Q&A: Atomic Habits with James Clear - Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

Q&A: Atomic Habits with James Clear – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast



this is the Craig Groeschel leadership podcast hey James it's an incredible honor to have you on the Craig Groeschel leadership podcast from day one when I read your book for the first time atomic habits I thought I got to get this guy on I've got to share this message with all of our audience so thanks for taking time to spend little time interviewing with us oh absolutely thank you so much for having me first of all congratulations New York Times bestseller well-deserved your first book out and you hit the times and so no pressure if you do a second book but the first one is truly amazing in fact I taught on habits to our church and promoted the book every single week it did not only impacted me and I've read a lot about habits it's hard to write something new and fresh and congratulations you did it and so I'm thrilled to share you with our leadership audience let's dive in James I want to ask you some questions from your book and even beyond that one of the things in in my studies that I've I came across and I'm sure you're aware but about 40 to maybe even 50 percent of the actions that we do every day they're not a result of conscious decisions but they're a result of habits and you talk a lot about how small habits make a big difference I think people sometimes might push back and say no no no you got to do really big things can you unpack the reason why you believe small habits are so important for us yeah sure so there's a couple different things to think about here one is more strategic and one is maybe a little more tactical so I'll cover both so the the strategic the reason or the philosophical reason why small habits make it a big difference is that they compound over time they kind of add up and multiply and this is easy just to dismiss because it doesn't really feel like that on any given day right like the difference between you know getting one percent better one percent worse or making a slightly positive habit or falling into a slightly negative one it doesn't really feel like a whole lot on any given day you know like what is the difference between I don't know eating a burger and fries for lunch or eating a salad on any given day it's not really a whole lot you know your body looks basically the same in the mirror at the end of the night scale hasn't really changed that much it's easy to dismiss one way or not but you turn around five years or ten years down the line and you realize wow those daily choices really do add up you know all of a sudden you're 30 pounds heavier than you thought you would be or so on and that's true not just for you know diets and weight but for all kinds of things you know like reading one book doesn't make you a genius but if you commit to a habit of lifelong learning well you know reading each day can be transformative and so your habits kind of kind of multiply and surprise us in that way they set us on a very different trajectory depending on what those daily habits are even though they don't feel like much on any given day so that's the that's kind of the philosophical answer the strategic answer if you get 1% better each day you end up in a very surprising place two or five or ten years later but then there's a there's also a like a more tactical piece to it which you mentioned you know just a moment ago forty to fifty percent of your behaviors on a given day or habitual so things like tying your shoes or unplugging the toaster after each use or brushing your teeth and the technical definition for a habit is a behavior that has been repeated more or less enough times to be automatic so you know something that you can do pretty much without thinking like brushing your teeth and that's actually what a habit is that's those forty to fifty percent of your daily behaviors you know all those things that you are doing on autopilot like covering your mouth every time you laugh or apologizing each time before you ask a question oh I'm sorry but you know whatever and we don't think about those things whether they're habits of thought or habits of action but they often even despite how small they are they often set or determine how we spend the next chunk of time so take for example the habit of pulling your phone out of your pocket it's a really small habit you do it you know pretty much automatically it only takes a second or two but once you've done that habit well you might think consciously you might make a careful decision about what to do next do I play a video game or do I open my email do I respond to this email from my boss or do I check social media or read an article on the web and you can do all of those things from your phone whether you do those things or not was pretty much determined by did you take your phone out of your pocket and so have it sort of they're kind of like the entry point for the the next chunk of behavior and so for that reason they also have like this outsized impact you know they might only be 40 to 50 percent of your behavior by themselves but if you add up the things that you do because of where your habits led you well then maybe it's 70 or 80 or even 90 percent of your behavior that's influenced or impacted by your habits each day one of the books that you quoted to I think do Higgs book on the power of habits he talked about the Keystone habits that those small disciplines that that do trigger either compounding good disciplines or many times compounding bad disciplines and I think that's so true in fact one of the things James that you talked about that I underlined it circled it highlighted it quoted it replayed it you said that she said winners and losers have the same goals but they have vastly different results and I love that and then you started talking about systems you said we don't have a goal problem we have a system problem the quote that stood out is this and I love for you to talk about it what do you mean by system but you say this you don't rise to the level of your goals but you fall to the level of your system can you put some color to that for me please so you know a lot of the time when we begin the process of change or something that we want to achieve when we think about an outcome we want we think about setting a goal about achieving a particular result but as you mentioned I think something people often overlook is that winners and losers in any particular