When COVID-19 just started and got us locked in, I started reading a bit, hoping to learn something new outside of academia. I ended up choosing some self-improvement books and read this book named Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break by James Clear. In short, I was very lucky to have found this book and actually finished the book—it will CHANGE your life.
This book mainly talks about how habits are built (duh)—the good ones and the bad ones are built quite similarly. The main takeaway is, if you want to build good habits, make them very easy to do! For example, I wanted to develop a reading habit. What did I do? I leave my iPad beside my bed and the moment I wake up, I reach out to my iPad and start reading. I choose the morning because I know I have time and have no other responsibilities yet. Also, I make sure not to read too much to the point where I get exhausted—you end up associating negative emotions with something you want to do consistently and will give up eventually. The book, of course, gives a more sophisticated explanation but this is how I interpreted it. Apparently you can also “chain” it with other habits to make it even easier, but I have not tried that yet…
What about bad habits? Easy, make it difficult to do! I have no self-control when it comes to snacking—I see snacks, I eat snacks. So what did I do? Either not buy the snacks at all or put them in a cabinet behind some other things. This makes the snacks to be very inaccessible and you will need to put in more effort to get them. Needless to say, it works really well and I have not snacked for a long time. Adding a small obstacle between you and the bad habit will decrease the likelihood of you doing it. Again, the book has more examples and ways but that is the gist. Also, the book talks more than just building habits but I will let you explore that!
So… why was I looking into developing habits? There are many reasons—I was not happy with how I progressed in life. During COVID-19 I felt I had no real hobbies and all I did was randomly browsing the internet. If you feel that way and want to change, do it NOW! There is no better time than now. I procrastinated because I was scared to make a change or the change was just something I did not really want—if you are content with the current state, why would you want to change, right? For example, I have been wanting to learn how to drive a stick since university but that has not happened yet; I picked up reading so quickly but not driving a stick. Deep down I know why and I am okay to just let it be for now.
You might fail few times before properly developing a habit, but that is part of the process. You might feel demotivated and stuck, but that is part of the process. The most important part of this process is to not give up—for example (a classic one), you need to consistently hammer the rock in order to split it in half. Of course, in this case, you need to be “smart” about it and make adjustments as you fail—a person who makes the same mistake over and over again, without trying to adapt is probably not going to grow. I probably spend half a year or more to get some research ideas to take shape, and honestly the first six months were full of “oh boy I am stuck” moments. Consistency is all you need (haha).