Like most good nonfiction books Atomic Habits (2018) blends scientific proofs with real life examples.
This week we’re reviewing Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Provide a proven framework for changing and creating habits.
People who want achieve more by harnessing the power of incremental change.
What makes the Book Unique/Good?
There are a lot of books that cover habits and several that cover the same proven techniques. In a way their isn’t a ton of new items in this book, if you’ve read some of the other books I’ll be recommending in this feature of my blog. However, you can’t take a friend to coffee without someone recommending this book, and there is a reason it has gotten so popular.
Clear has a simple and direct writing style that appeals to busy professionals looking to improve life without taking a weeklong spiritual retreat. This is also the first book I’ve come across that puts all the training about habits in one place and devotes the entire book to it. Everyone else is trying to make another point and the latest training habit improvement is just one of the tools in their system. Clear leaves it up to you what habits you want to make or shed. It’s worth reading.
Habits are automated behaviors we picked up experientially.
Small habits have a big impact on your life for good or bad. To leverage this, the author recommends creating habits that are so small you almost can’t do them. A famous example of this would be flossing one tooth. Clearly once you do one tooth you’ll probably finish the job, but by declaring it a victory to do just one tooth you feel a little silly if you fail to do that.
The cornerstone of making habits are hard to miss cues and a plan of action.
People are motivated by anticipating reward so motivate yourself to adopt the new habit by making the habit attractive.
An attractive habit is immediately rewarding, not delayed gratification.
Tracking habits increases your success. So does a contract with yourself that you make know to others.
The author recommends what he calls habit stacking. This concept is about associating a new habit with a well established habit. For example I once added five push-ups after each time I brushed my teeth. It worked well and I was able to do an extra 10 to 15 pushups a day.
I’d recommend this book. In my own Adventure Consulting Business creating habits is a one of two components of life change. If we want to have the life we desire then we’re going to have to build skills like effective life change.
The two ways human beings establish lasting change are:
Taking Journeys of self discovery, healing, or growth.
Incremental change by designing a lifestyle that moves you slowly toward your goals.
We need both. One method will work for some kinds of change and the other works for the other kinds of change. Some people suck at either method, but most people are good at one or the other. Very few of us have an effective framework for doing both.
Or you could buy and absorb this and all the other books and trainings I’ll be recommending in this blog–a method that could easily run you $25,000. Leveraging my breakthrough will save you time and money. Working with me will target what’s holding you back at this time and create a plan for overcoming that, as well as a set of next steps to move you toward a life of passion and profit with a purpose.
Others are ill prepared to help us Deal with Death and Loss
Academy Award Recovery
Part 2 Preparing for Change: Starting to Recover
Your First Choice: Choosing to Recover
Setting the Guidelines
Identifying Short-Term Energy Relievers
The Loss History Graph
Part 3 Finding The Solution
What is Incompleteness
Introducing the Relationship Graph
Almost Home: Converting the Relationship Graph into Recovery Components
What Now? – Clean up Work
Part 4 More on Choices and Other Losses
What Loss to Work on First
Guidelines for Working on Specific Losses
This book is meant to work like a manual so expect to skip around and to have to reread certain concepts until they really internalize.
What is Grief
Grief is the normal and natural reaction to significant emotional loss of any kind.
Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of, or change in, a familiar pattern of behavior.
Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there, only to find when you need them again, they are no longer there.
Typical Responses to Grief
Changed eating habits
A sense of numbness
Roller coaster of emotional energy
Disrupted sleeping patterns
Some examples include:
Loss of health
End of Addiction
Financial change (increase or decrease in wealth)
Here are some intangible examples of Grief.
Loss of Trust
Loss of Safety
Loss of Control
Loss of Faith
Loss of Fertility
Over 43 losses that are considered Grief in total.
Grief is individual and unique. There are no stages.
Grief cannot be neatly categorized. Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s work was on Death and Dying, not Grief. She is very specific about this distinction in her books and yet the media and universities have attached her work to Grief. This common misinformation has confused and hurt many grievers throughout the years.
