Pay Closer Attention To This When Building Habits that Last
Whether you are trying to form a habit or break one, your environment is an element that can help or hinder your efforts.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear describes the four laws of forming habits:
- Make it obvious
- Make it attractive
- Make it easy
- Make it satisfying
Within the first law is a chapter called ‘Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More’ and over the years I have found this to be a fundamental truth especially when it is combined with the ‘Make it Easy’ law.
If you think about habits we all have that don’t require motivation or discipline like brushing our teeth or taking a shower every morning, you realized that they happen systematically whether “we feel like it” or not. They happen because we go to the bathroom and are conditioned to do those things there and all is at hand. Have you noticed that even in the most cluttered house, the bathroom is still organized efficiently? Everything has a place and is easy to access.
As I wrote in a previous post, setting up the scene is crucial to sticking to habits. I called it ‘Mise-en-place’: everything you need must be in a specific place and easy to access to make the habit inevitable.
If it is true that motivation is overrated, location and cues are certainly underrated. Developing awareness about the location of habits can not only support forming good habits but also help us break bad habits. For instance, smokers tend to smoke in the same places and simply avoiding those places can help tremendously. If you tend to snack on the sofa every night, simply sitting in a different place will support your efforts. If you want to stop spending money on takeaway coffee, use a different route. You will be passing other coffee places but won’t be tempted because it is not the place you usually go to.
Location, location, location…
Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behaviour.
James Clear, Atomic Habits