This morning I was about to cook omelette for breakfast.
All the ingredients were ready to go except for one particular herb.
My wife came over to get it from the cupboard for me. As she did that I turned to the other side of the kitchen to get a spatula.
I went back to the stove and it was on. I didn’t turn it on.
I paused for a moment to process and confirm that I hadn’t, in fact, turned it on. My wife, as if sensing my contemplation, stopped walking away, turned around and asked:
– “Did I turn it on?”
– “Yeah, I think you must have…”
– “Oh sorry, I didn’t even realize – it was just habit.”
I’m part-way through reading Atomic Habits, by James Clear. He emphasizes that we can make good habits easier to follow and bad habits harder to follow partly by setting up our environment.
He calls it environment design.
For example, if you want to eat healthier then leave fruit and the like on your kitchen counter, as opposed to a jar of cookies. Or if you want to exercise in the morning before work, lay out your workout clothes, shoes and water-bottle the night before.
His point is that rather than waiting to be motivated to do something we just need to be surrounded by the right cues.
The fact my wife turned the stove on just because she was getting food out near it isn’t good or bad. But I thought it was a good demonstration of habits being dictated by environment.
And how they play out unconsciously, if left unexamined.
There is a lot to digest in the book Atomic Habits and, as I said, I’m only part-way through. But another concept he describes is habit stacking, which is finding a habit you already do each day then “stacking” your new, desired habit on top of it.
He gives the template as follows:
Before/After (current habit) I will (new habit) .
So, I’m starting with just one habit.
Here is my first habit stack:
“After I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth each morning I will stretch for 8 minutes then meditate for 12 minutes.”
Wish me luck! Haha 🙂