00:00 You’re listening to the live happier, longer podcast, episode 25.
00:15 Welcome to the live happier, longer podcast. We’re your hosts, molly watts, and Angela McDade we are here to help you build the habits of a happier, longer life. Starting now.
00:28 Hey Angela. Hey Molly. How’s it going? Not too bad. Excellent. Here on a beautiful Sunday evening in snow, or I should say no snowmageddon. S’no snow. No snow. Yeah. It was supposed to hit. It just didn’t. There was nothing. Not at least not where we are. Right? I’m so sad. I know. Me Too, honestly. Just a bit. Anyway, I know we are on our month long talk about superagers. Yeah. And as a part of that, we wanted to talk about habits because we focus on five daily actions that are supposed to build the habits of a happier longer life. Yep. And all of our superagers have have carried out these habits of some sort through their life. Yeah. And they’re great examples of what happens when you do successfully build habits. We came across a great book, uh, we talked about the compound effect recently, couple of weeks ago on the podcast.
01:27 And now, uh, we found atomic habits by James Clear and it’s called atomic habits, tiny changes, remarkable results, an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones. And we thought that it was both. We just, I loved the super interesting. James is very science based and so we thought that as a part of our super agers discussion, it would be a great idea to talk about how to really build these habits. So let’s talk about atomic habits.
02:04 So James Clear a little bit about him. Um, he is an author, a motivational speaker. He calls himself a photographer and an entrepreneur. Yeah. And really what inspired me about James was his story where he came from, he was an athlete in high school and suffered a fairly catastrophic accident. Yes, really terrible. Literally almost died and had some pretty horrific brain trauma. Yeah. And as a result of that, he had to really develop habits to recover from that, that accident.
02:44 It was, it was, it was an ongoing process. He went onto college and he continued to be involved with these habits and exploring really, he, he became kind of a student of how he was building habits and he was writing things down and really tracking his progress, uh, throughout college when he, in 2012, he decided he wanted to start a blog and share these habits that noticed. Yeah, all the, all the researcher or whatever the, the writings or the, the um, evidence that he had had throughout his own years of recovery. And so in 2012 he decided to start a blog. I don’t think ever really with the goal of it becoming what it has. Yeah, and he also says that he never saw himself as a writer. Um, but he, he, set himself this Monday and Thursday, two times a week, he was going to publish an article and he decided to commit to that and did it consistently for the year of 2012.
03:54 At the end of 2012, he had a email subscriber list for this newsletter of about 10,000 people, which starting from zero was impressive. And he went on then in 2013, 2014 continuing to publish these articles on Mondays and Thursdays. He says that his whole focus is on how we can live better and self improvement tips that are based in scientific research. That’s what he focused on. Yeah. As he continued to do this, by the end of 2014, after three years of publishing articles on his email list in his newsletter base, had grown over 100,000 people were recognizing him as a, an expert in habits. And kind of the science of self improvement. And he was being coached coming into professional teams to talk to them, to big companies. And in 2015 he got this book offer from Random House for the very book. We’re talking about atomic habits.
05:00 So what I love about that is that his whole process was doing the habit of writing, which then became evidence of the fact that he is a writer. He is in fact a writer. Not like he was a writer and then he tried to. Do you know he just, he, he, he became a writer by writing and that’s a thing that he does talk about. It’s about who you become. Yeah, and about the fact that it’s really. He talks about three levels of change as it relates to habits. One is an outcome based change and those changes are when you’re just trying to lose weight, right? That’s the outcome you want and those kinds of habits are not usually as successful. The process change, which means I’m going to restrict the number of calories I eat, I’m going to exercise more. It’s all about the process and then the identity, identity based change, which is I’m going to become a healthy, fit person.
06:02 Right? And it’s those identity changes your who you wish to become emerges out of your habits. So he became a writer out of the habit of writing. Yeah. Which is pretty cool. And every action you take, he says, is a vote for who you are, should it become to be? Yeah. So that’s just kind of a little bit of a background on him and where this all started, but the the whole basis of habits and atomic habits is that they’re small little actions that become part of a larger system and it’s that system that you create and that you follow that really dictates what you will achieve your outcome. What’s your results? And he says you won’t rise to the level of your goals. You will fall to the level of your systems. Which I thought, you know, it’s pretty profound really. I mean it’s like, I mean it’s really.
07:02 And it makes total sense when you think about it, right? Because you can think all day long about this lofty goal you have and how much you want to do this and how much you want to achieve. But if you actually aren’t taking those small actions. If you take no actions, you will not achieve the goal. Right? And it’s the whole compound effect. And we talked about that with our discussion on Darren Hardy’s book, the compound effect. But really he says that habits are the compound interest of self improvement. They are so that, that is gold right there. I love that. Habits are the compound interest of self improvement. If you want to improve yourself, if you want to live that happier, longer life, you have to develop the habits. And that’s the one thing he’s very, um, vocal about is a lot of these tiny habits.
08:03 You don’t get the, you don’t get the outcome right now, it is a long term goal. He says small changes appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. And the most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. You need to be patient. Yeah. So, you know, if you, you want better results, you need to focus on that system. You don’t focus on the outcome, the goal. Yeah. It’s a bit like, I think, well, I have used this before. It’s “life is not a destination. It’s a journey.” Yeah. Right. And you have to focus on the journey. And even though you know, we say with our five daily actions, when you move, learn, share, give, let go, you’re going to feel better right away. I mean, if you’re really practicing those habits and if you’re really taking action on them everyday, you are going to feel better.
08:47 Yeah. But you are still working towards, you know, the goal. Yeah. Well it’s live happier longer. We went the happier to be. Yeah. Right now, but longer. It means that you are happier all the time as you live longer. Right. Exactly. And so that’s uh, you know, we are not going to. I should just put this out there right now. This book has a ton of so much information and it’s actually a hugely long book. No, not at all it, but it has so much great information and some great stories and tips. Um, yeah, some great stories that were really compelling and really enjoy it. I think more than anything else because we were chatting about this how some of the things you were reading it and going, Oh yeah, I’ll do that. Good job me. And then other things you go, ooh, I do that.
09:40 Like I said, I, I tend to look at everything and I’m always like, oh, I really need to mitigate. I’m always leaning towards I’m mitigating these negative habits that I have, you know, I’m looking for support and how to do that. Um, and this book definitely, I mean shows both sides of it, how great the good habit versus and also how to get stop doing the bad. And that’s the thing is it’s a, it’s about both, you know, so that the idea is that you, you set yourself up well, which is what we always talk about, we want people to set themselves up to succeed at aging, right? To be a more successful ager. Yeah. Yeah. And, and what’s interesting about this is that you’re either getting one percent, one percent, it’s only one percent better, right? Every day you’re not a huge number, but you can also get one percent worse if you’re not paying attention, right?
10:33 At any rate, we, like I said, we are not going to go into great depth. We’re going to keep it kind of at the 10,000 foot level of everything that he talks about. Highly encourage you to check out the book atomic habits or to at least subscribe to James Clear’s newsletter, which is at www.JamesClear.com.
10:52 So the very first thing that he kind of goes over is the habit loop and that’s really about understanding why our brains create habits in the first place, why we do the things that we do on a habitual basis. Yeah. And really this is not something that, this is something that, you know, our prehistoric brain has set up to help us. Yes, exactly. To help our brains become more efficient because quite honestly, you know, we don’t want to have to think about every single thing all the time. There’s some things that need to be set on autopilot so that you can concentrate on the other things that do require more mental effort. Yes, exactly. And so really our brains are trying to help us and protect us by creating habits, but much like anything, you know, habits are kind of a double edge sword because they can work for us or they can work against us. And so understanding how that happens is important.
11:56 So the habit loop basically, and this is nothing new and he even says that this is stuff that’s been around for a long time, is that the thing about his book, he pulls, kinda what we do here. We pull lots of information from lots of different places that we read and we have learned over the course of our research. We’re distilling information from different places and what he does is he distills this information from so many different places and like all the links at the back, all the references at the back of the book. So if there’s something that you hits on,i that you go, oh, I really want to read more about that. All of that information is there, which is super interesting. Yeah. So, and he’s , he’s very upfront about this. He said this is not me, summing up all of this, this is information that’s out there. And, and the habit loop is something. I mean we’ve, we’ve known and there’s been plenty of science and study on it, but just so that everyone in our audience understands how these habits come to be. Basically there is what he says, he calls it the cue, which leads to a craving, which leads to a response which leads to the reward and that’s how a habit is created. Either a good habit or bad habit, right? Yeah, exactly. So the cue is something that triggers the brain to initiate the, the behavior or initiate the feeling. Right? So that can be a visual cue. It could be a smell. Yeah, exactly. Could be a smell. It could be a time, it could be see something, right? Any of your sensory things that it picks up this cue.
13:43 Yeah and it triggers a craving or an emotion. And you’re basically whether that’s, you know, you want to, you’re usually fully. Well, it’s a want, you want something. You want to feel differently, you want to, you know, you’re compelled, right? You take action to that craving and then that your brain associates the whatever you’ve done as a reward for that craving. And so again, whether that, uh, you know, for better or worse, right? If it’s a good habit, that’s good and if it’s a bad, if it’s a habit that you’re trying to get rid of, you’re going to have to break into that cycle, especially at the craving point and take a different response because what he says is the craving itself, if it’s for something bad, so if you’re stressed out, the cue is you’re feeling stressed, the craving would be potentially you comfort eat. Yeah. Now his thing as is, you’re not necessarily craving the food that you’re going to eat. You’re craving the feeling that you get once you, once you eat the food, which is to get rid of the stress. Yeah. So and that that’s his thing is like the thing, the craving itself is associated with something else. So that’s, that’s where you can change up, you can change, you can find another way, rather than comfort eat, you can find another way to relieve that stress, be it a bubble bath, a massage, right? So that’s his tip to get out of that perceived bad habit to get into a good habit. And these are any habits that you have. Basically. This is how the habits get formed and how, you know, how established exactly. And this habit loop is there for really any habit that you have, good or bad. So he then goes on and really this is the backbone of his book, is this framework on how to a, create a good habit and b, how to prevent, prevent negative ones or to get rid of. Right? To how to break it. Yeah. Yeah. If it’s a bad habit. Yeah. Yeah.
16:04 He has four laws and again, it’s not a long book, but you know, there’s 20 chapters, so we’re good. We’re not going to go into, um, all of the detail of every single one of these, but these laws that he calls them, they’re the laws basically of creating a good habit. And then the inversion, the inverse of those laws are how you break them. Right? So the first one that is a part of how to make an uh, an action is basically a habit he says is an action that has happened often enough to become automatic. So how do we do that? We want something to become automatically want a good habit. The first thing is make it obvious. And this was, I mean, fairly self evident to me. I mean, when I’m listening to it or I was listening, you were reading, um, but at the same time I think it’s often overlooked. First and foremost is awareness and a lot of us are very because these, because habits are very automatic. Yeah, you’re not aware you’re doing things. And so the very first thing is to become aware and he recommends a habit record basically a score card. So that’s what they call it, habit scorecard that you’re going to write down everything that you do that you would consider a habit. Yeah, no judgment. Yep. Just write it down. no change, no nothing just and it’s just right in front of you and you can look at it and see, okay, this is what I do. And then that’s it right in front of you. So that’s part one of making it obvious.
