like to make it seem like not a big deal. We have a bias towards the negativity and so most of us really downplay our accomplishments, but in order to stick to a habit, you have to do the opposite. If you end up going walking for a day, you have to praise yourself. You have to be kind to yourself and be like, look how athletic I am. I went walking two days in a row. That is freaking awesome. Now we're not used to that because we think, who cares? You went walking two days in a row. That's not a big deal, right? But if you want to change these habits, this is where you change it. It's not through force of forcing yourself to walk every day. It's literally changing the dialogue that you have in your head so that you can create a new identity.
So you can tell yourself, look, there's tons of evidence that I am a disciplined person, that I'm a motivated person, that I'm an athletic person. Whatever that thing is that you want, you have to start changing it at. Your brain level before you see the results in your life. And I think that is something that if you don't take anything else away from this book, it's really important because so often we're just trying to force our way. We think that willpower I give if I'm just meaner to myself, if I just shame myself and then maybe I'll stick with these habits and we know that's not true. So let's try another way. Let's think about how I can start changing that dialogue so I'm kinder to myself and I can create evidence that I am the type of person that does X, Y, and Z and Hey look, I did this for three days in a row that's pretty impressive.
Or whatever it is that you have to tell yourself. Identity change is the North Star of habit change. That is the way that you will stick to habits and you have the power to change those beliefs about yourself. So you have to make a choice every day. Who is the person I want to be and how can I cast a vote in favor of that person today? And so we're going to talk about how you can do that. This is how you change any habit that you want to change. There are four steps. So habit has four things. The first is the queue, right? So it's the thing that's going to trigger you to want to do that thing. We've all experienced this with our bad habits. Let's say you see chips, right? And that triggers this desire, the craving to eat salty junk food.
So the cue is the thing that's going to trigger it. The craving is the motivational force. It's you wanting the reward at the end of that habit. And so that's what's going to motivate you to actually act. And we'll talk about this a little bit more, but I think that one thing that we should understand about cravings is that it's not that you want that thing. It's that you want the change of your internal state. You're basically going after a feeling that's it, right? You don't want those chips because you want to crunch on some crunchy, salty thing. You want it because it makes you feel happy. It gives you a release of dopamine or it makes you feel a little bit of pleasure. The same thing with a cigarette. You don't want a cigarette because you like this weird shaped thing that you put in your mouth and take in and out note like you want it because it provides relief from anxiety or nervousness or stress.
You don't want to turn on the TV because you want to hear noises that you want to turn on the TV because it distracts you because it entertains you, it changes your state. It makes you happy and I won't go into that much in this episode because this is about the book, but I will talk about it coming up in some other episodes about mindset. Once you can really understand this, this is life changing because when you can understand that I'm feeling discomfort right now, I'm feeling unhappy or I'm feeling stressed or I'm feeling nervous and so I am craving this thing to change my internal state. I just don't want to feel this. And when you realize it's just about a feeling in your body and you can feel that feeling and be okay, it's life changing because you'll still have the craving, but then you can have the forethought to say like, I'm feeling anxious right now and it's okay to feel anxious.
It's not going to harm me. It's pass, it'll pass, and I don't need to change that right now just to feel better. I can sit with this once you can sit with discomfort in any way, whether that's sadness, stress, anxiety, your life changes because you're not constantly running around trying to change your internal state by taking in external things. Which typically is always harmful. So that's just a little tangent and we will talk about that on other mindset episodes coming up. But I just want people to understand that the craving is not something just with that thing itself. It's the change that it delivers to you. So you have the craving and then the response is the actual habit, the thing that you're going to do. And the reward is the end goal, right? So it's a cue, a craving, a response, and a reward.
