Atomic Habits: Make It Obvious
I’m continuing my reread of Atomic Habits by James Clear (no puns today, I promise) and in Chapter 4: Make It Obvious, I read about the principle of pointing and calling. This is a process developed by the metro lines in Japan where the conductors and other workers on train platforms point to and call out key safety metrics like speed, whether or not the platform is clear, etc.
Here’s a video I found on YouTube explaining this in more detail and showing it happen:
Clear recommends utilizing this type of tool in our own lives to better identify the habits that we are making with a point from psychologist Carl Jung, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” By identifying what we are doing, we can better identify the decisions our unconscious mind is making on our behalf or our habits.
He goes on to suggest filling out a “Habits Scorecard” which can be downloaded at https://atomichabits.com/scrorecard along with a bunch of other resources. You list the things you do with as much detail as possible and in order. Then you mark whether or not they were “good” or “bad” with a +, -, or a neutral =. This visualization strategy helps you identify the things you are doing every day that you might consider good or bad.
As I read this I quickly caught myself disagreeing with this “good” vs “bad” labeling and within a paragraph, he clarified his point. There is no such thing as “good” and “bad” there are just things that benefit us. They benefit us now or they benefited us in the past. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t do them. The fact that we are means we have an old pattern of belief that thinks this is still beneficial (and what we really want even if consciously we no longer want that in our lives).
This principle was first taught to me by my friend Simone Bienne. We were introduced by a mutual friend from film school and we started trading services: my digital marketing expertise and her amazing history as a host of Loveline, Celebrity Rehab, etc. Needless to say, I feel I have benefited more from our relationship than she has, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, she pointed out this principle of Neurolinguistic Programming to me and it was a paradigm shift. I had never considered the fact that things I do are really lessons I taught myself to survive and satisfy my needs.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my own mindset, habits, and limiting beliefs. I’ve worked tirelessly to change my thought patterns and habits and invested tens of thousand of dollars into training, coaching, education, and workshops. One of my biggest problem areas was the subject of “Toxic Shame” which was first introduced to me through the book “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Dr. Robert Glover. That book hit me hard and helped me understand why I did many of the things I did.
Growing up with a mentally ill mother, I learned a lot of behaviors that helped me navigate a situation where the woman who was supposed to nurture and protect me did a lot of things to hurt me. I learned not to have needs, to satisfy the needs of others, and ultimately those patterns still guide my life to a large degree. Behavior change techniques through the tools I’ve learned from Atomic Habits, my time with Simone, and my involvement with Warrior (a group for men who have businesses and families) have really helped me turn a corner. I still have many underlying habits, beliefs, and childhood trauma that guides my decisions today.
The good news is that techniques like pointing and calling can help me (and you) identify what the fruits of those beliefs are by identifying the things I do unconsciously.
If you’re reading this and you want to improve your life exponentially, I’d strongly recommend picking up the book “Atomic Habits”. It’s simple, it’s easy to understand, and most importantly it is actionable. You can start the process of improving your life today.
One caveat on this: you are going to have a lot of mindset work to do. I remember a few years back when I was coaching and helping my friend Zach at TheFlexibleDietingLifestyle.com launch his online sales and physical products. He had offered to coach me on my weight loss goals and did a full workup of my macros and I was doing daily check-ins with him. At one point a few months into our work together, he blatantly told me, “I take it personal you haven’t lost a significant amount of weight by now.”
I was stunned. I was ashamed. This was no fault of Zach’s, he had nothing but love and a desire to help me succeed. What he didn’t know and what I would go on to find out is that I had so many beliefs tied to my weight and size that there was no way I was going to make a meaningful impact on my weight until I unpacked a life full of emotional trauma from my relationship with my mentally ill mother to coaches who used exercise as a form of punishment and humiliation.
I’d established firm belief sets that prevented me from improving that area of my life, such as women want to hurt me and use me, a woman who loves me while I’m big must really love me, exercise is pain and humiliation.
He couldn’t know that. I didn’t even know that. Through working on my own and especially with Simone, I was able to identify these seemingly insane thoughts I believed and that guided my life. The amazing thing Simone helped me learn was the fact that these were actually incredibly smart strategies put together by a five-year-old boy who was making sense of the world from his limited capacity.
If that doesn’t strike you as powerful I don’t know what will.
You and I are the summations of unconscious belief systems that guide our habits and our decisions.
NONE OF THAT IS BAD.
That is all good. Now, we just have to gently remind our unconscious mind that those beliefs no longer serve us and we have new patterns and belief systems we are choosing to adopt today that will guide us to the future we want for ourselves now.
This process has taken years for me, but it’s paid off in spades.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m in a relationship with a wonderful woman who did love me at my heaviest weight (440 lbs) and yet still called me out on my “bad” decisions. I have a beautiful four-month-old daughter who has already pushed me to take massive action on the quality of my life in all aspects (body, being, balance, and business). I’ve lost over sixty pounds at this point, and continue to make improvements in my overall health. I’m happier. I’m better.
What are you going to do to improve your life today?