Thoughts on Atomic Habits (Chapters 9-14)


Chapter 9- The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

As the chapter title suggests, family and friends can be a major shaper in a person’s habits. This is generally because of the seductive pull of social norms. One such story highlighted in this chapter follows the Polgar sisters, whose parents raised them to be chess champions and grandmasters by enculturating them in an environment that was solely focused on chess. Through their home-schooling, constant practice, and rewarding the girls not only mastered the game at an early age, but rather enjoyed it. Simply, joining a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior can be a major motivator for creating new habits. As a doctorate student, I can see the value in surrounding oneself with classmates in the same circumstances. Not only is a motivator for me, but it also fosters an environment that will encourage me to grow, learn, and succeed. As humans’ we desire to imitate the powerful, so being around powerful minds motivated to obtain their doctorate degree I feel this will produce better habits.

Chapter 10- How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

Most of our bad habits, whether it be watching too much TV or poor eating, have underlying motives. In essence, each behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive. In order to root these out, Clear suggests, is to create an inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change, which is to make it unattractive. For instance, if watching too much TV is a bad habit, verbally call out the TV show you wish to watch before turning the TV on to avoid watching pointless TV programming. For me, this hit home as I sometimes distract myself from stressful situations by procrastinating in another productive activity (or so I think it to be). For me, this habit is attractive because I associate it with a positive feeling (staying busy). Breaking this habit, as the book suggests, involves creating a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit. Seeing as I’ll be engaging in immersive doctoral work for the next few years, it is more important than ever to root out any unattractive habits that may needlessly consume my time.

Chapters 11 & 12- Walk Slowly, But Never Backward

Chapters 11 and 12 focus much effort on the difference of motion vs taking action. As John Wooden once said, “don’t mistake activity for achievement.” Staying busy or planning doesn’t always produce tangible results. It is only through action and repetition does one truly begin to produce work from their habits. This idea that habits form from frequency and not time is a true statement. In other words, goals can be met through what is termed as automaticity, which refers to performing a habit in an automatic motion, which produces a tangible result. This causes me to pause and reflect on what is being asked for of me in both my professional and academic life. Simply put, learn how to do things, then produce tangible research products of those learnings. This can be tough as: 1) it requires habits to be formed to learn the material and take the time to do it, and 2) take the time to produce the tangible research output. That said, I can definitely see taking the path of least effort to value my time and reduce the friction of not producing by being proactive with my outputs.

Chapter 13- How to Stop Procrastinating Using the Two-Minute Rule

The two-minute rule is quite simple: scale any habit down into a two-minute version and start there. The two-minute ritual then becomes interwoven into a more difficult habit. An implementation that I could see as beneficial in my life is journaling/blogging on a daily basis. Rather than making it a goal to produce long, detailed journal posts, the goal would be to produce more succinct, short posts and thoughts and commit to that on a daily basis. Additionally, attempting to spread work out over time rather than trying to complete it all in a single setting. However, this requires some detailed habit-forming on my part to complete such a task. Procrastination can be my biggest enemy, and throwing the two-minute drill (i.e. two-minute rule) is one place to start retooling my own habits and tackling larger routines and tasks.

Chapter 14- How to Make Good habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

This chapter focuses around commitment devices or choices that you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits. By utilizing commitment devices, strategic onetime decisions, and even technology, one can create an environment of inevitability—a space where good habits are not just an outcome you hope for, but an outcome that is virtually guaranteed. For me, habits don’t come easily. In fact, I sometimes shroud bad habits in what I refer to as ”multi-tasking” Feeling the need to check Twitter or fallback on unneeded technology (like playing around on the computer). These are things ultimately that I must create my commitment devices on.