Those are the four steps of any habit. And then he talks about the four laws of behavior change. So if you want to create new habits or you want to break old bad habits, there are these four laws. The first law is for creating a habit. So we'll go from creating and then we'll talk about breaking. The first law is to make it obvious. The second lot is make it attractive. The third law is to make it easy. And the fourth law is to make it satisfying. And then it's just the inverse. If you want to break a habit. So instead of making it obvious for the first law, it's make it invisible. The second law, instead of making it attractive, it's make it unattractive. The third law, instead of making it easy is make it difficult. And the fourth law instead of making it satisfying, it is make it unsatisfying.
Now I'm not going to go into a ton of depth on this. I think you should read this. There's tons of chapters on each one of these and he gives a lot of really specific advice about how you can implement and I really suggest you read it. I'm just going to give you an overview because I don't want this episode to be three hours long. So making it obvious, he talks about the fact that you have to become aware of what you're doing, right? The first step is to be conscious of it because so many of us do so many things unconsciously. You know, we grab our phone without even realizing, start scrolling Instagram and then all of a sudden we've lost 30 minutes or we start eating mindlessly without realizing what we're eating. And so one of the best ways of making it obvious is writing it down and he calls it a habit scorecard.
So write exactly what you're doing down. And it's funny, we all kind of know this. I think a lot of people have probably tried this with food, like writing down what you’ve eaten. And it's funny to see the resistance to that. I know I've done that and I'm like, I don't really want to know. Right. Because it makes you super conscious. The next time you're reaching for something to eat mindlessly and then you remember, Oh, I have to write this down, you don't reach for it. Right? You start realizing, Oh, that's not worth it. Or I don't even know how to calculate that. So I'm not going to put that in my mouth right now. And so just in and of itself, writing it down makes you stop doing that thing. I know so many of us get scared now to get that report every week on our phone.
That tells you how many hours you've spent on your phone. And a lot of us don't want it because once you become conscious of it, it brings uncomfortable feelings and it shows you how much time you've wasted. I know for me I cringe and I almost got to the point where I wanted to turn off the notification and I'm like, this is crazy. I just don't want to know because it makes me upset. Instead of changing the fact that I'm wasting so much time on my phone. So if you do want to change a habit, you have to start writing it down. Maybe write it down for a day or a week just to get an idea of how often you're doing the thing that you want to change and he says like with making it obvious, having it what he calls an implementation intention is really powerful, which is just pick the time and place you're going to do the habit.
So not saying like, I'm going to go walking every day. That's not enough. What you're going to say is the minute I get home from work, I'm going to put on my walking shoes and I'm going to walk for 15 minutes. You have to know exactly when and where or you can say, as soon as I drink my coffee in the morning, I'm going to write my gratitude practice down. Once you have a time and a place, it takes out a lot of thinking like, should I do it now? I'll just do it later and then you don't get ever get to it. Right. And it makes it very obvious that this is when we're going to do this thing. When I close my computer for lunch, I'm going to do 10 pushups. [inaudible] then you know, then there's no guesswork. Right? It's very obvious.
You know when you're going to do that. Another thing he talks about is habit stacking. So you add a new habit to a current habit that you already have. So like I just said, after I have my coffee and I do my gratitude practice, so it's you're going to drink the coffee. You usually at the same time every day is then you know when the next thing is going to be. Or you could say like after I brush my teeth, I'm going to do 10 squats, whatever. The thing is that when you stack it onto another habit, it gives you a clear time and place that you're going to do it and it makes it more likely that you stick to that habit. Another thing with this, making it obvious that I think is so important is how important your environment is. We all worry about motivation, but that's not why we do things.
We do things. We all think we're rational, we're not. Our environment is what triggers a lot of our cues and our cravings and so they did a study. They've done tons of studies of this kind of stuff where you know they rearrange a store and they realize people buy more of an item or less of an item. In this study, he talked about a cafeteria in a hospital and they just added water to the soda machines or the places where they sold soda and the sales of sodas went down and the sales of water skyrocketed. And so people were drinking more water, not because anybody was telling them to, not just because he was in their environment like before, it wasn't there. So they would buy more soda and then when it was they wouldn't. Right. And we all know this, that's why they put all those things at the end of aisles at grocery stores because we have impulse buying.
