James Clear’s Atomic Habits principles for long-lasting change
Businesswoman, mining engineer, athlete, and mindset coach Turia Pitt is one of millions of people around the world who recommend James Clear's bestselling book Atomic Habits.
And Turia knows the power of habits. When 24 she suffered horrific burns to 65 per cent of her body in a grassfire that trapped her while she was competing in an ultramarathon.
In interviews she has shared her daily healthy habits, which include actions to help her rehabilitation, stretching every night while watching Netflix, taking a minute every morning to think of three things she’s grateful for, and going for runs.
So how does Turia build lasting habits? She says it’s by starting small.
“A brick by itself doesn’t mean anything. But it’s the bricks on the bricks on the bricks that build you a mansion.” – Turia Pitt on BedThreads.com
These bricks are the “atomic habits” recommended by author James Clear in Atomic Habits. James says his own recovery from a horrific baseball injury at high school was helped by atomic habits.
Fresh from our exclusive September 2023 Global Headline events James Clear LIVE, when the Atomic Habits author toured Australia and New Zealand, let’s look at James Clear's key principles on how to make habits stick.
James Clear’s 4 Laws of Behaviour Change
Based on the human habit loop discovered by MIT researchers and described in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, James Clear has set out 4 laws of behaviour change. They are:
1. Cue: Make it obvious.
2. Craving: Make it attractive.
3. Response: Make it easy.
4. Reward: Make it satisfying.
When considering how to make a habit stick, adopt these principles. Put your gym bag by your bed, buy new exercise gear, book a group class, buy a coffee afterwards. These 4 laws of behaviour change can also apply to business.
By making an activity obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying, you’re more likely to stick with it.
7 ways to make habits stick
James Clear says the secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. Here are 7 ways to ensure you keep up the momentum:
Start Small with Atomic Habits
Just as Turia did during her long recovery journey, break down your habits into the smallest possible units, referred to as atomic habits.
Rather than trying to overhaul your life overnight, focus on taking tiny, manageable steps. In other words, try to become just 1% better every day. For Turia this was walking around the block and pedalling around a cul-de-sac on a tricycle.
These small actions, when repeated consistently, compound over time and lead to significant transformations.
Clarify Your Identity
“Behaviour that is incongruent with the self will not last.” – James Clear
To make habits stick, it is crucial to align your habits with your desired identity. Ask yourself,
"Who do I want to become?" and then identify the habits that embody that identity.
As James Clear says, you might start a habit by motivation but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity. “The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.”
By shifting the focus from specific goals to consistent behaviours, you create an environment where habits can thrive.
Build Habits through Habit Stacking
Turia says if she decides to watch Netflix after the kids are in bed, she makes it that she has to stretch while watching.
Habit stacking involves pairing a new habit with an existing one, leveraging the power of existing routines to create a seamless integration. Identify an action you perform consistently and anchor your desired habit to it.
By piggybacking on existing habits, you increase the chances of the new habit sticking and becoming automatic.
Design Your Environment
Our environment plays a crucial role in shaping our behaviour. As we mentioned earlier, make your desired habits more obvious, attractive, and easily accessible while reducing the visibility of negative influences.
Rearrange your physical space, create visual cues, and eliminate distractions that hinder your progress. By optimising your environment, you set yourself up for success and make it easier to follow through on your habits.
Utilise Habit Tracking and Accountability
Measure your progress and hold yourself accountable by tracking your habits. Use habit tracking apps, journals, or simple checklists to record your actions consistently. Regularly review your progress and reflect on the factors that contribute to your success or setbacks.
You could also consider involving an accountability partner or join a supportive community to keep up your commitment and motivation.
Overcome Obstacles with Habit Reframing
Obstacles and setbacks are inevitable in the journey of habit-building. Learn to reframe obstacles as opportunities for growth and problem-solving.
When faced with challenges, identify the underlying causes, adjust your approach if necessary, and persist in finding solutions.
Embrace the mindset that setbacks are temporary and that every challenge provides a chance to learn and improve. As Turia says in a BodyAndSoul.com article, “The point is - if you show up for your sessions and are generally consistent, you will get better over time.”
Focus on Systems, Not Goals
Shift your mindset from outcome-based goals to the development of effective systems. Goals are important, but it is the consistent implementation of systems that leads to sustainable results.
View your habits as part of a broader system designed to support your growth. By focusing on the process rather than the end result, you create a framework that ensures continuous improvement.
“This is a continuous process. There is no finish line. There is no permanent solution.” – James Clear
Building lasting habits is a transformative process that requires patience, consistency, and a strategic approach.
As one of our favourite quotes by Atomic Habits author James Clear explains, "The outside world only sees the most dramatic event, rather than all the work that preceded it."
But, by incorporating the principles outlined in Atomic Habits you can make habits stick and gradually build a foundation of positive behaviours that propel you towards your goals.
Invest in Your Learning With Membership to Growth Faculty
Want to keep up with the latest ideas and thinking from the brightest minds in the world?
Discover your potential by learning from the best with Growth Faculty annual membership.
· Unlimited access to dozens of live virtual masterclasses on trending topics around work, career, leadership, and culture; such as psychological safety, burnout, difficult conversations, strategy and execution, micromanaging, accountability and more, with opportunities to chat, ask questions of the speaker, and interact with your peers.
· Unlimited access to our multi-module leadership programs at both emerging and senior leader level.
· Discounts on tickets to be in audiences at our Global Headliner in-person events featuring top name speakers.
· Year-round leadership content on demand with replays of our live events, highlight reels, interviews with top business authors, and more.
Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. See our latest program of live virtual and in-person events.