domain often have the same goals you know if you have a hundred people that apply for a job well they all have the goal of getting the job or if you have you know a dozen athletes competing in the Olympics they all have the goal of winning the gold medal so goals you know this is not to say goals are useless like they might be necessary but not sufficient right like goals are good for setting a sense of direction for determining you know clarity and where you're gonna direct your effort but once you've done that which happens fairly early on in most processes I think it's more useful to focus on the system rather than the goal and so what do I mean by that well your system is the collection of habits and processes the collection of behaviors that prepare you and help you execute on whatever that goal is and you know sports offers a good example or metaphor here you know if you're an athlete or a sports team your goal is to win the championship or to have the best score on the scoreboard at the end of the game but if you spent the whole game looking at the scoreboard thinking only about the goal well you would perform terribly right like and conversely if you didn't look at the scoreboard at all and focused only on the process on the system of running better plays being in the right position preparing for the next play well then you probably would have the best score on the scoreboard at the end of the game and so this is kind of the the surprising thing is that we set goals because we want better outcomes but ironically the way to actually get better outcomes is often by not thinking about the result by ignoring the goal and pouring all of your energy and effort into building a better system so I think that's brilliant and in really counterintuitive for a lot of people because we do tend to think especially you know we're talking to leaders business leaders ministry leaders people leading their family and we often think I need to set some goal out in the future and try to achieve it and then we don't really we often don't focus on what goes into the process to help create the goal and it sounds like you're saying if more if we have input goals if we're doing if we're doing the right things that lead to the wins then the wins are gonna take care of themselves and I think as as leaders if we can create those right habits then success tends to follow if we're just pursuing success we may not necessarily know how to get there and so I want you to unpack a little bit more in that line of thinking because we all want to change bad habits we all want to adopt good habits but you seem to believe that a lot of people are trying to change the wrong thing or they're trying to do it in the wrong way what is it that we often get wrong well so I just want to say two things here so first for I answer this particular question just follow up a little bit on what you hinted at there you know the outcomes that you want whether it's in business or personal life are often a lagging measure of the behaviors that preceded them so you know we think about losing weight or we think about earning more money or hitting a quarterly revenue goal or we think about you know writing a book but those things are often the lagging measure of the habits right like your weight is a lagging measure of your eating and nutrition habits your bank account is a lagging measure of your financial habits your manuscript length is a lagging measure of your writing habits and so on for many different areas of life and so I think that's kind of that helps encapsulate a little bit the relationship that I think of between systems and habits and outcomes and goals is that if you focus on the habits then the outcomes sort of follow naturally now your second point about focusing on the wrong thing this I think is a natural consequence of the fact that we often focus on the goal rather than the system so when most people set out to change something and they build what I would call an outcome based habit so they might say something like alright I want to lose weight so my goal is to lose 40 pounds in the next six months and in order to do that I need to come up with a plan so then they say well I'm gonna follow this diet program and I'm gonna work out four days a week and usually the conversation stops there and they think well you know once I've followed this plan and lost this weight then I'll be the person that I want to be then I'll have the identity that I want to have and my argument is that I think it's more fruitful more productive often just more useful to invert that process so rather than focusing on the outcome let's focus on the identity and let the outcome follow naturally from there so rather than saying all right I want to lose 40 pounds in six months let's ask ourselves the question well who's the type of person that could lose 40 pounds well maybe it's the type of person who doesn't miss workouts and as soon as you have that question or have that line of thinking it changes the way that you approach it you know if you if you just say I want to lose 40 pounds as fast as possible well then you do all kinds of you know it's like well maybe I'll do a radical juice cleanse or maybe I'd join a CrossFit gym or do p90x or something like that then you get injured or you get sick or you burn out but if you invert it and focus on the identity rather than the outcome then you say well how can I be the type of person who doesn't miss workouts well maybe maybe I'll just do five push-ups a day right or maybe I show up at the gym for five minutes and no those things aren't gonna radically transform your body overnight but it does reinforce the identity of being the type of person who works out every day it helps cast a vote for that new identity and I think that in the beginning that's the biggest hurdle to cross it's not getting the scale to move it's looking at yourself in a new way it's starting to believe this is part of my identity this is Who I am I just write one sentence every day or I'm the type of person who puts on their running shoes after work each day or I'm the type of person who meditates for one minute those are not ambitious amazing habits but they are reinforcing and casting a vote for being a new type of person for having that identity and once you're there then I think you're in a good position to expand and upgrade and continue the process of change you know that was one of the things that you wrote about in the book atomic habits that really did stand out to me is is how you have it