A REVIEW OF THE BOOK “ATOMIC HABITS: AN EASY AND PROVEN WAY TO BUILD GOOD HABITS AND BREAK BAD ONES” BY JAMES CLEAR AND WRITTEN BY HAMMED JIMOH
It is the dawn of a new year and it is evident we just finished reviewing our goals for the last year and setting milestones for the new year. This is a great time to reach out to a self-help book because of the challenges faced in the previous year. I know we have been cautious in planning the new year and at that, if one needs a self-help book that could help one plan and at the same time allow one to be easy on the accelerator, the best book I have found is Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones written by James Clear, a leading habits and decision-making writer that has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Time, and on CBS This Morning.
With the barrage of cyber abuses and criticisms thrown at motivational speakers in recent times, I had joined the millennials not to believe motivational speakers and writers again. I jettisoned their works for biographies and autobiographies because I found the latter truthful. They reveal the challenges as it was faced without using the “aspire to mcguire” style of the motivational speakers around. I do not intend to denigrate the motivational speakers but truth be told, they have been unrealistic in recent times. I had visited a female friend of mine, Zainab, in Katsina state around October 2020 and after hearing me speak about my inability to get books before traveling, she lent me this book. I knew there is something special about the book the moment she gave me without uttering a word. Zainab is someone I respect and I am sure the content of the book will be impressive too.
The book unravels practical strategies that will change the way you set goals and the way you celebrate wins. It shows how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results. Using an epic storytelling style, the author delved into noteworthy strategies that have been used in sport to ensure continuous improvements.
He narrated the story of how British Cycling changed from mediocrity to excellence, leveraging simple insignificant improvement, a 1 percent improvement in areas that are often overlooked. Before the quest for excellence through 1 percent improvement, the British Cyclist had endured mediocrity and lack of championship for 110 years until a coach that understands the strategy of atomic habit was hired. Through this new strategy, a team that has been dormant for more than 110 years changed and won 178 world championships and sixty-six Olympic gold medals and captured five Tour de France victories only between 2007 to 2017.
The author highlighted four frameworks for building a healthy habit:
1. Cue — these are things that trigger the brain to initiate a behavior. These are obvious signs in our environment that predict reward. When the brain notices a cue, it then analyzes the whole environment for a reward.
2. Craving — this is the burning desire to have a reward, if you want something to become a habit, you need to make such a thing attractive. When the desire is high, the realization becomes easy.
3. Response — when your brain identifies a thing that could lead to a reward and you ignite a burning desire to get it, you need to respond by taking an action. The action you take is the response that later becomes a habit.
4. Reward — this is the result of the habit framework. Since the framework starts from the cue, which is about noticing a reward, then proceeded to crave, which signifies wants, and the response is about taking action/habit to get the reward, this fourth phase is about obtaining the reward in reality. The ability to feel and earn the reward will make a repeat possible hence there will be a habit built on satisfaction.
The author understands that one can be distracted from doing what one needs to do by what want one wants to do, therefore he gave practical tips on how to get rid of distraction which he called “temptation bundling”. He cited the example of an electrical engineering student, Ronan Byrne who always wants to watch Netflix but also needs to exercise. To get rid of distractions and achieve what he needs to achieve, he put his skills to work and linked his computer and television to his stationary bike. The mechanism this works with is that as he pedals the bike, his favorite show on Netflix will come up. Any slight lag on his part will make the show pause. This helps Byrne to achieve his want and need at the same time. Adapting this temptation bundling to our daily lives will help us win the war against temptation and distraction.
The author identified that people don’t give up habits because they cannot keep up, they neglect habits because it is no longer attractive. He stated that “the greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We tend to give up habits because they fail to delight us after we form a routine. We desire novelty — bad habits are addictive because they constantly provide novelty. So, we need to create variable rewards, so that there is a spike of dopamine and accelerates habit formation. The only way to become great is to fall in love with the habits every day and learn to be endlessly fascinated by the same thing.”
I recommend the book because it offers a practical guide to achieving success across all areas of life through engaging in minuscule acts. It does not matter how little; it recommends that one should ensure he is getting better. The telltale method used in narrating real-life experiences in this book makes the reading interesting. If you have a target to achieve something, be it small or big, you need the self-help strategy offered by this book. If you have been indulging in habits that are destructive and you need to get rid of them, you need this book. As the year is new and you want to chart a new course in career and personal development, I recommend you make this book your late-night companion.