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THE FUNDAMENTALS Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference
- Habits are a double-edged sword. Bad habits can cut you down just as easily as good habits can build you up, which is why understanding the details is crucial. You need to know how habits work and how to design them to your liking, so you can avoid the dangerous half of the blade.
- Negative thoughts compound. The more you think of yourself as worthless, stupid, or ugly, the more you condition yourself to interpret life that way. You get trapped in a thought loop. The same is true for how you think about others. Once you fall into the habit of seeing people as angry, unjust, or selfish, you see those kind of people everywhere.
- Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.
- “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”
- Forget about goals, focus on systems instead. What’s the difference between systems and goals? Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)
- The first layer is changing your outcomes. The second layer is changing your process. The third and deepest layer is changing your identity.
- With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become… Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
- Habits can help you achieve all of these things, but fundamentally they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone… The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps
- The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. First, there is the cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward. Cravings are the second step, and they are the motivational force behind every habit. The third step is the response. The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. Finally, the response delivers a reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward.
- Whenever you want to change your behavior, you can simply ask yourself: How can I make it obvious? How can I make it attractive? How can I make it easy? How can I make it satisfying?
THE 1ST LAW: Make It Obvious
The Man Who Didn’t Look Right
- “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” - Carl Jung
- The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
The Best Way to Start a New Habit
- Implementation intention, which is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit.
- The tendency for one purchase to lead to another one has a name: the Diderot Effect. The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption that leads to additional purchases.
Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More
- People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are.
- The most powerful of all human sensory abilities, however, is vision. The human body has about eleven million sensory receptors. Approximately ten million of those are dedicated to sight. Some experts estimate that half of the brain’s resources are used on vision. Given that we are more dependent on vision than on any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior. For this reason, a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do.
- If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment.
The Secret to Self-Control
- You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves of habit have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely—even if they go unused for quite a while.
- Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. You may be able to resist temptation once or twice, but it’s unlikely you can muster the willpower to override your desires every time. Instead of summoning a new dose of willpower whenever you want to do the right thing, your energy would be better spent optimizing your environment. This is the secret to self-control. Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.
THE 2ND LAW Make It Attractive
How to Make a Habit Irresistible
- Scientists refer to these exaggerated cues as supernormal stimuli… Compared to nature, these pleasure-packed experiences are hard to resist. We have the brains of our ancestors but temptations they never had to face.
- Dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it. Gambling addicts have a dopamine spike right before they place a bet, not after they win. Cocaine addicts get a surge of dopamine when they see the powder, not after they take it. Whenever you predict that an opportunity will be rewarding, your levels of dopamine spike in anticipation. And whenever dopamine rises, so does your motivation to act.
- As an adult, daydreaming about an upcoming vacation can be more enjoyable than actually being on vacation. Scientists refer to this as the difference between “wanting” and “liking.”
The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits
- One of the deepest human desires is to belong. And this ancient preference exerts a powerful influence on our modern behavior.
- In many ways, these social norms are the invisible rules that guide your behavior each day. You’re always keeping them in mind, even if they are at the not top of your mind. Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering.
- Your culture sets your expectation for what is “normal.” Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.
- We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).
- One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.
How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits
- ‘Stop lying to yourself. You know you don’t actually want to smoke. You know you don’t really enjoy this.’ It helps you feel like you’re not the victim anymore. You start to realize that you don’t need to smoke.”
- When you binge-eat or light up or browse social media, what you really want is not a potato chip or a cigarette or a bunch of likes. What you really want is to feel different.
THE 3RD LAW Make It Easy
Walk Slowly, but Never Backward
- When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome. If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action.
- Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which occurs when the nonconscious mind takes over.
- The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
- The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.
The Law of Least Effort
- The idea behind make it easy is not to only do easy things. The idea is to make it as easy as possible in the moment to do things that payoff in the long run.
- One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practice environment design.
- Human behavior follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
- Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy. Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.
How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule
- THE TWO-MINUTE RULE: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes. That’s how you follow the Two-Minute Rule.
- Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.
How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible
- A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It is a way to lock in future behavior, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones.
THE 4TH LAW Make It Satisfying
The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change
- The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.
- The first three laws of behavior change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop.