17:50 Part two is the implementation intention. So when you decide that you want to do, you know, you, you’re trying to create a new habit, you can put it into implementation by saying with intention, I will do whatever, do this at this time, in this place. Yeah. So, so you’re setting yourself a time, a date to do this particular thing. Right? And it’s making it an obvious, you know, intentional decision to create the habit. The third part of making it obvious was habit stacking. And that is when you try to marry a current habit with a new habit, something that you already do something like if you, once you finish your dinner, you put your dish straight into the Dishwasher, right? So you’ve already, you’re obviously eating dinner as the current habit and you want to start cleaning up after yourself as a consistent, right? You just marry that, putting it in the dishwasher with it.
18:55 So lastly on making it obvious is designing your environment. And we both appreciated this because basically it’s making the cues of good habits obvious and visible. Yeah. So a good example he had of that was if there’s a plate of cookies sitting on the table, you’ll eat a cookie. So a better habit would be to have a bowl of fruit sitting on the table. So you eat the fruit, which is better for you than the cookie, right? So pretty, pretty self evident, but it’s all about designing your environment and we’ll get into this later, but creating less friction to do so. Yeah. So that is the first law. Make it obvious.
19:39 Second law, make it attractive. So this is all about basically making a new habit, something that you want to do right, that you’re, you’re encouraged to do. And he talks about how the culture that we are involved with influences how attractive habits are to us. We are drawn to habits that are popular with people that we’re close to, our family, our friends, the many which is kind of society at large. And then the powerful which are people that have prestige. So these are ways to that that we follow in terms of making things attractive to ourselves. So the first part of making it an attractive was temptation bundling. Yes. And that is all about pairing an action that you want to do with an action that you need to do and that’s like finding something that is like a carrot that you dangle in the care of yourself. And I was telling you that for me, that is a very evident with my use of the treadmill I have. I love listening to the podcast, how I built this with Guy Raz. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend I only let myself listened to it on the treadmill. Yeah. So that your treat for doing my to my temptation bundling. Yeah. That’s how I get myself to go on the treadmill. Yeah. Yep.
21:03 And then part two of make it attractive is to join a culture where your desired behavior is normal behavior. And that’s again surrounding yourself with people who do the same thing that you want to be doing. Right? So like joining a gym or joining a book club, you’re joining a cooking club. Uh, so, so that thing that you want to be doing do it with people who do it, they already do that. So pretty. That’s part of making it in step two of making it attractive, create a motivation, motivation, ritual, do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit. And that’s part of making attract. Yeah. So that’s, you know, just again kind of setting yourself up for. So you’re putting yourself in a good place before you do something that you know you need to do.
21:54 Yeah, exactly. The third law that, uh, this is all a part of, again, James Clear and the atomic habits is the third law for creating a good habit is making it easy, which is bottom line. If it’s too hard, you won’t do it. Right. And I really actually loved this. I’m not going to go. I mean, we can go through step by step, but I think the biggest thing that I took away from make it easy was that, you know, you have to start much smaller than you probably than you probably think. Yeah. And so, you know, that’s you. He says, walk slowly but never backward. Habit formation is the process of the action becoming automatic and it’s not the number of times you do it, but how long you’ve been doing it, that builds the habit. So it’s one of those things where you want to start small.
22:48 Um, he talks about habits shaping as in like this easily, like, so if I want to create the habit of getting up every morning early, so the first thing I need to do is I need to address how I go to bed at night the night before. So he says like, the first step is making sure you’re home by 10:00 PM, then it’s make sure that you are turning off all devices by 10pm. Yeah. TV, social, you know, your phone, etc. Then it’s that I’m in bed by 10:00 PM and then it’s that I’m asleep by 10:00 PM and then it’s that I am waking up at 5:30 AM, whatever it is and that, you know, it’s each step of the way. It’s mastering that small step first before you go onto the next. That’s going to actually create the habit. Yeah. Um, reduce friction. He says you need to decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
23:42 Yeah, and again, that’s just making things easier for yourself. Right? So If you’re going to go to the gym, make it a gym that’s on your way to work. If you’re, you know, you whatever it is you don’t want, do you want to decrease friction and, and likewise, if you’re trying to break a bad habit, you want to increase friction. So part two of the third law is priming the environment to which is. and that would be like again, keeping on the gym situation is if you know you’re going to the gym in the morning, have your water bottle ready, your workout gear ready, your shoes in your bag, everything you need to go to the gym so that you get up and it’s ready to walk out the door when you need It.
