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If you’re skimming and looking for the secret sauce of this blog, it came from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. We’d like to discuss two misconceptions we had. The first misconception was regarding the book. Our thinking was atomic habits must be huuuuge like atomic bomb explosions. This was completely and utterly false since atoms are very, very small! The second misconception is that goals must be SMART, which is an acronym we’ll get into later… which is also, false.

Atoms are extremely tiny, yet enough of them stacked together make up the device you’re reading this on and the chair or the ground you’re currently occupying. Like atoms, habits/goals/resolutions can be stacked together to create significant changes and produce the results you want to achieve.

Setting yourself up for successful New Year’s resolutions, according to Atomic Habits, is an adherence to 4 fundamentals:

  1. How can I make it obvious?
  2. How can I make it attractive?
  3. How can I make it easy?
  4. How can I make it satisfying?

Accomplish a new habit:

 Let’s look at an example of how to apply the fundamentals to this goal: I want to drink more water first thing in the morning.

As humans, if something is obvious and easy, we’re more likely to do it. In this instance if we want to drink more water first thing in the morning, put a full glass of water on our nightstand or have one waiting in the bathroom. Now when we wake up, it is “obvious”-ly sitting there, and it is already full making it easy to drink. Voila! If this tiny change is added into our routine every morning, it makes the habit become easier and over time until it becomes second nature. Then we will drink that glass of water first thing in the morning without thinking. Boom, resolution achieved!

Break a bad habit:

How can you use this to break a bad habit? Looking at the 4 fundamentals above, you make it LESS. Less obvious, less attractive, less easy, less satisfying.

Say you want more time in your day without social media. Some examples of making it LESS:re-arrange the apps on your home screen making it less obvious to find. Going one step further, bury the social media apps in a hidden folder, or log out of your accounts each time you exit making it less easy to access the next time you think about checking it. Delete the app entirely forcing you to download and sign in each time you want to access your account. Now you’ve made it less obvious, less easy, less satisfying, and less attractive. Plus, you’ve gained back 5-30 minutes of your day to work on your new resolution or positive habit. In essence, you just gained back your time!

Make habits easy, not SMART:

The second myth of goal setting: Goals should be SMART. (Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time based).  Nothing against the acronym, but nothing about SMART goal setting is obvious, easy or satisfying. This acronym doesn’t work for many when it comes to small incremental changes made day in and day out.

What works better? Habit stacking! Stack your new habit onto one you already have in place. If you want to improve your mobility and already have a solid exercise routine, stack the mobility work onto your exercise routine and perform it at the end. Now you have the accomplishment of finishing your workout AND adding in the new habit of mobility work. Another way to phrase “habit stacking” is “stacking your wins.” When done consistently, this habit becomes engrained as part of your standard actions just like drinking your water first thing in the morning. You achieved your resolution!

How to not break off more than you can chew:

Lastly, we’ve been discussing the addition of small changes. Large, sweeping changes (large amounts of weight loss, diet changes, fitness goals, etc.) are very hard to implement and stick with right away. However, the larger goals can easily be broken down into their singular “atoms” and added into your week one by one. Let’s say we want to lose 50 pounds this year. That seems like a lot to take in all at once! But broken down into singular ‘atoms,’ loosing 1 pound per week is much more achievable and easier. And the best part, before the year is over, voila, you’ve lost 50 pounds! Your small habit changes will turn into large accomplishments. Boom, successful resolution!

This year don’t just set goals… actually achieve them!

Reference: Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits