habits to be made

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do your habits help or hinder your progress towards your goals? What are some things you could do on a consistent basis to get closer to your goal?

A habit is an action repeated over time until it becomes automatic. Good habits that create your desired results are crucial for success because when completed consistently, they automatically get you closer to achieving your goals over time.

In this article, we’ll explore the science of creating habits of success.

Create Habits of Success

The results of your habits give you insight into whether they are driving you towards or away from your desired goal. You know you have good habits when you get the results you want, and you know you have bad habits when you don’t get the results you want.

For example, let’s say your goal is to save a certain amount of money, and one of your habits is to save $35 each week from your paycheck, but another habit is to spend $5 on coffee each day. After a few weeks, you notice that you’re not losing money, but your savings are not increasing either. This tells you that your habit of spending $5 on coffee every day is canceling out your habit of saving $35 each week, which means these habits are bad for your goals. In this case, you could change your savings habit by saving more each week so you can keep the daily coffee habit, or you could stop buying coffee. 

The Science of Changing Your Habits

Olson notes that the first step to building habits of success is to change your bad habits.

Science shows you can only change a habit by replacing it with a new one. Complicating things, according to research, we’re not consciously aware of at least 40% of our habits. Therefore, to change a harmful habit, you have to dismantle the subconscious mechanisms fueling that habit and plant new, more productive wiring in your brain. You can do this by building what’s called an “if-then” plan, where you consciously train your mind to respond in a specific way to a specific situation. 

To implement an if-then plan, use the following process:

  • Write down which habit you want to change and how changing this habit will improve your life.
  • Write down the impact this habit has had on your life so far. How has it been hurtful? 
  • Write down your commitment to changing the habit and what the consequences will be if you don’t change the habit.
  • Create your “if-then” plan for transforming the habit. Write down what action you’ll take when you feel compelled to do your habit the old way. 

For example, if your habit is yelling at your husband whenever he forgets to take out the trash, you might write about how changing that habit will improve your marriage. You might also note that it has hurt your marriage in the past, that you are committed to changing it, and that if you don’t change it, your marriage will continue to suffer. Your “if-then” plan might be “if my husband forgets to take out the trash and I want to yell at him, then I will pause, take some time alone, write about my frustration in my journal, and talk to him about that frustration when I’ve calmed down.”

Habits of Success: Progress Slowly but Surely

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jeff Olson's "The Slight Edge" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Slight Edge summary :

  • Why some people fail and some succeed despite having the same tools
  • How small practices, executed consistently over time, will give you an edge
  • How you're getting in the way of your own growth by neglecting simple things

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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