“Incentives can change a habit. Identity can change a habit.” -James Clear, Atomic Habits
This quote summarizes the idea behind the Four Laws of Behavioural Change: changing habits starts with changing your identity.
If you’ve been reading my past blog posts, you understand the first three laws of Behavioural Change. The fourth law, however, is the only one that most people know to do. As a result, they often skip over the first three and go straight to this one. Although it’s important, it must coexist with the other three laws simultaneously in order to help you maintain a habit. The Law? Simple — make it satisfying. Not to be confused with making yourself crave a habit. The difference between the two is that craving a habit happens when you aren’t actively doing the task, while being satisfied happens while you’re actively engaging in whatever task you’re trying to make a habit of.
So how do we make a task satisfying? Well, the human brain gets a rush of happy hormones whenever we solve a problem. And what do we call ourselves when we solve a problem? Successful. We make a task satisfying by succeeding in completion of said task. As Clear puts it: “Whatever is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.” This is why the last three laws work so well together; they all contribute to making a task more manageable and in turn more satisfying. The Fourth Law puts the last nail in the coffin by making the task more satisfying instead of the reward.
Unfortunately, the fourth law isn’t something that happens overnight. In fact, it only happens after your brain begins to understand that you get rewarded whenever you complete a certain task. Eventually it blends the idea of the reward with the idea of the task to make the task feel like a reward in and of itself. It’s a tricky concept to understand, and it’s even trickier to accept that it’s not something that happens overnight. That’s why the other three steps are so important; they’re activating the brain’s reward mechanism mechanically through the use of external rewards such as junk food or watching TV.
Now that you understand what it takes to make good habits and break bad ones, you can start making small moves to work towards success. You can get one percent better every day. In fact, that’s 37.78 times better over the course of one year assuming you stick to your habits every day. Humans at the top of the food chain for a reason: we’re really good at getting one percent better every day, adapting to new challenges, overcoming them, and repeating that cycle every moment we’re conscious. We evolved to be the best, and we still have the capability to do so.
What are your thoughts? I’m interested in what you have to say! Feel free to comment your thoughts and ideas. I would also sincerely appreciate it if you shared this with your friends and family, because they might be able to use the information I’m sharing with you. Stay tuned for future blog posts on Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and try to be the reason someone smiles today 🙂