shape your identities and then over time it really changes how you see yourself and the habits tend to become more natural like I read about you is it are you the a crossfitter I'm trying to remember what kind of like crazy high extreme fitness you do yeah I've done a couple different things I do tend to train to CrossFit gyms now I was a baseball player for a long time and then after I got done I did a couple Olympic weightlifting competitions and powerlifting stuff and and now I just focus on strength training for fun yeah I knew you were a power lifter or strength training or hurt people or something for fun so in that line so somewhere along the way you did you've done some small things that helped shaped shape your identity that now you're you are a person that cares about fitness you're an athlete you're your whatever and I think I think that's one of the things that can be so helpful to people you is doing small things that reinforce their identity that for example they might not they may say I'm an undisciplined person well so simply not hitting the snooze button in in the morning when the alarm goes off might set them on a track that says Oh lion I was disciplined in that one choice and then making their bed is another small habit that says okay they aren't therefore undisciplined and I do a quiet time or a journal or whatever in the morning or I meditate and you three or four little things before they start their day they're really small the compound upon each other and start changing the way they see themselves and at the end of the day they could have incredible production and effectiveness because of a few small things that start to change their identity yeah this is a really important point I think so I want to elaborate on this a little bit more so you know a lot of the time when people talk about changing they they talk about things like phrases like fake it till you make it but what I'm talking about is a little bit different than that because fake it till you make it is asking you to believe something about yourself that you don't yet have evidence for right like oh just you know think of yourself as a fit person or think of yourself as a meditator or believe that you can do it and I don't think that there's anything that thing necessarily wrong with you know thinking positively about yourself is something it's going to hurt anything but we have a word for beliefs that don't have evidence we call it delusion right like at some point your brain doesn't like this conflict I keep saying I'm a healthy person but I'm not actually working out and it doesn't stick and so I think that if you want habits to stick in the long run it's more useful to approach it from the other direction to let the behavior lead to the belief and this is sort of what you're referencing here you know like you use small habits as a way to prove to yourself that you are that kind of person right like in a sense your habits are kind of how you embody a particular identity you know like every time that you go to church you embody the identity of someone who is religious every time that you make your bed you embody the identity of someone who's clean and organized each time the you sit down and write one sentence you embody the identity of someone who is a writer and eventually if you cast enough small votes for that person if you reinforce that identity in small ways then you start to actually think that about yourself because you can look back on this body of evidence that you have and say yeah that's who I am and this is why I like to say that you know every action you take is like a vote for the kind of person that you think that you are you the kind of person that you wish to become and so if you just keep casting votes seamen's if they're in very small ways then you start to look at yourself in a new way and I think ultimately true behavior change is really identity change it's really internalizing that belief that no this is Who I am and once you get to that point you're not even really pursuing behavior change anymore you don't even really have to like motivate yourself to do the right thing you know this is why you'll hear people say like yeah I don't motivate myself to go to the gym that's just it's just what I do you know it's just part of who I am or I don't have to push myself to meditate it's just part of my identity now and once you see yourself as that kind of person then it just requires less willpower and discipline and motivation to do those things and so that's why I think that those small votes are so meaningful even though they seem tiny at the time you know I love the language you put around that it really spoke to me the small votes and so what I liked about it is you said you don't need unanimous votes to win but you just need a majority and so let's say you are trying to become more disciplined or you're trying to become healthy or whatever and you do you do a few things that are right and then you mess up in one or two places well if you have a majority of the small habits moving in the right direction suddenly over time the majority of the votes are starting to change your identity and you're saying yeah I'm not perfect but I am a disciplined person I am a hard worker I am conscientious I do care about people whatever it is and that that language in what I love about the book is it's it's what I call bottom shelf meaning it's accessible to anyone and you make it practical and easy to do you don't have to be perfect but a majority of votes moving in the right direction and you are winning and becoming something new I want to give you a chance to help share some of that bottom shelf advice that's so helpful you talked about sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and sometimes it's also about making bad habits hard let's talk about let's start with good habits how do you create them and then let's dive into bad habits how do you actually break them yeah sure so if we're gonna focus on good habits I think there are a couple strategies that you can keep in mind that sort of help make this process easier so in the book I lay out what I call the four laws of behavior change and so for building a good habits make it obvious make it a true make it obvious make it attractive make it easy and make it satisfying and those four are just kind of shorthand for a lot of the strategic and tactical examples that I give in the book for how to do those things so I'm just gonna focus on one or two right now obviously there are a lot more in the