You see the chocolate or the gum or the magazines and more people are likely to go for it. And so you have to create your own environment for success. You have to remove the triggers that are gonna, you know, give you the cue for whatever craving it is. If you don't want to eat junk food, take junk food out of your house. If you don't want to be on your phone, put your phone downstairs when you're working. You know, a lot of this stuff is not rocket science, but it's just because it makes us uncomfortable. We don't do it. But if you know how to make it obvious or make it invisible, for instance, what I'm saying, remove triggers. Make that thing that triggers you invisible, take it out of your environment. And you quickly realize that after a couple of days that craving goes away.
In the beginning, it's really hard. But if you want to be successful, you have to make your environment something that is going to be conducive to you doing that habit. And again, without making it invisible, you can also make it obvious, like put your workout clothes right next to your bed when you wake up. So that's the first thing you wear are things like that. The second law is make it attractive or the inverses make it unattractive. So he talks about the dopamine feedback loop and every behavior that is really highly addictive is just associated with higher levels of dopamine, right? So drugs or nicotine or food, all that stuff. Even social media is associated with higher levels of dopamine. That's why it becomes habit forming very quickly because our brain likes it. And so if you want to end up creating habits with things that maybe don't deliver as much dopamine, you can do this thing called temptation bundling, which is putting a habit that doesn't deliver as much dopamine as something that does.
So let's say you want to get on Instagram and you want to scroll. You can say like after I do 10 pushups, I can get on Instagram for 30 minutes or I think it has to be something that's not going to be counteractive to the thing that you want to do. So if you want to lose weight, I wouldn't say like after I do 10 pushups, I can have a bag of Cheetos because that's not going to be conducive to the habit you're trying to form. But you can do things like, you know there, I've heard of it, people that have tied their stationary bikes to like the power so that they can only watch TV if they're riding their bikes or something similar where it's something that you want to do. You have to do something else first. So if you can start bundling those up, you're more likely to do the thing that you don't want to do.
A really important point that he makes is that the role of your family and friends is huge in shaping your habits. I think that we unconsciously are aware of this, but consciously, I don't think people really understand how much you are formed by the people around you, the culture that you are around. And so, you know, we know that we want to fit in and we are tribal beings. We are herd animals, but we imitate the people that are closest to us. We imitate the many. So like we're in a crowd with a lot of people. We will just go with what other people are doing and the powerful. And so the best thing that you can do if you want to change a habit, is to join a culture where that habit that you want is the norm. Okay? So if your habit is exercising more, you have to be around people that enjoy exercise or that value it.
If you are around people that I think exercise, it's dumb or you know, don't ever do it and just eat junk food, you are likely not going to stick to your goals because it is very hard to push against that grain. We've all seen this, and it's funny because this comes up a lot in my coaching with people because people are in nine to five jobs with other people that are miserable and they wonder why they're afraid to kind of jump into entrepreneurship, let's say. And I'm like, well, because everybody around you is selling you, it's crazy. Of course you feel crazy. That's all you're hearing. And everybody around you is just accepting that it's okay to be miserable and your job. And that's just the way life is. And so you start imitating that. It's funny how if you start putting in groups with entrepreneurs, you start realizing how insane it is to work at a job that you hate everyday because none of those people accept that reality.
And so the biggest thing that you can do for yourself is have that support community is don't try to do this alone. Try to be around people that are going to normalize the thing that you want. And lastly, for making it attractive. You know, we talked about how a lot of this stuff is to just change your emotional state. And again, we find evidence for whatever we want to believe. So a lot of it may just be reframing that habit to highlight the benefits as opposed to the drawbacks. A lot of times we think about doing these new things as such a sacrifice and it's like, no wonder why you're not going to stick to it, right? You have to change your mindset about that thing that you're doing. So if you're saving money, let's say that your goal is to spend less, it can't be associated with sacrifice.
