“Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with out bad ones.” James Clear, Atomic Habits, 155.
James Clear’s four laws for creating a good habit are:
- The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious.
- The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive.
- The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy.
- The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
Conversely, his laws for breaking bad habits are:
- Inversion of the 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible.
- Inversion of the 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive.
- Inversion of the 3rd law (Response): Make it difficult.
- Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying. (54)
Over recent weeks, we’ve been undertaking analyzing the first two steps with a view to applying Clear’s teaching to sanctification, a large part of which is breaking bad habits and forming good ones. In today’s post we start looking at the third step, Response. Having made a good habit obvious and attractive, how do we make it easy to accomplish?
This is not just about doing easy things. It’s about making it as easy as possible in the moment to do what is right and good. Clear’s rationale is that if we can make good habits more convenient, we’ll be more likely to follow through on them. We’re trying to achieve more with less effort, so that doing the right thing is easier than doing the wrong thing. As Clear says:
“Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with our bad ones.” (155)
So we are looking for two things: ways to make the good easier and ways to make the bad harder. How can we add oil to good and how can we increase friction to the bad?
One of the best ways of doing this is to re-arrange our environment so that it will oil the good and make the bad squeak. Clear’s examples of oiling are:
- Buy a selection of cards (birthday, thank you, graduation, sympathy), so that it’s easy to send when needed.
- Layout exercise clothes the night before your morning run.
- Chop up fruit and veg for an hour and put them into bags so that you can grab a ready-made bag each day of the week.
Some examples of adding squeaks are:
- Unplug TV and remove batteries so that it’s harder to just turn it on and vegetate.
- Leave your phone in another room when working.
- Delete email and social media apps from your phone.
We’d all love to believe that with strong enough cues and cravings, that will be enough to motivate good habits. Clear, though, recognizes that the flesh can be weak even when the spirit is strong. We therefore need all the oil and squeaks we can get to help us.
Where do you need oil and where do you need squeaks? Or, are you maybe adding oil and squeaks in the completely wrong places?
See more Atomic Habits posts here.