book but if I have to recommend people to start in one place I would say start with making it easy start with making it as easy as possible and I like to recommend the two-minute rule so the two-minute rule basically says take whatever happy you're trying to build and scale it down to something that takes two minutes or less to do so you know read 30 books a year becomes read one page or write your book finally becomes write one sentence or you know do yoga four days a week becomes take out my yoga mat and sometimes people kind of resist these things you know because they're like well what I actually want to do is like run three miles I don't want to just put on my running shoes right which is what would take two minutes and I get what they're saying right they think like oh it sounds kind of like a mental trick and if you feel that way then my encouragement would be to force yourself to limit yourself to just the first two minutes so I had a reader who he ended up losing over a hundred pounds and one of the first things they did was he went to the gym but he wasn't allowed to stay for longer than five minutes so he got in the car drove to the gym got out did half an exercise got back in the car and drove home and it sounds silly right it sounds ridiculous it's like well clearly that's not gonna get you in shape but what you realize is that he was becoming the type of person that went to the gym four days a week right he was mastering the art of showing up and I think this is why making her habits easy and simple and small as such a crucial insight which is that a habit must be established before it can be improved right you have to make it like the standard in your life make it your new normal before you worry about optimizing or expanding or updating from there and so often we just you know because of ambition or because we get motivated or because we're excited about making a change we just tend to go all or nothing you know it's like well let me try to find the best workout program or the perfect business idea or the ideal diet to follow and we think if we can't do it perfectly then we might as well not do it at all and so I feel like the two-minute rule kind of helps counteract that tendency and get you into the pattern of showing up even if it's in a small way even if it's only for two minutes but you got to be that kind of person who shows up for two minutes but before you have the chance to be the person who does it in a bigger or more ambitious way I think that's brilliant you've got to be able to do two push-ups before you can do 20 and if you do two every day you might wake up and do three and one day you're doing 20 or 40 or 50 in fact the whole idea make it obvious easy attractive and satisfying that I have a newer habit in my life that I tried James for probably I bet you I had five or six failed attempts at journaling I read so many people that say it's important and it's helpful and I know that it is but I tried to write three or four or five pages every day and it would go two or three days and I quit I came across a five year journal which it really embodies everything that you say you only have to write four or five lines and you're done and then you can see kind of year over year if I look back to the previous year on the same exact day I can see what I did in two years three years and such so I'm now into starting them into my fifth year on this and I put the journal out by my bed so it's obvious it takes me less than probably three minutes to do it's easy the journal looks good it's attractive and I'm a journal or now it's satisfying and so it's changed my identity and every single one of those steps you said is the difference between failure and actually becoming a journal or now is not just something I do it's my identities it's it's Who I am and so I think your ideas are fantastic I love the to two minutes start stopping though is a whole different strategy what would you say to now I've got something I want to quit smoking I want to quit sleeping in too late I want to quit yelling at people with suggestions you have for stopping let's use the sleeping example and so first of all if you if you want to break a bad habit then my high-level recommendation is just invert those four laws so make it obvious make it attractive make it easy make it satisfying that's for building a good habit now you want to break a bad one you want to make it invisible so make the cues of your bad habits less visible make it unattractive make it difficult so increase the friction make it less convenient and make it unsatisfying so have like a punishment instead of a reward so you know a lot of the time people procrastinate or fall into this bad habit or whatever for a couple different reasons but I'll give you kind of two ideas for for kind of curtailing these behaviors or breaking them so first one you might be surprised how many bad habits will fade away or reduce themselves just if they're not as obvious or convenient as they were before you know so like take the habit of watching television a lot of people feel like they're watched too much TV but if you walk into pretty much any living room in America where do all the couches and chairs face you know like they all face the television so it's like what does that room designed to get you to do it's the most obvious and available and frictionless habit in that space so there are a variety of steps you can take here right it's kind of on a spectrum from like least extreme to most extreme but you could take the chair and turn it away from the TV so that it faces a coffee table with a book on it you could put the remote control inside of a shelf or a drawer so that you're you know less likely to see it you could take the television itself and put it in a wall unit or a cabinet so that it's behind doors and then you could also you know increase the friction of the task so you could like unplug the TV after each use and then only plug it back in if you can say the name of the show that you want to watch so you can't you know just turn netflix on and find something or you know if you want to be really extreme you could take the TV off the wall put the closet and then only set it back up if you really wanted to watch something I actually had one reader who she and her husband they watched a ton of sports events and eventually they're like this is so ridiculous we need to figure out a way to reduce the amount of time we're spending watching stuff and so they decided they just were gonna get rid of their