It has to be associated with the freedom that you're going to have by having all this money to not end up working in a job that you hate, right? He gives a great example of pregame jitters, the nervousness that you can feel before, let's say you have to go on a stage or give some kind of a presentation. It's all about how you interpret it. If you interpret your higher heart rate and kind of the sweaty feeling as being bad as ah, this is unbearable. Then it's what makes a lot of people freeze up. It's what makes it feel like such an uncomfortable experience. But for a lot of people they just reframe that as an adrenaline rush. This is my body preparing me up, pumping me up to go and do this really incredible thing. And it's really just the story that you're telling yourself and if you can really change how you associate that habit, like if exercising isn't some kind of sacrifice but you feel incredible when you get your blood flowing and the endorphins going and it's just such a great feeling, then you will stick with working out.
Right? So it's a matter of reframing how you look at those habits. And obviously the opposite of making a new habit and getting rid of a habit would be to make it unattractive. And so I would say that changing that mindset to really highlight all of the drawbacks. So if you are a smoker, it's really focusing on everything that causes all of the harm that it's going to do. All of the drawbacks of that. Maybe the smell and how other people feel about it and you know, having to leave whatever place you're in to go, you know, smoke and all these other things. It's really focusing on that instead of constantly focusing on how it provides relief for you. Okay. So law number three is to make it easy. Or obviously if you want to break a habit, it makes it difficult. One of the things I love about this part of it, because I think that this is the most important, is that we again try to do these huge feats, like we don't go into making a new habit of working out as like, I'm just gonna work out.
I'm going to walk for 10 minutes because we think what's the point? But if you start slowly, you're more likely to stick with it and add on to it as opposed to saying, I'm going to work out two times a day. That's just like, that takes Herculean effort. You're never going to stick to that if that's not the thing that you've been doing. If that's not your identity. Right. He gives this great example of tography professor that's split up the class into two groups and he told one group that they're going to get graded by the quality of the photo, so they just have to turn in one photo and the quality is going to be their grade, like how good the composition is and lighting and all this stuff. The other group was quantity, so they just had to give as many photos as they could and they would be graded on quantity and the result was that the group that did quantity ended up producing much better quality photos because they weren't so focused on making it perfect.
Right. They were practicing, they were trying different things. They were learning about lighting because they didn't put the pressure of making this one grand thing. They were just focused on doing it every single day or doing it as much as possible. And this is literally the truth about anything. Repetition is the key, not perfection. And so many of us get stuck because we want, if we don't do it perfectly, we give up, right? If we didn't get it, make it to a two hour spin class and we're not going to work out at all. Well that is going to be your downfall, right? So making it small and making it like he says the law of least effort. What is the smallest thing that you can do that you will stick to? That's how you'll win because we will always gravitate towards the thing that requires the least amount of work from us.
So if you reduce that friction associated with your good behaviors, you will stick with it. So if you delete your social media apps, guess what? You won't go on there as much. Right? We were just talking about if you hide the junk food you won't eat it. So if you do things that take the least effort, you'll actually stick with it. And he has this two minute rule that I think it's great. Is that like your habit is kind of this on-ramp onto the freeway. It will lead you to the path that you want to go. So the habit isn't, I'm going to go walking for 30 minutes. The habit is as soon as I get home I will put on my walking shoes and I will walk outside. That's it. He's saying it should take less than two minutes. It should be the decisive moment of what you're going to do.
Are you going to go sit on the couch or are you going to put your shoes on? Because then after that, it doesn't matter. Even if you just go around the block once, that is better than not doing anything, right because again, you're making a vote for the person that you want to be. So doing little is better than doing nothing. And I think we typically have the opposite. I just don't feel like I'm going to have a good workout. I'm not going to do anything. And that's the worst thing that you can do. So create a two minute rule that you can, you know, instead of saying, I'm going to read for 30 minutes, say like I'm going to read one page. And if you really stop after one page, that's okay because the habit is like drilling in your mind that I am a person that reads at least one page every night.