24:40 Again terms of making it easy, he talked about the two minute rule and I liked this a lot. It was down scaling your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less. And for a lot of us, for a lot of these, like even our five daily actions, you really can back those down and you can put them into just two minutes every day, you know, and it’s, it’s that, it’s getting those first two minutes and then building upon that so that you’re, you know, initially you may just be walking for two minutes, but then eventually you’ll be walking for three days a week, 30 minutes, you know, you keep layering it on. And that’s how you create the habit is making it small. Yeah. Yeah.
25:06 So he also says that the first. So we’ve talked about the first three laws, make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy. Yeah. He says that these first three laws are what make the habit happened the first time. The fourth law is what makes it be repeated and that’s make it satisfying. He talks about make it satisfying. One of the first things he says is, use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit. And we actually have our wonderful five for life planner. Yeah. That has a weekly recap at the back when you’re daily you’re checking off and you’re giving yourself that you’re writing down, which is giving yourself a positive reinforcement there, but at the end of the week, making those x’s across the week and, and saying that you’ve done each one that’s helping give yourself an immediate reward when the long term benefit is further off. Yeah. Yeah. Um, he says make, doing nothing enjoyable when you’re avoiding a bad habit. Design a way to see the benefits. Yeah. And like a bad habit would be if you watch too much TV. So he says, well, switch off the TV and just sit and relax and recharge yourself for doing nothing. Yeah. Yeah. It’s okay to just sit and relax, but do something different from watching TV is okay just to sit and do nothing. Yeah. And see the benefit of that as opposed to, you know, trying to fill it with something else.
26:33 Um, the third one of make it satisfying is a habit tracker. And for us we actually have that in our planner. Um, but his thing is, if you, if you physically looking at it, you can see those little xs on the bulks, um, as each box is filled and you has thing is, if you can imagine all these little xs, they join up and they link together. His thing is don’t break the chain. And he’s very, uh, adamant about this. He says, never missed twice. Um, it’s not missing the first habit that ruins you. It’s the spiral of repeated mistakes and sometimes you can’t, things happen and you can’t always do what you want to do when you do it. Um, but the thing is you have to get back, get back as quickly as you can. He says, missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit, which is usually the bad habit. And you know, successful people, people that really, uh, you know, superagers, right, are people that rebound quickly and um, they continue to come right back to their, to their habits.
27:47 Yeah. So, um, that’s really the, the mentality of creating these habits. One of the things I really liked about what he said too, is we tend to get this all or nothing kind of mentality, and so if we can’t run three miles on a specific day, then we just get away and he would say, you know, if you can’t run three miles, go out and walk for 10 minutes. It’s the, you know, you’re, you’re, it’s a continual and build on it. Well, and It’s the continual day to day action that, you know, when you show up on your bad days, it’s even more important and it’s, he says, lost days hurt you more than successful days help you. Yeah, and his thing about showing up every day, he describes as a vote for the passion that you want to be. Right? So if, if, if you show up every day to the gym or whatever it is you’re, you’re trying to build on, if you show up every day, you go, yep, this is the person I want to be. I am an active fit person. I’m a fit person. If it’s about writing, I am a writer and it’s if you’re continuously doing these things and he refers to this as when you change an identity and most people talk about goals that they have and they talk about the outcomes, so the want to write a book or they want to lose weight or they want to run a marathon and what he says is you have to flip that and it’s not about the outcome initially is about, the person you want to be. Who does these things. Yeah. You know, so who runs marathons? Runners, run marathons. Who writes books? Writers. So you have to become a writer, become a runner, right? And that’s where you start. It’s the identity you start with and then the next thing is the process. So then to become a runner, it become a writer. You have to show up and run and write, and then it’s by finding that identity, going through the process, then you actually meet that outcome and you achieve what as you want to achieve. And that was one of his big things. Again, it’s back to all those systems that you’ve set in place that you have to become that person to achieve those goals.