- You live in what scientists call an immediate-return environment because your actions instantly deliver clear and immediate outcomes … You live in what scientists call a delayed-return environment because you can work for years before your actions deliver the intended payoff.
- With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, it is the reverse: the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good. The French economist Frédéric Bastiat explained the problem clearly when he wrote, “It almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. . . . Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits.”
- The last mile is always the least crowded.
HOW TO TURN INSTANT GRATIFICATION
- The ending of any experience is vital because we tend to remember it more than other phases.
How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day
- Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures—like moving paper clips or hairpins or marbles—provide clear evidence of your progress. As a result, they reinforce your behavior and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity.
- Habit tracking (1) creates a visual cue that can remind you to act, (2) is inherently motivating because you see the progress you are making and don’t want to lose it, and (3) feels satisfying whenever you record another successful instance of your habit.
- You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad (or busy) days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you. If you start with $100, then a 50 percent gain will take you to $150. But you only need a 33 percent loss to take you back to $100. In other words, avoiding a 33 percent loss is just as valuable as achieving a 50 percent gain. As Charlie Munger says, “The first rule of compounding: Never interrupt it unnecessarily.”
- This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s Law. Named after the economist Charles Goodhart, the principle states, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system. In our data-driven world, we tend to overvalue numbers and undervalue anything ephemeral, soft, and difficult to quantify. We mistakenly think the factors we can measure are the only factors that exist. But just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing. And just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean it’s not important at all.
- Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive. Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything
- Pain is an effective teacher. If a failure is painful, it gets fixed. If a failure is relatively painless, it gets ignored. The more immediate and more costly a mistake is, the faster you will learn from it.
The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)
- The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition. This is just as true with habit change as it is with sports and business.
- The most proven scientific analysis of personality traits is known as the “Big Five,” which breaks them down into five spectrums of behavior. Openness to experience: from curious and inventive on one end to cautious and consistent on the other. Conscientiousness: organized and efficient to easygoing and spontaneous. Extroversion: outgoing and energetic to solitary and reserved (you likely know them as extroverts vs. introverts). Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate to challenging and detached. Neuroticism: anxious and sensitive to confident, calm, and stable. All five characteristics have biological underpinnings.
- There is a version of every habit that can bring you joy and satisfaction. Find it. Habits need to be enjoyable if they are going to stick. This is the core idea behind the 4th Law.
- Explore/exploit trade-off: At the beginning of a new activity, there should be a period of exploration. In relationships, it’s called dating. In college, it’s called the liberal arts. In business, it’s called split testing. The goal is to try out many possibilities, research a broad range of ideas, and cast a wide net. After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you’ve found—but keep experimenting occasionally. The proper balance depends on whether you’re winning or losing. If you are currently winning, you exploit, exploit, exploit. If you are currently losing, you continue to explore, explore, explore. In the long run, it is probably most effective to work on the strategy that seems to deliver the best results about 80 to 90 percent of the time and keep exploring with the remaining 10 to 20 percent.
- When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different
- Boiling water will soften a potato but harden an egg. You can’t control whether you’re a potato or an egg, but you can decide to play a game where it’s better to be hard or soft. If you can find a more favorable environment, you can transform the situation from one where the odds are against you to one where they are in your favor.
The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work
- The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.
- A flow state is an experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in an activity. Scientists have tried to quantify this feeling. They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.
- “At some point it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over.”
- The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
- The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom.
The Downside of Creating Good Habits
- When you want to maximize your potential and achieve elite levels of performance, you need a more nuanced approach. You can’t repeat the same things blindly and expect to become exceptional. Habits are necessary, but not sufficient for mastery. What you need is a combination of automatic habits and deliberate practice. Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
- Mastery is the process of narrowing your focus to a tiny element of success, repeating it until you have internalized the skill, and then using this new habit as the foundation to advance to the next frontier of your development. Old tasks become easier the second time around, but it doesn’t get easier overall because now you’re pouring your energy into the next challenge. Each habit unlocks the next level of performance. It’s an endless cycle.
- In the words of investor Paul Graham, “keep your identity small.” The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you.
- Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.
👁️🗨️ References: Habit Cheat Sheet