TV and their new measure was if we don't care enough about this game to drive down the street and drive 15 minutes of watch of the sports bar then we don't actually want to watch it and you know again variety of things therefore most extreme or least extreme to most extreme but just implementing some of those things will reduce the odds that you fall into that habit I've seen this in other areas too you know like for example take beer if I have beer in my fridge and it's in the front of the fridge it's like somewhere I can see it on the shelf that's like right in from the door or it's in the door then I'll grab one and drink it at night just because it's there but if I take that same six-pack and I slide it like on the lowest shelf all the way to the back where I can't really see it when I open the door sometimes it'll sit there for like a month and so it's like what did I want it or not you know like I kind of wanted it if it was there but if you just make it less obvious then you're less I could fall into it now I do want to kind of add an addendum there which is to say that and this I think is true for all the ideas anatomic habits I'm not gonna say that this is gonna stop like a true addiction right if you're actually dealing with alcoholism or something like that it's different but I do think that all these strategies are useful whether you're an addict or not that you know they do kind of help nudge you in the right direction so so that's the first piece make it invisible but the the second idea and let's come back to that sleeping example that you gave so you want to stop sleeping in or you know maybe you want to get up early and do a workout instead before work or something like that well one thing that you can do is that you can make it less attractive you can make it unattractive to stay in bed so how do you do that well one strategy is to use what psychologists call a commitment device so let's say that you go to bed you know like all right I'll set my alarm tomorrow's gonna be the day I'll wake up at 6:00 and I'll go for a run go to sleep and 6:00 a.m. rolls around and you know your bed warm it's cold outside and you're like well you know I kind of feel like sleeping impressed news and you don't do the run but if you rerun that rewind the clock go back the next to the the previous day and this time you text a friend and you say hey can we meet at the park at 6:30 and go for a run well now 6 a.m. rolls around and your bed is still warm and still cold outside but if you don't get out and go for the run well now you're a jerk because you leave your friend at the park all alone and so that text you sent that's like a commitment device it's a way to lock in your future behavior you kind of change the equation in your mind so that now sleeping in means something different it doesn't just mean you get to stay in a warm bed it also means oh you're being a bad friend and so little devices like that little strategies like that and I have a longer list of them in the book they help you get over some of those bad habits or reframe the equation in your mind so that they're not as attractive as they were in the past yeah so you can make something more difficult if you continue to hit the snooze button take your phone or your alarm clock put it in the other room and it goes off it makes you get on a bed I think that your suggestions are so good I was thinking about if you go back and like look at pictures of me eight years ago you'll probably notice a difference because my diet was really really different and I had the hardest time just saying no to pretty much any kind of junk food and most of my wife she just changed what I had access to meaning I don't go to the grocery store often and so the food she'd order and such it's just it's healthy everywhere I started ordering food delivered to my office every day and so I don't have access to something that's not as healthy and because of that it changed what I crave and now I don't desire the other stuff and it's simply by making it invisible I don't see it making unattractive now I don't really want it taste is good making it difficult and when you after you do that for a while you start to see your body change and it changes right didn't it like hey this this really feels a lot better you eluded James to to the you know your friend I think that kind of introduces a big idea if you're if you tell your friend you're going to join them to run that's that's accountability how important would you say accountability is in the success of good and bad habits yeah that's a great question so this is something you know I wrote about the influence of the social environment on your habits in the book I think it's chapter 9 or chapter 10 and your family and friends play a really crucial role in what habits you find attractive and what's what things you feel motivated to do you know like there are a lot of examples of this you know like if you move into a new neighborhood and you walk outside on Tuesday night and you see all of your neighbors have their recycling out then you think oh you know I guess recycling is something that people do in this neighborhood like people like us need to sign up for that so then you you know you get in the habit of doing that every week or you know all your family members are going to church on Sunday so then you're like well you know we need to go to and even if you don't implement a thank those things you start to internalize that right we kind of get like nudged along or pulled along by the people that surround us or what our family and friends are doing and this can be a powerful way to build you know pretty much any kind of habit but I think that I undersold the importance of how socially reinforced our behavior is I mean man there are so many things you know like why do you stop at red lights and stop signs you do it because that's the expectation right that's what everybody else in the society does and there are so many habits that are like that things were we we fall in line because we know the expectation is to act that way you know why do you wear a dress or a suit and tie to a job interview there's no reason you have to do that you could wear a bathing suit if you wanted but you don't because that's not what the tribe or that group or society at large expects for that situation and so so many choices and behaviors throughout life are shaped that way so your question was I think probably more about accountability specifically right like having a friend expecting that of you