4 Steps to Creating Good Habits

Jul 6, 2021 3 min read
4 Steps to Creating Good Habits

Explore the 4 step framework that will help you to create and maintain new good habits.

I recently finished the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, where he thoroughly explores how to create and garner good habits. One concept from James Clear's book that was impactful covers the framework that he calls The Four Laws of Behavior Change.

But before we get into the laws, let's first break down what James defines as the anatomy of a habit.

The Four Stages of Habit
Photo credit: jamesclear.com

There are four consecutive stages to a habit:

  1. Cue - this stage refers to the initial trigger that kick-starts a particular behavior. An example of this would be the smell of doughnuts from a nearby bakery.
  2. Craving - this second stage is the driving engine behind a habit. The craving is what gives the motivation to perform a specific action. Following the doughnut example, a craving would be to eat a doughnut after smelling the lovely fumes from the bakery.
  3. Response - the third stage refers to the actual action of the habit. In our example, this would be going to the bakery and buying the doughnut.
  4. Reward - this fourth and final stage is when the craving was fulfilled. So in the example, this would be the long-awaited time you finally enjoy the doughnut you were craving.

So if we look at the entire lifecycle of a habit, there is the initial trigger, the want of the reward from the initial motivation, the action to get to that reward, and then finally enjoying that reward.

Now that we know the four stages of a habit, let's explore the four laws that help you develop good habits.

  • 1st Law - (The Cue) - Make it obvious
  • 2nd Law - (The Craving) - Make it attractive
  • 3rd Law - (The Response) - Make it easy
  • 4th Law - (The Reward) - Make it satisfying

Creating a habit of writing

Let's take a look at an example using these Four Laws of Behavior Change for creating a good habit. Let's say we want to start a habit of writing every day.

How can we make the cue for this habit obvious?

Mornings are usually more distraction-free, so let's say that once you have brewed your morning coffee or tea, this will signal your brain to write.

How can we make the craving for this habit attractive?

Let's say that you have a blog or a book you are writing and want to publish. This craving will motivate you to get to the finish line of either finishing a blog post or a novel.

How can we make the habit action easy?

Writing can be intimidating, especially if you are starting from a completely blank slate. So start with a point of getting at least 200 words written regardless if they are good or bad as an easy entry point.

How can we make the reward of the habit satisfying?

The reward will be publishing, sharing, or printing out your completed writing for others to read and enjoy.  

Habits should be small and easy to do daily, and the power of these practices comes from the accumulation of months and even years of following them. Just imagine, in our previous writing habit example, if you wrote only 200 words a day for a year, that would be 73,000 words – that's almost the complete length of a novel!

As James points out in Atomic Habits:

"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent. "

Always remember, significant change always starts with small daily steps.

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