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Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits

James Clear

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Chapter 5 The Best Way to Start a New Habit

The best way to start a new habit is by Implementation Intention. 

It is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit.

The format for creating an implementation intension is :

“When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

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The punch line is clear:

"People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through."

We tell ourselves, “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to write more,” but we never say when and where these habits are going to happen. We leave it up to chance and hope that we will “just remember to do it” or feel motivated at the right time".

"Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity".

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Once an implementation intention has been set, you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike.

The simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:

I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

People are more likely to take action at those times because hope is usually higher. If we have hope, we have a reason to take action. A fresh start feels motivating.

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The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can’t say why.

To follow this the favourite approch to follow is one I learned from Stanford professor BJ Fogg and it is a strategy I refer to as habit stacking .

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Habit Stacking

The French philosopher Denis Diderot was well known for his role as the co-founder and writer of Encyclopédie , one of the most comprehensive encyclopedias of the time. He lived nearly his entire life in poverty, but that all changed one day in 1765.

Diderot’s daughter was about to be married and he could not afford to pay for the wedding.

When Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, heard of Diderot’s financial troubles, being his book lover bought his library.  

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With his new wealth,he not only paid for the wedding but also acquired a scarlet robe for himself.

He wrote that there was“no more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty” between his elegant robe and the rest of his stuff.

Diderot soon felt the urge to upgrade possessions.

He replaced his rug with one from Damascus. He decorated his home with expensive sculptures. He bought a mirror to place above the mantel, and a better kitchen table. 

Like falling dominoes, one purchase led to the next.

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Many human behaviors follow this cycle. You often decide what to do next based on what you have just finished doing. Going to the bathroom leads to washing and drying your hands, which reminds you that you need to put the dirty towels in the laundry, so you add laundry detergent to the shopping list, and so on.

No behavior happens in isolation. Each action becomes a cue that triggers the next behavior.

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One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking .

Habit stacking is a special form of an implementation intention. Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.

The habit stacking formula is:

“After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

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You can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next—a positive version of the Diderot Effect.

Example :

After I pour my morning cup of coffee, I will meditate for sixty seconds. After I meditate for sixty seconds, I will write my to-do list for the day.

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Overall, habit stacking allows you to create a set of simple rules that guide your future behavior. It’s like you always have a game plan for which action should come next.

 Once you get comfortable with this approach, you can develop general habit stacks to guide you whenever the situation is appropriate.

Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.

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Strategies like implementation intentions and habit stacking are among the most practical ways to create obvious cues for your habits and design a clear plan for when and where to take action.

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