James Clear has published his keynote speech at ConvertKit’s Craft + Commerce Conference (link).
After introducing the concept of “Aggregation of marginal gains”, he explains why we should aim for a 1% improvement in everything that we do. Habits consist in repeating certain actions until they become second nature and effortless to us. In this sense, habits can be considered the compound interest of self-improvement. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
Habits are important because “the actions that you take provide evidence for who you are”. Your identity emerges out of the habits that you have. That’s why, for example, your goal should not be to read a book but to become a reader.
Different authors use different models to explain how we acquire habits. For Clear, there are four stages in habit formation:
Many people think they fail because lack of motivation when what they lack is clarity. Making your implementation intentions explicit increases your chances of success. In other words, be explicit about when, where, and how you are going to exercise your habit.
An interesting tactic is what Clear calls the Failure Pre-mortem. Imagine 6 months forward from now and tell yourself the story of how you failed at acquiring the habit. The exercise will help you notice neglected areas in your implementation intentions.
It’s hard to stick to a habit by relying only on willpower. We underestimate how much we are influenced by our environment. We can choose to be victims of our environment, or architects of it. It’s hard to stick to a habit in a negative environment, or relying only on willpower. Most of our desires are shaped in a particular way only because we have our environment shapes us in that way.
Learning how to start is incredibly important. Make it as easy as possible. Optimize for the beginning of the tasking make your habits work as a platform to the finish line.
Get to quality through quantity. Specially at the beginning, focus on repetition.
We repeat a behavior because we enjoy it. We enjoy the reward of the action. Figure out how to bring the reward to the present.