When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living. – James Baldwin
If you really want to learn what people think you should go and read the reviews people leave on Amazon.
Says Jay Abraham – the marketing guru – so I thought I would do just that.
You’ve probably heard about James Clear and his book Atomic habits – and I wondered what people thought of that kind of material.
You see, the problem is that most of the business books we’ve heard of are written by people who don’t always know the theory that underpins their ideas.
Many books are repackaged common sense and what mother would say.
It’s nice, uplifting material that makes you feel good and motivates you to do something – anything.
But is it going to work for you in your circumstances?
At the other end you have academic papers that are detailed studies of a very specific situation – so specific that you learn that something works – but only under those conditions.
How is that going to work for you if your conditions are different.
So, between these extremes, common sense and old wise sayings, and new, cutting edge research – you have to find a set of ideas that you’re happy to cling to.
Now the approach you need to take to find your way in this treacherous swamp of ideas is to get better at critical thinking – at looking at ideas and figuring out what to take and try and adapt so that you make it yours.
For example, the first comment that came up for me on Clear’s book was by Timothy Corwen who talks about how Clear doesn’t make it quite clear what kind of habits he’s talking about.
And this is something that’s easy to confuse – are all habits equal?
Corwen points out that they’re not – and there are at least three that you need to get your head around.
The first are habits that you do in order to make life easier for yourself.
The fictional writer Hank Moody, in the TV series Californication only has black t-shirts and blue jeans.
That makes choosing your outfit easy.
Or you only drink tea – coffee or any other kind of beverage is a no-go area.
These kinds of habits are about doing the same thing to reduce the number of decisions you need to make, saving your energy for the big stuff.
The second kind of habit is about removing friction for the things you want to do because they’re good for you.
Exercise, for example.
If you lay your clothes out the previous night or join a routine at the same time every day, like the nation is doing with PE in the morning in lockdown, you’re making it easy to perform that task.
These first two types of habits make it easy to do easy things and easy to do hard things.
When you’ve got those two nailed you can now focus on making it easy to do the important things.
Like climbing your mountain.
Your mountain might be your career, writing a book, doing your art, creating your music.
It’s your body of work, your life’s purpose, the asset you build, the legacy you leave.
And too many of us spend our lives so busy choosing the next outfit and watching TV on the sofa that we never have the time to look out and see which way our mountain might be.
So, when you look at your routines today – the habits you’re trying to develop – keep this model in mind.
They’ve got to help you address those three problematic areas in your life – the easy problems, the hard problems and the important problems.
And if you get this right you might be on your way to becoming healthy, wealthy and wise.