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Master Your Habits

Updated: May 4, 2019

Why Making Micro-step Changes Can Help You Master Your Habits

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your systems, would you still succeed?

Forget about Goals, Focus on Systems

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” - James Clear

If you want better results, then forget about setting goals focus on your systems instead. Goals are good for setting direction, but systems are best for making progress.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system in place for change.

Who is James Clear and why am I obsessed with him?

James Clear is one of the most popular habit researchers, reaching millions through his blog at His first book, Atomic Habits, is now the definitive guide on the topic.

What are Atomic Habits?

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

At the Craft & Commerce conference in 2017 James Clear talked about the idea that, the actions that you take provide evidence for who you are.

He says :

"Everyone wants transformation, but most want radical, fast changes or improvements, that we lose sight that gradual improvements over time can have longer lasting and greater positive impacts in our lives.

Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about."

In his book "Atomic Habits" James Clear meticulously takes us through not only the evidential science behind making microcosmic changes in our daily habits will have lasting effects to our behavior, but he shares methods to make these shifts.


1. Noticing - You cannot change a habit or take action if you do not notice something that needs changing. The first step to building habits that support you is by noticing the habits that are preventing you from getting to where you want to go. Then start by setting an intention.


  • A commitment to change the behavior or perform the habit.

  • A self-regulatory strategy that can lead to better goal attainment, as well as help in habit and behavior modification.

  • It’s a specific plan that is support by a specific action.

Once you have an intention set, give your goals a place to live in the world by putting them on a calendar. Make sure that your actionable steps to reaching your goals (the strategies to meet the goals) are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (Realistic), Time-bound).

2. Wanting - Once you are aware of what you would like to change, the goal you have, then you need to want it to change or for the goal to be achieved. You need to want your habit(s) to shift in order for you to do anything about it and in order for you to take any action.

  • One of the most overlooked influencers of your habits is your physical environment.

  • Environment influences desires… change your environment to support the behaviors you want.

Bottom line is this, you want to set yourself up to "WIN". You want ultimate success and by removing obstacles that are in your way to get to where you want to go, you have a higher likelihood of sticking with it and feeling the win. It is far easier to live in an environment that is inclined to support the good behaviors than trying to change the behaviors in an environment that doesn't support them to change in the first place.

3. Doing- After you have noticed your behaviors, set your intention and have the desire to change them, then you must take action.

In the beginning, what's most important is just start doing "it". Rearrange the kitchen and put the sugar in hard to reach places, move the TV out of the bedroom, change your phones home-screen display apps and make finding Facebook harder.

Setting up micro-goals here can create a guide or blueprint to you achieving the end goal.

This is where James Clear expressing the importance of "learning how to start"! Identify the FIRST step you need to take and then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Once you get in the grove and into the new "good" practice or routine, this will move you closer to the outcome you want and when you have little successes you will be motivated.

Start easy, baby steps, micro-steps and make it a win-win situation for yourself. As you gain momentum, as the shifts start becoming easier, make the goals more challenging and see where your weaknesses are and from this awareness, you can then challenge yourself to "move the goal posts."

The key take away here is, in the beginning, you want to make it as easy as possible for you to start!

4. Liking- You must like the reward in order to do it again in order for the habit to be changed

The only reason we repeat the behaviors is because we like the reward. If we don’t like the experience along the way we are less likely to stick with it.

Even in “bad behavior” there is a reward that we associate with with as the end result and often with bad behavior it is “we get to be right" or the instant gratification. We get the immediate gratification ( ie. eating the entire cake) but the reward (or rather the consequence) is that, in the long term, “I get fat, have worse health, feel bad about myself, etc.”

We have tricked ourselves into thinking that the immediate gratification or reward IS the finish-line when in fact, with bad behaviors or habits, often the end-result or consequence is guilt, shame, in-difference, anger, sadness and separation.

The reason why good behaviors are harder to stick with is because often there is a delayed reward and the cost upfront is greater. Working out one day won't show any results, but working out every day for two weeks, the results begin to show... therefore the more you do it, the more likely you are to experience the results, over a longer period of time. This outcome is called the LAGGING MEASURE of your habits.

So stay with it, have systems in place and an environment that supports the good behavior and eventually the bad habits will dissolve and the good habits will form.

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