but I bring that up at this larger social phenomenon up because I think that that in many ways might be the more powerful form of accountability what does the tribe expect what does your group whether it's your co-workers or the people that you work out with at the gym or the people that you you know play chess with or volunteer with on the weekend or whatever the thing is whatever the group is that you're a part of what do they expect and what the group expects is often the most powerful form of accountability and I think it's worth it to mention why that's the case you know our ancestors grew up in tribes and if you were abandoned by the tribe then it was a death sentence and so we all are wired to have this deep sense of belonging this deep sense of community to belong to the people around us and so nobody wants to be ostracized from the group nobody wants to be abandoned by the tribe and because of that we care deeply about what others think of us about what the expectations of the group is whether that's at work or at home or elsewhere and we care about it because it helps us if people think better of us people think highly of us and so I don't know that there's any way to get around that you know a lot of the time people talk about it like it's a bad thing you know like well don't don't let people's opinions of you sway you or don't you know don't worry too much about what others think and I agree when taken to an extreme that's certainly not a healthy thing to do but the truth is caring about what those around us think and what they expect is often a really good strategy that's the reason we stopped at red lights and stop signs and or at least one of the reasons so my point there is that be very careful about the tribes that you join about the groups that you spend time with think carefully about those people that you're surrounded by and what those social norms are for those groups because the social norms of the group the expectations of the tribe is maybe the most powerful form of accountability when it comes to sticking with habits for the long term I think you're dead-on with that and in you know I don't know how direct you would be with people but I think if we are if we're stuck in a lot of bad habits chances are pretty good the people that were around are stuck in the same types of habits and if we're growing and adding the right disciplines to our lives chances are pretty good we're around people like that and so some people might push back and say you're being harsh or this is an unfair question but would you say there are times when you really need to redefine you know the types of people that you're hanging out with to completely change your life well so I think there are a couple things to say here you know like one is there's a lot to unpack with stuff like this because you know your relationships are some of the most valuable things in your entire life and so it's very hard and complicated to change your family and friends or change the group of people you're hanging out with and so on and so I don't usually say things like oh you need to fire your friends and find new ones or things like that because the truth is it's very challenging and honestly we all have responsibilities in life too right so like you in many cases family members like what are you gonna do abandon your family you know like it's just not a reasonable thing to ask for most people so I think instead a more productive and more practical approach is to say look you don't have to get rid of these people it's not it's not about that it's not about abandoning the group but it's really hard to sustain habits when you're surrounded by a tribe that has conflicting motives or different priorities right it's really hard to stick to a healthy diet if you're surrounded by people who eat junk all the time it's really hard to go to the gym if you're surrounded by people who don't want to workout ever and so I'm not saying that you need to never see those people but what's really powerful is having a sacred space having some kind of place where you can do those things where you're surrounded by people who do have the same goals so you know maybe nobody in your family wants to do yoga maybe they don't care about that but go to the yoga studio where you can be surrounded by a dozen other people who are really excited about that habit and have at least one hour for yourself where you're surrounded by a positive environment that kind of uplifts and reinforces that and so you know the other 23 hours of the day you can spend with you know the people that you normally are around but give yourself a chance for that habit to thrive by surrounding yourself with people who have the same goals as you you know you often arise together and as you do that you know then you can start to gradually think about okay is this becoming a really important thing for me you know do I want to become a yoga instructor now or you know it's gonna play a bigger role in my life maybe maybe I need to you know to give it even more of my time than an hour or so on but you can make that decision down the line I think in the beginning it's just important to give yourself a space where a habit can thrive because ultimately I don't know that I've ever seen anybody consistently stick to a positive habit in a negative environment and so it's really just about finding kind of those those points where you can give yourself a place for that habit to grow yeah I appreciate your sensitivity to the the complexities of relationships and the importance of really honoring people and sticking with our priorities but I really think a mistake that a lot of us make is we let the relationships just kind of happen to us instead of being intentional about it and if we're in a really bad environment it doesn't mean we necessarily divorce our friends but we might need to redefine just how much access we give them to us or they let them have in our lives and really do seek out I think the intentional relationships that can help us eliminate the things that are dangerous and hurtful and bringing the things that are helpful one of the things you talked about James that I thought was really interesting you talked about the the mismatch between immediate and delayed rewards good habits you start doing something you know you start jogging you start praying you start reading you start journaling you start writing thank you notes to people and you don't see an immediate result but then you do something like eat the whole piece of cake and