This Creative’s Take on Atomic Habits: Book Reflections + Real-life Experiments

This Creative’s Take on Atomic Habits: Book Summary + Real-life Lessons

I finished reading Atomic Habits in the same week that the first cohort of my SHINE program came to an end. Both are ultimately about systems because, as author James Clear affirms:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

It’s been fascinating to read the book alongside witnessing the progress of my students because there have been so many parallels! 

Here are my reflections on the key lessons – the laws – from the book, with support from my own experience, as well as from leading 41 creative business owners in building the foundations for a more profitable, sustainable and joyful business.

At the end, I share the new commitments I’m making to myself, having reviewed how my own habits can support progress towards my vision.

Make it obvious

Environment is everything

It was so interesting to learn just how powerful our environment is when it comes to supporting the successful uptake of our habits. I’ve been observing this connection and I wholeheartedly agree with what Clear asserts that “environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behaviour.”

I’ve been doing small experiments on myself. Creating checklists; putting out workout clothes and equipment the night before; leaving the kitchen sparkling at night, to make it more welcoming for meal preparation the next day and so on.

Simplicity wins

You’ve heard these suggestions before and may easily dismiss them as being too simple. But simple is often powerful! 

What simple cues can you create for yourself, that will help making the best decision become effortless?

It’s been a joy to see the different rituals and routines SHINE students have created, for various aspects of their work and personal life. These are the foundations that support us to thrive.

Make it attractive

Now that romanticising your life is all the rage…

Romanticise your habits! If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll know that joy is a key mission here. Hence all the yellow and also why a joyful business is one of the objectives of the SHINE program. What can get you through the “boredom” of execution? Simple pleasures that help you look forward to performing the work and life habits that are necessary, in the journey towards your goals.

When I say simple, I mean it. Yup, that powerful thing about simplicity again. A fire playlist (enjoy our Studio one here). A cup of your favourite tea. Incense while you move your body. Putting some love and attention into creating a work corner that sparks joy for you. These are all things I’ve implemented myself, which have made my habits more of a pleasure.

Design rituals around the habits you want to install

It’s true what Clear suggests: “The more you ritualise the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.”

I’ve always admired people who take the time to make life yummy and I would like to think I’m slowly becoming one of those people too. Marie Kondo, her book and her Netflix shows are total inspirations for this.

Consider how you can make all the aspects of your life and work yummy, in even the most simple of ways. I recommend grabbing a journal and doing a braindump of ideas. This is a great use of a beautiful notebook and of course, if you need one, we make them :). 

Romanticising applies to working on your goals too. Making your ‘goals time’ a whole, pleasurable experience, helps you to look forward to doing the work you know is super important but so often resist.

Make it easy

Resistance be damned!

What’s the smallest chunk or version of your desired habit, that will be enough to break down your resistance to starting?

Choose something realistic so you can feel the glory of success each time. When you do, you signal to yourself that you’re making progress. You build confidence in yourself and you to begin to identify as the kind of person who is consistent in that area – “I’m a writer,” “I’m a runner,” etc. The more you identify in this way, the more likely you are to stay the course and keep up with the habit.

Consistent small actions lead to results. Again: we know this. It makes sense. And yet, so many of us have a hard time putting this into practice (me included!). 

Beware of boredom

James Clear talks about the reason being boredom which, in his words, is “the biggest threat to success”. His answer is that we have to find a way to fall in love with boredom, so we’re not constantly chasing the next exciting thing. 

Sound familiar? All the great new ideas you get in the middle of executing another. All the ways you try to justify to yourself – and others – why it’s a good idea for you to shift gears.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we may realise these distractions for what they are: ways to avoid sticking to the long game and its possibly boring middle. Ways to feel good about moving, even if it’s not in a forward direction. 

Appreciating that ”motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure,” Clear warns us against mistaking motion for action. It is action – not just learning, strategising and planning – that gets us results. However mundane and repetitive it can get!

Make it easy to start

Often, taking action requires making a start. Make it easy for yourself to make a start.

Lower your expectations and pleasantly surprise yourself when you overachieve. This could look like reading 10 pages, instead of 1 chapter; spending 10 minutes learning, instead of an hour; writing one line instead of 3 pages; working on the first, next, single-sitting step, instead of trying to finalise the whole project. 

You’ll probably find that many times you end up doing more than the bare minimum you set for yourself.

On ease and making progress with our goals, not just our habits: we often don’t move forward with our goals because the action steps are way too large! I’ll talk more about this soon (join my mailing list so you don’t miss out). The short version is: break the task down further. When you think you’ve broken it down as much as you can, try breaking it down even more!

Make it satisfying

Incentives

How will you reward yourself for doing what you set out to do?

My rewards range from checking the item as done on my habit tracker, to watching a TV episode after completing one of my chunky weekly habits. Choose a reward that fits the activity and of course, that fits your personality too!

For instance, daily time devoted to learning is one of the habits I’m focusing on and, for that one, my reward is noting down one action or idea. Now, for many people, that may not seem like a reward but, for me, somebody who loves coming up with ideas and projects, it’s super satisfying!

I just have to emphasise the joy of tracking for a moment. Indeed, tracking is something you’re going to fall in love with when you take my SHINE program: it’s my personal mission for that to happen! It’s been validating to see students overcome their resistance to measurement, by discovering there are different ways to do it that align with their individual circumstances and that actually move them closer to their goals and desires.

In the words of one SHINE student, regular use of tracking and the other accountability tools provided in the program have helped with “clarity and perspective.”

Identity

Sometimes, satisfaction comes simply from the completion of the task itself. From being the kind of person who consistently takes that action. As Clear says: “incentives can start a habit [but]… identity sustains a habit.”

On that note, I’ll wrap this up with a question I love to ask and ponder myself: who do you need to be, in order to get things moving in the direction you desire? [Watch more on this real talk here]

“It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress”

— Atomic Habits by James Clear

What new commitments do you need to make?

My daily commitments as of May 22nd, 2022:

  • Intentionally moving my body (mostly yoga) – you too can enjoy my YouTube playlist of classes here
  • Journaling – morning pages style 
  • Learning – this includes reading, watching educational videos, working on courses etc.
  • Goals time – working on the first next step of one of my 3 goals
  • Sharing – i.e. posting content on one of my marketing channels, primarily Instagram
  • Work wind-down – a series of tasks I complete at the end of the day, in order to: stay organised; lead my team better; delegate more; be more effective in general; and as a result of all these things, experience less stress and more ease

My weekly commitments as of May 22nd, 2022:

  • Weekly review – I created a template I use to reflect on and learn from the week. I share it inside my SHINE program
  • Weekly reset – this practice from the classic book, Getting Things Done, is transformational! That’s why I want to focus on becoming consistent with it
  • Write an article – this is something that helps me work in my strengths which also makes it: good for those who are served; good for business; and good for my personal joy and satisfaction!
  • Create a newsletter – sign up here if you haven’t already. They’re really good (people tell me so) and I promise to always put a lot of love and intention into creating them
  • Product design time – I struggle with working on this bit-by-bit throughout the year, as opposed to intense bursts when there’s time pressure so, I’m making it a weekly habit that will be tracked (also taking notes from Clear himself)

If you’re interested in how I’m making all of these obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying, let me know in the comments and I’ll consider creating a post about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.