Medical Mnemonist Podcast

The Power of Atomic Habits

Chase DiMarco talks about The Power of Atomic Habits, a concept borrowed from two best-selling books, The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits. He dissects how mentality affects habits, the importance of rewarding successful habit adoption, and developing habit-creating skills.

  • [01:50] The Power of Atomic Habits
  • [06:37] Willpower and Keystone Habits
  • [10:45] Habit Creating Skills
  • [11:55] Habit Stacking and Temptation Bundling
  • [14:10] Rewards and Habit Tracking

Power of Atomic Habits

The past few years have seen an increase in the amount of research trying to demystify habits. Interestingly, most of them tend to focus on timelines – say the number of days it takes to drop a bad habit. The reality is that timelines are not as important as actions. Actions, if developed over time, can potentially birth better outcomes. The keyword here is ‘over time’ because the best way to build or drop habits is by taking consistent incremental steps.

Two books will form the basis of today’s discussion: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear. According to The Power of Habit, habits come from a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue is the habit trigger, while the routine strengthens the reward. On the other hand, Atomic Habits says that the only way to develop habits is by making them obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.

Will Power and Keystone Habits

While there might be several focus points that tackle habit formation, there are two main parts that deserve a little bit of focus: willpower and keystone habits. In willpower, The Power of Habit asserts that people typically have a finite amount of willpower at the start of every day. Once willpower is exhausted, people often struggle to get things done. The good news is that individuals can strengthen their willpower by doing more challenging things every day, planning, and imagining the worst-case scenarios.

In contrast, Keystone habits are all about making small incremental changes that contribute to the overall goal achievement. A good example is taking small bites off large tasks every day. In doing so, you’ll not only diminish the task, but you’ll also develop good habits that lead to better task management.

Habit Creating Skills

There exist hundreds if not thousands of tools and processes that help in habit-creating skills. One of them is the habit scorecard that scores neutral habits as zero and good and bad habits with positive and negative scores. Habit scorecards help you assess your progress over time while highlighting the bad habits that need to be dropped. Always remember that the habit scorecard can only be effective if you give it time.

Rewards and Habit Tracking

The only way to maintain habit development is by having rewards at the end of every successful advancement. Rewards can be as simple as taking breaks or watching an episode of your favorite show. One way to set yourself up for success is by anchoring your environment. If you have a specific dedicated place for studying, it’s going to be much easier to study when you’re in your spot.

If you find yourself struggling to implement some of these strategies, then you can start habit tracking. Habit tracking is simply tracking your progress. By tracking habits over time and noticing that we’re indeed making progress, we get motivated to keep pushing. The other exciting thing about habit tracking is that it keeps you accountable for your actions.

All in all, your mentality will inevitably determine whether you form or drop those good and bad habits. If you don’t believe you can achieve something, your mind will automatically struggle to make it happen. Thus, before you even come up with a plan, reaffirm your position and tell yourself that it’s doable.

Links and References

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Presence by Amy Cuddy

The One Thing by Gary Keller

Check out our previous WOOP episode with Dr. Daniel Saddawi-Konefkah

Share your experiences, tips, and suggestions to [email protected]. Or you can directly reach out to Chase on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. Join the Medical Mnemonist Master Mind Facebook group and find our Blog postsPodcasts, and other Resources at FreeMedEd.org!

Chase DiMarco

Chase DiMarco is an MS, MBA-HA and MD/Ph.D-candidate. He is the founder of FreeMedEd, a free medical education resource, the host of the Medical Mnemonist 1-Minute Preceptor podcasts by MedSchoolCoach, creator of several medical education platforms, and CEO of FindARotation clinical rotations service.

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