There are no absolutes in Grief.
There are no reactions so universal that all, or even most, people will experience them.
Grief is normal and natural.
It is not a pathological condition or a personality disorder.
Grief is often misdiagnosed
Mislabeled as ADHD, Depression, PTSD, and many other pathological conditions.
If you misdiagnose, you will mistreat. These mislabeled Grievers are then incorrectly put on various medications, which will get in the way of recovering from loss.
How do I know if I, or someone I know, is incomplete with a loss?
If you are unwilling to think about or talk about someone who has died, or express feelings about any other losses.
If fond memories turn painful, you may be experiencing unresolved Grief.
If you want to talk only about the positive aspects of the relationship, you may be incomplete.
Wanting to talk about only the negative aspects of the relationship, might be unresolved Grief.
Unresolved Grief may be at the root of any fear associated with thoughts or feelings about a relationship.
The impact of unresolved Grief in society
The following statistics are heartbreaking and could be avoided in many cases.
13 million Grievers annually due to death. There are 2.6 million deaths per year in the United States with an average of five Grievers per death. (According to US Census Bureau)
2.5 million Grievers per year due to divorce. This does not include the children grieving this significant loss. (A compilation of US statistical agencies)
15.6 million Grievers per year due to a romantic breakup.
A study of 95,647 persons who lost a spouse found that the overall death rate for the surviving spouse doubled in the first week following the loss.
In the same study the heart attack rates more than doubled for male survivors and more than tripled for woman.
The surviving spouse was 93% more likely to get into a fatal auto accident and the suicide rate went up 242%.2
Unresolved Grief is cumulative and cumulatively negative.
Unresolved Grief is everywhere. Thousands of mental health professionals we work with have found that although their clients come to them with some other presenting issue, almost all of them have unresolved Grief as the underlying problem.
An incomplete past may doom the future. We find that many people alter their life choices after a series of unresolved losses. This is done to protect themselves from further heartbreak. Usually this just translates to living a guarded life and a reluctance to participate fully in relationships or new endeavors.
Grief is not clinical depression. A recent study of 8800 clients established that a large percentage of people diagnosed as depressed and placed on antidepressant drugs are not clinically depressed. They are actually just experiencing unresolved Grief due to prior losses in their lives.
Depression and Grief have similar symptoms. Difficulty concentrating, roller coaster of emotions, sense of numbness, disrupted sleeping patterns, altered eating habits and massive loss of energy.
Short term energy relieving behaviors.
Many people in our society use what we call STERBs or “Short term energy relieving behaviors” in an attempt to cover the feelings caused by unresolved Grief. Some examples of these are alcohol, food, shopping, and exercise.
Most common misinformation on the topic of Grief
Time heals. Time does not heal, action within time does. We know people who have waited 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years to feel better.
Grieve alone. Often this advice is subtly implied, “Give your mom her space” or “He just needs a few minutes alone in the other room.” As children, we learn that this means that sad feelings should be hidden or experienced alone.
Be strong. Usually the Griever is asked to be strong for others. “You have to be strong for your [wife]” or “Be strong for your children.”
Don’t feel bad. This is usually followed by an intellectually true statement but is not helpful at all to the Griever, “Don’t feel bad, his suering is over.” or “Don’t feel bad, at least you knew her as long as you did.”
Replace the loss. This is common with pet loss or the end of a romantic relationship. “On Tuesday we’ll get you a new dog” or “There are plenty of fish in the sea. You just have to get out there and date again.” Most likely there has been no action taken to grieve over the loss of the pet or relationship, just an attempt at not feeling the emotions attached to the loss.
Keep busy. “If I just keep busy then I won’t have time to think about the loss.” This one is sad because some people spend their whole lives with this mentality and never get a chance to grieve and complete what was unfinished with the particular loss.
Most things Commonly said to Grievers Aren’t Helpful
A survey asked Grievers to decide which comments were helpful following a loss. Out of 141 comments, they found only 19 helpful.