And most of the time you'll read more, right? Most of the time, once you start that action, it will lead you to the next thing. And if you have a couple of bad days where you're only reading one page, Hey, at least you did that one page, okay, the last law, make it satisfying. This is the Cardinal rule of behavior change. What is rewarded is repeated and what is punished is avoided. So if you make it satisfying, it increases the odds of you repeating it next time, right? And so we have to look for immediate satisfaction because as we talked about, that's how our brain is wired and we have to figure out how we can tie in instant gratification to things that are going to be for the future you right? Because you're always going to choose, present you over it and so some things that you can do and think we've already talked about kind of bundling with things, but one thing that I liked, he gives an example of let's say you want to save money, you want to spend less, you can open up a savings account and every time you don't make a purchase, you want to go online shopping and you stop yourself, you can move about $20 into that account and you can have that account be for something specific.
Maybe it's a splurge, maybe it's a European vacation, whatever that is, have something that you can instantly see that every time I do this behavior that you know is harder for me to do, I'm going to give myself a hit of instant gratification. And another thing that he talks about that is interesting is this thing called habit trackers. It's where you basically just track every day that you've done the habit. So you Mark it off on a calendar, let's say. And it's surprisingly very rewarding for a lot of reasons. Like one recording, it is the trigger for you to do it the next day. We love to stick to things like if you've done it five days in a row, you're much less likely to skip the six day because you don't want to break that chain. Progress is the most effective form of motivation for us.
So each small wind feeds that desire for you to keep going. And as a lot of people know they would like to do lists. It's so satisfying just to cross something off. I don't know why we have this, but literally being able to cross it off is the motivation for us. And lastly, I mean we've talked about this, but it's casting a vote for the person that you want to be. So a very simple thing to do is just get a calendar and every day you do the 10 pushups you want to do or you walk around the block or you read that one page Mark it off and it's surprising how much you will stick with that. You have to find little things like this that will make it satisfying to you. And he says, you know how to recover from missing a day and never miss it twice.
It's okay to miss one day. One time never ruins you. What ruins you is that you spiral after that one time cause you start thinking that it's not worth it. I'm not going to stick to this, it's never going to happen. But if you have a rule that I'm never going to miss it twice and you can do it bad like we just said. You can just put on the shoes and walk outside. Don't even go for a walk. But if your habit is to put on the shoes and walk outside, just do that so you can prove to yourself that you can stick to that part of it. Even when you have a couple bad days, you'll end up having good days and you won't throw away the whole thing. Okay. Those are the four rules. The last rule is make it satisfying.
Obviously the inverse is to make it unsatisfying and he talks about having accountability partners. Now this has been shown in a lot of studies and your success rate can go up to 95% if you have a specific accountability partner because we don't like to let other people down. We all know this like we will let ourselves down all day long, but when we promise somebody else, we won't do it. So hold yourself accountable by telling somebody else you're going to do the thing right. Do it with someone else because you are more likely to stick to that. Those are basically it. That's all the rules. I know that was a lot, but I really think that this book is worth reading in depth and while you're doing it, just pick one, pick one habit that you can start every day very small so that you can start changing the person that you are and you can start implementing more and more habits as you get the hang of, okay, how do I set up my environment so that I'm successful? How do I make sure that I don't have the triggers around me? How do I make sure that I, you know, keep casting votes for the person that I am. It becomes easier and it's really amazing how it does ultimately shift your identity.
If you need any help with any of this, if you have any thoughts on this episode, please reach out and let me know. I would love to hear from you. You can send me an email at and I will be back next week.
We'll be back with another interview and it's actually a really good one, so I will see you guys next week. Bye. Thank you so much for listening.