30:16 Right, and basically the inverse of all of these things that we just talked about, he talks a lot about, and we won’t. I’m not going to go into that here. I’m going to suggest that everybody either again go read this book, but basically all the laws that he has, make it obvious, make it easy, make it attractive. I reversed those. Sorry. Make it obvious. Make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying. The inverse of all of those is how you break bad habits. You make them invisible. You make them unattractive, you make them difficult and you make them unsatisfying. Yeah, kind of the two sides of the same coin. Yeah. He talks a lot about whether or not in terms of habits, being aware and are your old habits serving you, and he talks a lot about reflection and review and why habits. Again, they make it easy to do things without thinking, but the downside is that we lose awareness and to be conscious over time of your performance is really how you achieve remarkable results.
31:26 Yeah. And, and he suggests that you actually take a time out to really look at your habits and like do that on a regular basis and he says that he does it twice a year, you know, so what you want to do is take a timeout, examine what you do and how you do things and what you want to, the patient that you want to be and how that fits into the things that you are you’re doing.
31:52 And obviously we’re Talking a lot about how to create the habits of a happier, longer life. We have a great planner that we use to track those habits on a daily basis, on a weekly basis over the course of a year. The bottom line is it’s those actions. Not the tracking is important, but it’s the actions it’s actually doing. Other than that are what are going to build up over time. and I think that’s the biggest takeaway from this book was that it’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. And small habits just don’t add up. They compound over time. Tiny changes for remarkable results, and that’s really. That’s the big takeaway. It is. And it’s so important because I feel like that’s just like the underlying theme of our five daily actions. We say all the time, these aren’t, these aren’t hard, or extremely complex, right? It’s not hard. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily easy to do it, but they’re really simple in their. And, and the other thing that he says is, you know, you don’t have to be perfect all the time. His whole thing is just keep doing it. Some days you’ll have good days and some days you’ll have bad days, but if you’re showing up and you’re doing it, then you’re consistently going to get better at the thing. And he said, you know, he always says like, put in your reps, it’s a matter of repeat, repeat, repeat. So if you keep doing the thing, then then that’s when those habits form, that’s when you become good at it and that’s when you become the person that you want to be. Yeah. Whether you’re the superager or the writer or the runner or whatever it is, we hope that it’s that you have a lived to a happier longer life. Yeah. Yeah.
33:51 Well, this has been super fun. I love this book folks. Atomic habits by James Clear. We really have. We have just brushed the surface. There’s so many great examples of, of everything that we just spoke about and it gives you a real sense of how relatable all of these things are. This is stuff that you just have to look at yourself and you can totally connect with what he’s saying and you can. You can make changes and make good habits and break bad ones by just following these great guidelines. This framework. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
34:28 So we will everything in our show notes and we are so excited honestly, about some of the people that we have a coming up here that we’re gonna be talking to literally some people. Inspirations. Yeah. Some people that have really achieved some great things in life and some other, you know, some great science behind everything, just a lot of things that we’re looking forward to talking to all of you about. In the meantime, check out atomic habits by James Clear or go to www.jamesclear.com. For more on everything we’ve talked about here tonight. Until next week, we’ll see ya.
35:13 Thanks for listening to the live happier podcast. Now it’s time to move, learn, share, give and let go. Five daily actions to make the rest of your life the best of your life. See you next week.
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