I am a sucker for books on habits. I think I am always searching for that Holy Grail that will make it simple for me to add or break a habit. Unfortunately, I don’t think a Holy Grail exists. The apostle Paul seems to recognize this when he says that he constantly struggles with doing what he doesn’t want to do, and not doing what he knows he should do. If Paul fights the battle with habits, then I feel in good company.
In spite of this, two new insightful books on habits have come out in the last year that are definitely worth reading. The first is Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear takes a comprehensive look at both creating habits and stopping bad habits. I particularly like his discussion on the role of identity when it comes to habits.
The other one, which I just finished, is Tiny Habits, by BJ Fogg. Like Atomic Habits, it lays out a comprehensive approach to the entire subject of habits. Fogg’s unique angle is to elevate the value of starting very small in creating a new habit. He uses examples like doing 2 pushups to begin with and then slowly, almost imperceptibly, building it up until we reach where we want to be. That simple idea, encapsulated in the title of the book, is worth the entire read. In these days when our entire worlds are turned upside down by the Coronavirus, tiny habits can become anchors in unsteady waters. Tiny habits like deep breathing, listing one thing for which we are grateful each day, beginning the day with a psalm, or taking a five-minute walk outside can brighten anxious days. These tiny habits may even remain after the crisis passes.
As with many books, the trick with one like Tiny Habits is absorbing the dense content and applying it in our life. To that end, I want to suggest that after you read the book, you go back briefly with a notepad and write down a few key takeaways. This will help prevent the powerful ideas from being lost in the thousand other ideas that flow through us each day. The other suggestion it to take his ideas and immediately put it into practice with one habit. Nothing internalizes a thought more than practice.
The final thought I offer on habits is my own idea. In the vast world of habits to which we give our energy, picking the right habit is crucial. A keystone habit – one which affects all other habits – is like supercharging our entire life. For some, a keystone habit may be exercising. For others, it might be implementing a morning routine. Reading could be a keystone habit. While you are going through all of the effort to create a habit, make sure the habit that you are creating is worth creating. Will it move the needle in helping you become the person you desire to become?
I’d love your thoughts on this book review and the addition of book reviews as a part of Life Lessons.