It’s easy to believe that we have to brute force self-discipline. That our willpower has to be like a block of iron that we hammer our desires into shape with.
But it turns out there’s an easier way; control your environment. It’s the same logic that says don’t keep alcohol in your house if you’re trying to cut down on the booze or don’t keep cigarettes in your car or your desk at work if you’re trying to quit smoking. It’s not just common sense, this is clinically proven to work:
There’s a study that I mentioned in the book, from Massachusetts General Hospital. They went into the cafeteria at the hospital and they added water to all of the fridges and they also added some of those little rolling carts that have water in them by the food stations in the cafeteria. And that was all they did. They didn’t talk to anybody. They didn’t motivate anybody. And then six months later, water sales are up by 25%, soda sales are down 11%.
And I always think that’s interesting, because if you were to go up to nay person in that room and be like, “Why are you drinking a Coke?” they’d be like, “I wanted a Coke!” “Why do you have water?” “This is what I felt like having!” But the truth is some percentage of them chose it just cause it was obvious, just because of what ne environment nudged them toward.
We’re more sensitive to ur environment than we might think. SO if you’re trying to maintain a new habit, think about the things in your environment that you could change to make things easier for yourself.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about habits here, and for good reason. Habits are the single biggest influence on our health, wealth and happiness.
Yet most of us spend very little thinking about our habits beyond, possibly, the very worse ones. James Clear suggests that we take all them a little more seriously. The idea behind a habit scorecard is to take an inventory of all our habits. All of the things that we do so automatically we’re barely aware of them. That way, we have the opportunity to decide whether they’re worth sticking with.
One of our greatest challenges in changing habits is maintaining awareness of what we are actually doing. This helps explain why the consequences of bad habits can sneak up on us. We need a “point-and-call” system for our personal lives. That’s the origin of the Habits Scorecard, which is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior.
In can be tough to say no. Not only can we end up feeling guilty for refusing, but we are left wondering if we missed out. It’s tempting to say “yes” to every opportunity just in case it’s the best use of our time. But it rarely, if ever, works out this way. In fact, as James Clear points out, the opposite is usually true.
The words “yes” and “no” get used in comparison to each other so often that it feels like they carry equal weight in conversation. In reality, they are not just opposite in meaning, but of entirely different magnitudes in commitment.
When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.
I like how the economist Tim Harford put it, “Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time.” Once you have committed to something, you have already decided how that future block of time will be spent.
Wouldn’t it be nice if building new habits was as simple as brushing your teeth or taking a shower? This is the principle behind habit stacking; the concept of anchoring a new desired habit to an existing, well established one. James Clear explains:
You probably have very strong habits and connections that you take for granted each day. For example, your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises … or thousands of other daily habits. You can take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits.
When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.