you get your dopamine rush or you play video games you get your dopamine rush and the bad things seem to be more fun at first and the good disciplines and habits seem to take a frustrating amount of time before you start seeing results can you kind of add some context to how you approach that that and what it means to us yeah it's a good question it's a complicated thing there's sort of this like valley of death often when when it comes to building a new habit you know like say say you go to the gym like what is the reward for working out for like three weeks it's not really a whole lot honestly you know like you've been staying consistent working but your body looks basically the same like there's nothing there's not really much outcome if anything your muscles are probably sore and you know you just still don't have the results that you were looking for and that that kind of thing is true for many habits you know like what is the reward of working on your book for an hour every day and doing that for three months like the book probably still isn't done and so this is the case for many good habits which is that the immediate outcome is often kind of unfavorable and the it's only the ultimate outcome that is more enjoyable or satisfying with bad habits as you mentioned it's often the reverse so you know like the the immediate outcome of eating a donut is kind of great is sugary it's tasty it's enjoyable it's only the ultimate outcome if you keep doing that each day and you turn around a year later and you know now you've gained weight and so on so the way that I would phrase this is that the cost of your bad habits is in the future the cost of your good habits is in the present and so what you're looking for are ways to change that equation weight ways to make your good habits more enjoyable while you're waiting for those long-term rewards to accumulate and there are a couple different ways you can do this you know like one thing you can do is one of the most enjoyable or satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress the feeling that hey I'm moving forward I'm getting better I'm this is worth it and habit tracking is one way to sort of reinforce that so the simplest version of a habit tracker is you just put an X on the calendar each day and like my dad for example he likes to go swimming so each day that he goes to the pool and does his swimming he comes back and he puts a little X on this little like pocket calendar he has and then at the end of the month pulls the calendar out and looks at it and tallies up how many times he went swimming and then compares that to the previous month and you know that's not it doesn't have anything to do with the workout itself but on the bad days on the days when he feels like oh I don't really feel like going in or I feel like that wasn't a very good workout or whatever he can look back on that calendar and be like yeah you know what like I didn't feel good today but I still showed up twelve times this month or whatever the number is so having some kind of visual cue of the dress that you're making some way to visualize that whether it's a calendar on the wall or the number of pages that you've read this week or whatever the thing is that you're tracking that's a good way to add a little bit of satisfaction to the moment so that you feel like it was worth it even if you're still waiting for those long-term rewards to accrue yeah I'd love to spend a little bit more time on that thought because I think this can that this was helpful to me if I've got a goal out in the future it could be weeks months or years before I achieve that goal and it seems like I'm deferring my happiness until a milestone out in the future how do we stay motivated and how can we be happy long before we achieved that distant goal yeah man this is a tough question you know I've had I've wrestled with this myself for a while like do you have to be dissatisfied to be driven do you have to be dissatisfied with your current state to be motivated enough to say I'm going to keep working on this and the the best solution I've come up with I'll give you two ways to answer this so the first way is just to say when you do some kind of measurement or tracking like that when you record each instance of your habit you are proving to yourself that you have a certain type of identity and so if you choose an identity that's motivating to you that's interesting or exciting to you then that's a way to feel successful in the moment while you're also waiting for those long-term rewards to accumulate you know so like each time you sit down and write for 10 minutes you put a little X on that have a tracker and you feel like I casted a vote for being a writer today and that feels good because that's who I want to become and so now you can feel happy and satisfied in the moment and you ultimately are moving toward that goal of writing the book or whatever it is the the second thing to consider though is that you can also utilize what we were just talking about about like the social component you know like on days when I don't feel good or I feel like I got a bad workout in or whatever I still enjoy going to the gym because it means I get to see some of my friends and so this is one another one of the really powerful things that social accountability are just so environment provides is that if you're hanging out with people that you really like people who kind of embody the identity that you're looking to build then it feels good to be with them even if you haven't accomplished the goal yet you know it's just nice to hang out with good people and so that's another way to really feel satisfied in the moment while you're kind of waiting for that long term stuff to show up so the book is called atomic habits tiny changes remarkable results the author New York Times bestselling author on his first book as James clear and James one of the things that I really liked is you talked about instead of just thinking about but dude this is what I want to do we need to really start with the who I'd love to I know you were a pro baseball player I know you are incredibly disciplined you're a photographer you're a blogger you're an author I'm curious as you're bringing new habits into your life who is the future James becoming mmm yeah it's a great question so I I'm not gonna answer it specifically but I'm gonna tell you more about my process for figuring that out so who I'm becoming as a moving target right like you know context changes life changes you kind of go through