Anyone who’s ever resolved to create better habits knows how hard it can be to stick with them. In fact, studies show that fewer than 10 percent of Americans keep their New Year’s resolutions. That’s because most people don’t create habits that work with—instead of against—our human nature. Understanding the science of behavior change can help you work smarter, not harder, to achieve your biggest goals.
Whether you’re looking to land a promotion or trying to get serious about your fitness, learning how to break your goals into a system of habits can help you stay on track. With a simplified framework for designing smarter habits, behavior change authority James Clear has helped millions of people make progress toward their goals every day. That consistent progress is one of the keys to elite-level performance that he shares in his No. 1 NYT bestseller Atomic Habits. His framework is built around the 4 laws of behavior change, which you can start applying to your life today.
Who is James Clear?
Clear cut through the self-help clutter by building a framework to help anyone break down goals into habits—and create habits that actually work. His acclaimed book, Atomic Habits, has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, and his weekly newsletter has more than 2 million subscribers. He’s a trusted speaker for Fortune 500 companies, and his work has been used by teams in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Now, in his new class on MasterClass, he’s teaching you how the Atomic Habits framework applies to emerging challenges like excelling in remote work environments and navigating an endless stream of distractions. His four laws of behavior change can help you design good habits (or break bad ones).
4 Laws of Behavior Change from Atomic Habits Author James Clear
- Make it obvious.
Changing your behavior starts with self-awareness. Notice existing behaviors that have become automatic for you and pay attention to the “cues” that prompt you to implement those actions. Then use cues to teach yourself to repeat behaviors that you want to incorporate into your life (and avoid cues that lead to destructive habits).
Making new habits can also start with building an “implementation intention”—a specific plan for when and where you’re going to implement the behavior. This can help make your desired behavior more obvious and direct, Clear says, noting, “Many people feel like they lack motivation, when what they really lack is clarity.”
2. Make it attractive.
According to Clear, the process of changing your habits is really the process of changing the stories you tell yourself. Even offhand comments like “I have a sweet tooth” can influence the choices you make. Reprogramming how you think about good habits by making them more attractive will help you follow through on your plans. Reframe how you think about tasks by telling yourself you “get to” do them instead of you “have to.”
Socializing your habits is another way to make them more attractive. When others are along for the ride on your journey to better health or saving money, you’re more likely to stay consistent in your goals. On the flip side, if you want to stop a certain behavior, find ways to make it less attractive and spend time with people who support your new direction.
3. Make it easy.
When you are trying to build better habits, start with the easiest, most simplified version of that habit. Break it down into a two-minute action step. If you want to start reading more, commit to spending two minutes every night and build up from there. You can also work to remove obstacles that make it harder for you to execute your plans. For example, to stay consistent with his weekly newsletter, Clear asks his team to create a first draft. Even though he often changes it entirely, it’s easier for him to start with a draft than to sit down to a blank page.
Find out what steps support you in your new habits and remove as many obstacles as you can between you and your desired behavior. Follow the two-minute rule to get started on your goals right away, and commit to showing up for yourself no matter what.
4. Make it satisfying.
When you go through any experience, your brain analyzes the outcome. In general, we all gravitate toward activities that are pleasurable and shy away from the opposite. You can use this innate tendency in your favor by creating immediate rewards for good behaviors that might otherwise only pay off in the long run. Something as simple as tracking your progress every day helps you experience the reward of showing up and moving in the direction of your goals. These “signals of progress” help you reinforce the hard work you’re doing to make your goals a reality.
Learn more about behavior change and building habits for success in James Clear’s new class on MasterClass. He’ll teach you how to use the Atomic Habits framework to tackle today’s challenges by breaking down your goals into action steps. Designing smarter habits can help you transform your life, achieve personal and professional goals, and make progress every day. Those small steps hold the key to remarkable behavior change. As Clear says: “Consistency is its own form of greatness.”