Here are some of the types of comments that were not helpful:
You’ll be fine in time.
I know how you feel.
You shouldn’t be feeling that way still.
Don’t be angry with God.
It was just a dog, cat, bird etc.
Look on the bright side, at least they’re in a better place.
Don’t feel bad, his suffering is over now.
You’re young; you can still have other children.
Helpful things to say to someone grieving a loss.
(Do listen with your heart, not your head. Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.)
“I can’t imagine how you feel…” or
“I can’t imagine how painful…” – devastating – heartbreaking
“…that must have been for you.”
(Every relationship is unique, therefore, every Griever is unique. You cannot know how they feel so this is always a truthful statement that will never offend the Griever.)
“I can’t imagine how you feel; I know that when I lost my mother I felt…”
Do ask, “What happened?” Most people will avoid this question. However, most often we find that Grievers feel isolated because most people will tend to avoid them as if nothing happened. This can be very isolating for someone who’s grieving.
Follow their words in your head as they are spoken. In other words, stay in the moment while they’re speaking. If you leave the moment for one second, you have just become an unsafe person to talk to about Grief.
Be empathetic. This means that if you tear up during their story, let that be ok. (You are allowed to be human.) Sharing sad emotions is ok with you.
Dealing with the “G” word. “Guilt.”
Griever: “My son committed suicide, I feel so guilty.”
GRM Specialist: “Did you ever do anything with intent to harm your son?”
Griever: “No.” (This is an almost universal response.)
GRM Specialist: “The dictionary definition of guilt implies intent to harm. Since you had no intent to harm…You are probably devastated enough by the death of your son, you don’t need to add to it by hurting yourself with a word that distorts your feelings.”
Griever: “Really? I never thought of it that way.”
GRM Specialist: “Are there some things that you wish had been different, better, or more?”
Griever: “Oh, yes.”
The Grief Recovery Method
Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the Griever.
Sadly, most of us have not been given the necessary information with which to make correct choices in response to a loss.
Recovery means feeling better.
Recovery is finding new meaning for living, without the fear of being hurt again.
Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them turn painful.
Recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react.
Recovery means acquiring the skills we should have been taught as a child.
These skills allow us to deal with loss directly.
Recovering from a significant emotional loss is not an easy task.
Taking the actions that lead to recovery will require your attention, open-mindedness, willingness, and courage.
James, John W. and Friedman, Russell P. The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition. New York: Harper-Collins, 2009.
Kaprio, Jaako, MD; Koskenvuo, Markku, MD; and Rita, Helo, MPolSc. “Mortality after Bereavement: A Prospective Study of 95,647 Widowed Persons.” American Journal of Public Health 77.3 (1987): 283-287.
Wakefield, Jerome C., PhD, DSW; Schmitz, Mark F., PhD; First, Michael B. MD; Horwitz, Allan V., PhD. “Extending the Bereavement Exclusion for Major Depression to Other Losses: Evidence from the National Comorbidity Survey.” Arch Gen Psychiatry 64.4 (2007):433-440.
This is a groundbreaking and original approach to something that almost no one is even talking about. The cost of not dealing with grief is costing businesses millions of dollars a year in sick time, and accidents, and taking a toll on citizens that can’t be calculated.
That said, the hallmark of The Grief Recovery Method is that it’s not profound. It doesn’t completely wow you. It stands out among all the other books and programs I review, which typically has one or two items that ring in your bones when you read or hear them.
(Note: I read and audit tons of self-help/time management/success books/programs/workshops/etc.)
To be fair, the Grief Recovery Method is very impactful, its just super subtle. A week or so after you complete the method, especially if you use with a certified GRM specialist, you realize that you have a new level of peace and things that used to trigger you don’t anymore.
I strongly recommend the Grief Recovery Method. I was so impressed I got certified as a specialist personally. I don’t typically add modalities to my core Life Adventure Consulting but this method covered an area that I wasn’t addressing and in an evidence based way.