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The Wisdom Of Atomic Habits (Part 3)
Wisdom Letter #77 | Make it Easy & Attractive
This is part 3 of our series — The Wisdom Of Atomic Habits.
We are reading the book ‘Atomic Habits’ all through this month and will be sharing our insights every week.
Last week we talked about the 1st Law of Behavior Change — Making Habits Obvious, managing The Cues.
Today we talk about the 2nd and 3rd laws of Behavior Change — Making Habits Attractive & Easy — The Cravings and Responses.
Make it Attractive — The 2nd Law
The Dopamine Drive
“We have the brains of our ancestors, but temptations they never had to face”
Dopamine is neurochemical responsible for triggering all of our cravings.
Dopamine the chemical, roughly translates to Desire the emotion.
And desire is the root of all action.
If somehow our brain stopped releasing dopamine, we will lose all desire to do anything. We will lose our will to live.
Habits are just dopamine driven feedback loops.
The more we crave the end result, the more likely we are to pursue the habit.
The interesting thing about dopamine is that the anticipation of an activity often releases more dopamine than the activity itself.
A cool way to leverage this knowledge is to use a technique called temptation bundling.
Temptation bundling works by linking the things you want to do with the things you need to do.
Lets say you need to workout everyday.
And you want to watch you favorite TV series on Netflix.
You can commit to watching an episode of Netflix only when you’re on the treadmill. You can bundle the activity you want to pursue with a temptation your brain already craves.
You are more likely to do something less appealing if you know that you will get to do something fun after that.
The Role of Society
“Whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you will find”
The great philosopher Aristotle said humans are mimetic beings.
Mimetic is just a fancy word for the age old wisdom 👉”Monkey see, Monkey do.”
Our surroundings impact everything about us- our likes, dislikes, our desires, cravings and also our habits.
We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them.
We look at the people around us and learn about habits by copying them. This has an evolutionary advantage, it helps us fit in with society and increase our chances of survival.
We imitate the habits of 3 kinds of groups —
The Close — People who are in our immediate vicinity, our family.
The Many — The larger crowd, what society expects from us.
The Powerful — The successful ones that we want to be like.
If the culture you spend most of your time with doesn’t support the kind of habits you wish to have, it will become very difficult for you to build those habits.
But we can use this knowledge and make it easy for ourselves by joining online groups and communities with shared interests and desirable habits.
Leverage the internet to live in the society that enables the behaviors you desire.
It can start by following someone “powerful” you admire, joining the “many” of their followers, and then coming “close” to a few followers and making friends with them.
The Power of Association
The essence of making habits attractive is associating the desired activity with a positive experience.
Associate a tough workout with the long term strength it builds for your body rather than the short term soreness it can cause.
Or associate saving and investing money to achieving financial freedom in the future, rather than making sacrifices in the present.
Its always good to remember— all good things come from delayed gratification.
Make it Easy — The 3rd Law
“Perfect is the enemy of Good”
If you want to master a new habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every tiny detail, you just need to get the reps in.
This works because repetition leads to actual physical changes to the neural pathways in your brain.
It builds connections among neurons that become stronger over time. As neural connections become stronger, the habit becomes easier.
Habits form on frequency, not time.
It’s not about doing something for 21 days, or 30 days, or 66 days. It’s about how frequently you do it, and how stronger neural connections are you able to form.
The Law of Least Effort
Humans are wired to do things that are easy and convenient.
And it’s not a bad thing. Our brain conserves energy by doing this. There’s no point fighting this urge, it’s better to leverage it.
Make good habits so easy to perform that they make a home in your brain and never go away!
The idea is to reduce friction from desired behavior. Prime your environment so well that the good habit is the only thing you can do in a moment.
I have personally done this for my journaling and reading habits.
My bedside table has a keyboard, a tablet and a book all the time.
When I go to sleep, I pick up the book and read it before dozing off. As soon as I wake up I pickup the keyboard and tablet and start journaling.
There is no friction!
I don’t doom-scroll on my phone right before sleeping and right after waking up. This concept goes back environment design that we discussed last week.
“Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do”
The 2 minute Rule
“When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do”
This is one of the most powerful yet under estimated concept in behavior change.
Any habit can be scaled down to a 2 minute version which can be performed with least effort.
To build a regular work out habit, just commit to dressing up and going to the gym everyday.
You don’t have to actually workout, just go to the gym, look around a bit, and come back!
This way you leverage the law of least effort and build a neural home for your new habit.
Do this long enough and scaling it up to the actual workout habit will become increasingly easier.
“The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved.
You have to standardize before you can optimize.”
You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.
Signing off for the week, here’s a quote worth pondering—
“Habits are entrance ramp to a highway. They lead you down a path and before you know it, you’re speeding toward the next behavior.
It seems to be easier to continue what you are already doing than to start doing something different.
The habits you follow without thinking often determine the choices you make when you are thinking”
Thank you for reading🙏
Hope this post helped you make your desired habits attractive and easy.
Next week we will look to conclude the series and look at the 4th Law of Behavior change — Making it Satisfying
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This was Wisdom Letter #77. In case you want to revisit any of the previous 76 letters, checkout our entire archive.
Aditi & Ayush