different seasons you know like maybe you're in a season where you're very career-focused then you have some kids and then your season is more family focused and then your kids go to college and then go back and do a career focused season or maybe you're focusing their health or whatever and so that question of what identity do I want to build it's going to shift over time and for that reason I think one of the most important sort of meta habits to build and this is how I answer this question for myself is the process of reflection and review so I do this in two different ways so at the end of each year I conduct an annual review where I asked myself three questions what what went well this year what didn't go so well and then what am i working toward or what did I learn and so when I asked myself those questions it's kind of a chance to reflect on my habits I I do a lot of measurement too so I track you know how many workouts I'd do this year and how many new places do I travel to and how many articles do I write and stuff like that so it's just kind of a chance to to be self aware and to figure out where I actually stand rather than you know thinking I'm doing better than I am and then you know I get to reflect on what I learned and so on and that so that's son of a chance for me to set the baseline then about six months later I do what I call an integrity report each summer and again it's got three questions so what are my values one of my values and principles what I stand for second question is how did I live by those values this last year so kind of a chance to pat yourself on the back and you know think about where you did a good job and then the most important one for me is where did I fail to live up to those values and principles you know like where where did I kind of feel like I fell off course and I think this is the key piece of of maintaining integrity which you know there are many ways to define integrity but all for the context of this conversation I'll say living in alignment with your desired identity right living it being the type of person that you wish to become living in alignment with those values and principles and so integrity is kind of a funny thing because like pretty much everybody thinks that they have it it'd be very weird to talk to somebody and have them say like oh I'm not a person of integrity right just be strange to hear that and so the question is well if everybody has it or thinks they have it then how do you lose it and I think it's a gradual slide I think it's you know series of kind of like just this once exceptions you know you're like oh well this time it's a little bit different so we'll do it this way or maybe this time you know I can let it slide and so that integrity report helps kind of pull me back to Center helps keep me on track with the habits that that you know reinforce the identity that I want to build and become so I think between those two having the annual review at the end of each year and kind of reflecting on where my habits have been and where I've been headed and then the integrity report to ask myself you know what what are my values and principles now you know as they have anything changed has anything changed from last year and in in concert when I have those together I have a good process for reflecting on where I'm at and where I went ahead and I think that that is an important way to answer that question of who are you becoming of you know who are you looking to develop into because ultimately it's a continuous process it's not a oh I just decided the kind of person I want to be in can let it ride for 40 years it's it's something you need to continue to revisit I think each year and who knows maybe even more more consistently than I do it but but I think that having some kind of process of a reflection review is a good way to keep yourself on track and answer that question over time you know I love that I know a lot of people that review different different measurements of success but to look at you know did I live according to my values that's so important because if we don't get that part right then all the external success really Falls way way short so I I just want to express my gratitude to you James thank you for coming on the podcast and more so your book it kind of feels like a lifelong effort I think you've been studying this for a long time and it really really shows so thank you for your investment in the work you put into the book it's it's called atomic habits I hope that if everyone listening to it has not read or listened to this book I highly highly recommend it and just as a side note I listen to and read a lot of books a lot a lot of books and I put this at the top of the list in the last several years of books that I'm recommending so it's it really really is a good one if someone wants to find out more about you or run kind of continue learning from you what's the best way for them to do that James yeah well thank you so much I'm so glad you enjoyed it so thank you for the kind words and review you can find more of my work at James clear calm so if you just click on articles I have them organized by categories you can kind of poke around and see what's interesting to you if you'd like to check out the book directly it's called atomic habits an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones and you can get that at atomic habits comm James thanks so much appreciate having you on wonderful thank you thank you for joining us at the Craig Groeschel leadership podcast if you want to go even deeper into this episode and get the leadership guide or show notes you can go to live dot Church slash leadership podcast you can also sign up to have that information delivered straight to your inbox every month in the meantime you can subscribe to this podcast rate and review it on itunes and share with your friends on social media once again thank you for joining us at the Craig Groeschel leadership

5 thoughts on “Q&A: Atomic Habits with James Clear – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

  1. I'm listening to this episode. I heard James talk about surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals. We should create a community of people here on YouTube or on Facebook or some kind of platform! Does anybody know if there's anything like that?

  2. I just saw his podcast on London Real then some how got directed to this podcast. This will be a game changer in doing small things daily.

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