Atomic Habits — Creating Better Habits

Atomic Habits is one of the most prominent self-help and personal development books on the market. Naturally, I had to buy it and let it sit on my desk for two years before digging into it.

I’m not against the personal development genre; most of the books I have on my shelf fall into that category because I buy them monthly. However, I get tired of repeatedly reading the same things over and over (you would think I would eventually buy something different, but I don’t). Inevitably, my library looks like that of a self-help guru, so I eventually cave and read whatever tickles my fancy.

Anyway, I recently dug into Atomic Habits, and it dawned on me that I already knew everything in the book. You see, Atomic Habits delivers a template to help people change and create better habits; it’s about making change easier for the things you want to do and making things harder for the things you don’t want to do.

There, now you don’t have to read it. Kidding, you should.

As someone that has spent the last fourteen years digging into behavior change and coaching, the book aligns with everything I know and encourage my clients to do. However, a story resonated with me and ignited a fire under my butt to make some newfound changes. 

Who Are You?

All of us identify ourselves in some way, shape, or form. For instance, I think of myself as a strong-willed, reliable, caring person who wants to help people move with purpose. This line of thinking shapes the person I am and vice versa. In other words, because I believe I am a reliable, caring person and coach, I am.

Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits. This is behavior change 101 because habits (or actions) are a reflection of self. Using this lens, you can see why positive psychology has been emphasized over the last few decades. Imagine if we just told everyone they were broken from the minute they were born until the moment they died. Do you think they’d be a fulfilled, happy person? Probably not.

So, how you identify yourself matters, and it will ultimately play a role in more areas of your life than you thought possible.

Don’t Bite Your Nails

There’s a story in the book about a nail-biter who could never stop biting his nails, no matter how hard he tried. I’m paraphrasing here, but eventually, he lets his nails grow long enough to justify going to a nail salon. So, his wife booked him a manicure.

As it turned out, he loved how his nails looked, which shouldn’t be surprising because nail-biters typically chew their fingers off (I would know because I do it, too). And it was at that moment he realized that he never wanted his nails to look like they used to. So, he made it a habit to get manicures as often as possible.

And guess what happened? He stopped biting his nails.

I put the book down, grabbed my phone, and set an appointment to get my nails done. I had my first manicure at thirty-five, and it was…fine. I can’t say I love the process, but I’m a fan of the result. 🙂

You Are What You Believe

The nail-biter changed his internal perspective from that of a nail-biter to someone with beautiful hands. And once he did that, he was hellbent on never letting his hands look half-eaten ever again. He believed he was a different person at a moment’s notice, and it internally and externally changed his thoughts, feelings, and actions.

I realize it’s not that simple, but perhaps it can be. Maybe the key to being healthier and fitter is believing you can be that first. It’s not as easy as picking up the phone and calling your local salon. But next time you reach for candy or try to manage your way out of another workout, you will remember that you’re a healthy, fit person.

And would a healthy, fit person make it their norm to eat unhealthy food and remain stagnant?

That’s for you to decide.

Brian Murray, FRSC, FRA
Founder of Motive Training

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