The Oxford dictionary defines Habit as something that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing. So the focus remains on ‘almost without thinking.’ Think about how you sleep and wake up at almost the same time every day, without even trying. And when you do try and break out of the habit, wishing to wake up earlier, you can’t help failing and need to keep trying harder. So in this article, we’re going to try and decode habits, whether they’re unhealthy or healthy habits, and how books like Atomic Habits and The Power of Habit can help us get our lives on track.

Let’s dive in.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says,

“Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

How do we become the designers of our own little worlds and very big lives?

Especially since the pandemic began, we’ve probably come to notice some of the habits that we all have, whether they’re unhealthy or healthy habits, and how they come to rule our lives, day after day.

And if you’ve looked hard enough and feel the need to change or break bad habits, the first thing you must have realized is that it is TOUGH, to say the least.

So to start the process of developing healthy habits, let’s take a look at what bad or unhealthy habits are.

What can we learn about bad habits from the book Atomic Habits?

This is one crucial question you must ask yourself when you try to break a habit. What are your bad habits, and what exactly makes them ‘bad?’ Is it a habit that harms your physical or mental health, like excessive smoking, drinking, or staying in a toxic relationship because you’ve simply become habitual?

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits writes,

“Emotions drive behavior. Every decision is an emotional decision at some level. Whatever your logical reasons are for taking action, you only feel compelled to act on them because of emotion.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

How do habits form in the first place?

To confront our bad habits, let’s try and understand how habits even form.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits explains the process in the best way possible.

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

Why is it so hard to break out of habits and what can we learn from the book Atomic Habits?

We all know how tough it is to break out of a habit. Which is probably why you’ve searched the internet and landed here. But if we try and understand why it is so tough to break a habit, we’ll find it easier to finally break out of it.

As author of Atomic Habits, James Clear writes,

“It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

So how can we break bad habits?

Breaking a bad habit is tough because we don’t know where to even begin! So let’s look at it this way. Let’s not try to ‘break’ a bad habit, but simply replace it with healthy habits. Sounds a tad bit simpler, doesn’t it?

This way, the power of habit is that it simply becomes a matter of making a change in your brain’s system, so that your goals can be more accessible.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits writes,

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

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

A step by step guide to break bad habits as learned from books like Atomic Habits and The Power Of Habit

So once you’ve understood how your system works, you can put these simple steps in place to break out of the ‘habit loop’ as the author of The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg calls it.

1. Observe the triggers

When you engage in your ‘bad habit,’ observe the kind of environment you are in, the triggers, and how you can eliminate them or react to them more mindfully without taking the support of your bad habit.

“In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

2. Change your environment

Think about little changes in your environment that can help eliminate the need for your bad habit.

For example, if you have a habit of checking your phone the moment you wake up or till late at night, but wish to stop, can you change your environment to help you stop? Maybe you can do so by keeping your phone away from the bed at night? Does it help? The same goes for every other bad habit you might have.

“You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

3. A reward to reinforce the better habit

If you’ve been wanting to quit a bad habit, and you happen to finally quit it, you’ll get your reward automatically enough for a few days. But slowly, you might get bored of your healthy habits and feel a craving for your bad habit again. For this reason, you need a solid reward system in place.

Taking the example above, can you exercise for that half an hour that you lose looking at your phone right in the morning? Or read a book you’ve always wanted to read before sleeping? Once you figure a reward system that can become automatic in itself, try to make it a part of your daily routine.

“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.”

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

And by simply putting in a little effort, you’ll have replaced your bad habits with healthy habits. Because remember, your habits are here to stay. And unfortunately or fortunately (depends on the habits you have), one bad habit leads to more bad habits and vice versa.

So whether good, bad, ugly, beautiful, unhealthy, or healthy habits. The power of habit is that the choice is yours to make.

Good luck!