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Decoding the First Law of Habit Change: Make It Obvious – Atomic Habits


 Most people repeatedly fail to build new habits. That is because we have been using the same age-old strategies suggested by a friend or family which might have worked for them, but won’t necessarily work for you. And then we whine about being losers without understanding the science behind habits. Author James Clear of Atomic habits has explicitly segregated habit change into four laws. Let’s comprehend the first law.

Self control is a lame shot:

 You must have gone through this scenario during exam season. You keep your phone with you in case you need to google information while studying. You are in the middle of an interesting chapter when a notification pops up. Now your brain is used to checking your phone every time a notification buzzes. Out of habit, you pick up your phone, tap on the notification and read the message your friend has sent you on Instagram, like it, and reply. Now time to get back to studying. But instead, you start scrolling without consciously wanting to do it. When you finally put your phone down, you realise that it’s been nearly an hour! You’d hardly got through the first chapter. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Doesn’t end here. You promise yourself not to repeat it again, and yet you keep falling back in the same loop every time.

Why making the cue invisible is a profitable solution?

Cues are scattered in our environment. In the above scenario, the notification in your phone is your cue. As soon as you see a cue you start acting on autopilot because this habit has been repeated countless times by you and hence using self control against it would help you very little. The solution then, is to make the cue invisible or simply hide it. So next time, if you want to study peacefully, let a friend or family hide it for you and give it back only when your job’s done. The phone might buzz with a dozen notifications but, now that you its invisible to you, you will stay on track.

Don’t underestimate your environment:

 If losing weight is your target, and has been for years, you might want to say goodbye to your kitty party group who goes out for buffets every Sunday or say no to your roommates who devour street food for dinner. You might want to write your novel in a garden, then a café where you easily gulp down milkshakes or cold drinks like a psychopath. As long as you stay in an environment that holds the wrong cues for you, losing weight will be nothing but a dream. Remember that your environment should have the right clues for you because spotting the right cues will make you motivated to work. Want to lose weight? Then try placing a fresh bowl of salad at your work desk, cancel plans which might cost you calories or join a health club. Simply put, stay in an environment which provides you the right cues and detach yourself from the ones that provide you the wrong ones.

Cue to your rescue:

Artists often complain that they lack the motivation to work, that they ‘don’t feel like it’. It’s natural not to feel artistic if you are stuck in an environment that doesn’t enhance your productivity. Place some paints and brushes on your work desk every night before going to bed so that when you glance at your desk in the morning, the cue that is your paints and brushes will set you into action. And why stop with just paints? Go further and add that pop of colour to your room by hanging artistic quotes, paintings, sketches, basically anything artistic which can be easily spotted by you.


Self control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term strategy.

Making the necessary cues obvious in your environment is the secret to getting work done.

Believe it or not, environment is underrated.

What a bunch of motivational quotes can’t do the right cues can.


Categories: Best Selling Books|Published On: 26/08/2023|By |