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Home » Blog » Andy’s Notes from Business Folks: James Clear – When You’re Starting a New Habit, Don’t Miss Twice!

Andy’s Notes from Business Folks: James Clear – When You’re Starting a New Habit, Don’t Miss Twice!

New Year’s Resolutions or Starting a New Habit – The Need to Get Past the Early Stages

Perhaps you participate in the annual tradition of setting goals as you turn the calendar page into each new January.  It’s mid-February now, however, and that probably means that this year’s set of New Year’s Resolutions has gone by the wayside. Setting goals for the year was certainly a part of my growing up years.  My dad wrote our lists and made copies to post on our bathroom mirror so we would see them daily.  That consistent reminder was extremely important.  It’s easy to start the year with enthusiasm but building a system to support the attaining of those goals was essential.  A New Year’s Resolution, or any new habit you are starting, needs to be nurtured in its early stages if you want it to last past February.

Don’t Miss Twice

In recent years, James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, has become the definitive book on the study of habits.  He suggests a framework you can use to establish or improve good habits, while limiting or stopping your bad habits.  Clear’s framework offers insight to help adjust things for yourself, and for your Team, that can make the good habits more likely and the bad ones all but impossible.  With all the great stuff in the book, the biggest idea that jumped out for me was the notion that when creating long-term habits, you have to make sure you don’t miss twice.

When starting a new habit, any habit, you need to expect and plan ahead for the fact that at some point, you’re going to miss.  At the outset, you’re super excited about your new habit and you start to build a streak.  That daily behavior feels great, and you’re excited to make progress.  Then, at some point, inevitably, you miss.

For most people, that first miss is devastating.  Your streak is broken.  You can’t excitedly tell your friends that you’ve been doing it for X number of days now.  The situation suddenly feels hopeless, and you give up.  Just like that, your habit is broken.

James Clear’s alternative is that you should expect you’ll miss, and you need to put a plan in place ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss twice!  By setting the expectation that life will get in the way and you’ll miss a day, it won’t be a surprise when it happens.  And because you put together a plan ahead of time expecting to miss once, you’ll do everything you can so that you definitely won’t miss twice.

The psychology of this important planning step resonated with me, because a single miss has derailed more of my habits than I’d care to admit.  From New Year’ Resolutions to new diets, I’ve tried to create and sustain a lot of habits over the years.  After reading Atomic Habits, my consistency has dramatically improved, even though I certainly haven’t been perfect.  By bouncing back from a miss, I’ve saved numerous habits since then.  Sticking to my new habits has allowed me to improve my performance in a variety of areas.  Aristotle’s quote rings true that “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Improve your habits and you’ll improve your performance.  James Clear offers a proven framework for you to adopt good habits in your life.  When you commit to not missing twice on your new habits, you greatly improve the chance that they’ll stick.

Summary

James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, provides “An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.”  I encourage you to read or listen to the book if you want to improve your life and performance in any area through good habits.

A big part of Clear’s framework that resonates with me is that when starting a new habit, you must plan for what you’ll do when you miss.  Planning for a miss ahead of time, and making sure you’re committed to not missing twice in a row, can keep you on track with your new habit and prevent yourself from getting derailed after that first miss.

I certainly wish the best for you as you try to build positive habits that will improve your performance.  Don’t let that first, inevitable, miss persuade you to give up.

After learning about habits from James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits, I made adjustments in my life.  These are adjustments that I will continue to review and implement.

Review my current habits, most of which I’ve developed over the years.

I made a point to evaluate how my current habits are serving my performance and helping to achieve my goals.  When I reviewed both my good habits and my bad habits using the framework in Atomic Habits, I saw them in a new light.  James Clear helped me understand why I can struggle to stick with some habits I desire to keep, and why I might return to bad habits I’d like to remove.  There are logical reasons for my behavior, and it was helpful to put those reasons in context so I could make positive changes.

Create the conditions to promote good habits and limit bad habits in my life.

The Atomic Habits framework describes the Four Laws of Behavior Change.  They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.  I could use these four laws to make any habit more likely to be performed, or I could use their opposites to make it less likely for a habit to be continued.  I was able to use this information to make changes to optimize the habits for my life.

Plan ahead for what to do when I miss a habit I’m trying to keep – Don’t Miss Twice!

In starting a new habit, I could use the four laws to build the proper conditions to be successful.  One of the most important aspects of the planning was to reaffirm what I would do if I messed up, vowing that I would do everything I could to make sure I didn’t miss twice.  That commitment has saved more than a few habits that I might have otherwise lost.

  • Take some time to list your current habits.  It’s likely a big list.
  • Evaluate Each Habit and categorize them as Positive, Neutral, or Negative.
  • Consider why your Negative habits persist.  Use the Four Laws of Behavior Change:
      • Is it obvious?  Is it visually available for you to see?
      • Is it attractive?  Does it look appealing to you to do?
      • Is it easy?  Is it convenient and simple for you to do?
      • Is it satisfying?  Does it feel good after you’ve done it?
  • Could you change the above conditions to remove one of your Negative habits?
  • What new Positive habit would you like to start?  Can you use the Four Laws to improve the likelihood you’ll develop that habit?
  • Will you commit to making sure you won’t miss your new habit twice?

James Clear has been writing at JamesClear.com about habits, decision making, and continuous improvement since 2012. He’s the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, which has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 50 languages. He’s also known for his popular 3-2-1 newsletter, which is sent out each week to more than 3 million subscribers.

What has been the most important habit you’ve developed in your life?

What has been the most difficult habit for you to break in your life?

When you’ve tried to start a new habit, have you ever given up when you missed the first time?

Please answer the questions and add your comments below. 

We look forward to hearing from you!