Atomic Habits by James Clear
Summary and high yield notes
Rating - 10/10
Date finished- March 18, 2021
🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
Success is the product of daily habits- not once-in-a-lifetime transformations
In order to create a good habit, make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying
In order to break a bad habit, make it invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying.
If you are having trouble sticking with a habit or breaking a bad habit, then this book is for you. The book basically implies that if you want to build a good habit, you need to make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying. And if you want to break a bad habit, you have to make it invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying.
✍️Summary + High yield notes
A habit is a routine or behavior that is performed regularly—and, in many cases, automatically.
Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.
"Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding."
"Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more."
Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
"If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line. Are you spending less than you earn each month? Are you making it into the gym each week? Are you reading books and learning something new each day? Tiny battles like these are the ones that will define your future self."
💪The Plateau of Latent Potential- "If you find yourself struggling to build a good habit or break a bad one, it is not because you have lost your ability to improve. It is often because you have not yet crossed the Plateau of Latent Potential."
🚀Forget about goals focus on systems instead
Goals vs systems- Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
💪Embrace a system-first mentality- When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. And a system can be successful in many different forms, not just the one you first envision.
🚀The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.
"Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results."
How your habits shape your identity (and vice versa)
The three layers of behavior change
Changing your outcomes
Changing your process
Changing your identity
"True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity."
Your identity is literally your “repeated beingness.”
💡The process of building a habit
The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps:
Cue- the cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior
Craving- it is the motivational force behind every habit
Response- it is the actual habit you perform
Reward- the end goals of every habit
💡The habit loop- Together, these four steps form a neurological feedback loop—cue, craving, response, reward; cue, craving, response, reward—that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits.
How to Create a Good Habit
The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious.
The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive.
The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy.
The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
How to Break a Bad Habit
Inversion of the 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible.
Inversion of the 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive.
Inversion of the 3rd law (Response): Make it difficult.
Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying.
🧠The First Law: Make It Obvious
The process of behavior change always starts with awareness.
"The cues that can trigger a habit come in a wide range of forms—the feel of your phone buzzing in your pocket, the smell of chocolate chip cookies, the sound of ambulance sirens—but the two most common cues are time and location. Implementation intentions leverage both of these cues."
The format for creating an implementation intention is:
When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.
The simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
"Give your habits a time and a space to live in the world. The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can’t say why."
The Diderot Effect- Obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption that leads to additional purchases.
Habit stacking- Identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.
The habit stacking formula is:
After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
You need an environment that is predictable and stable- "Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues that stand out. Unfortunately, the environments where we live and work often make it easy not to do certain actions because there is no obvious cue to trigger the behavior. It’s easy not to practice the guitar when it’s tucked away in the closet."
"It’s easy not to read a book when the bookshelf is in the corner of the guest room. It’s easy not to take your vitamins when they are out of sight in the pantry. When the cues that spark a habit are subtle or hidden, they are easy to ignore."
"By sprinkling triggers throughout your surroundings, you increase the odds that you’ll think about your habit throughout the day. Make sure the best choice is the most obvious one. Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you."
🔴The Second Law: Make It Attractive
"Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. Every behavior that is highly habit-forming—taking drugs, eating junk food, playing video games, browsing social media—is associated with higher levels of dopamine. The same can be said for our most basic habitual behaviors like eating food, drinking water, having sex, and interacting socially."
Temptation bundling- Link an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
You’re more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time
Premack's principle- More probable behaviors will reinforce les probable behaviors
The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is:
After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED].
After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].
Friends and family help in shaping your habits- One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day. If you are surrounded by fit people, you’re more likely to consider working out to be a common habit.
🌟The Third Law: Make It Easy
To build a habit, you need to practice it. And the most effective way to make practice happen is to adhere to the 3rd Law of Behavior Change: make it easy.
The Law of Least Effort- When deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
"Every action requires a certain amount of energy. The more energy required, the less likely it is to occur. If your goal is to do a hundred push-ups per day, that’s a lot of energy! In the beginning, when you’re motivated and excited, you can muster the strength to get started. But after a few days, such a massive effort feels exhausting. Meanwhile, sticking to the habit of doing one push-up per day requires almost no energy to get started. And the less energy a habit requires, the more likely it is to occur."
The Two-Minute Rule- When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.
Make your habits as easy as possible to start. A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path.
"The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do. Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act."
💡The Fourth Law: Make It Satisfying
We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying. Feelings of pleasure are signals that tell the brain: “This feels good. Do this again, next time.” Pleasure teaches your brain that a behavior is worth remembering and repeating.
Habit tracker- "A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit. The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine. For example, if you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each of those dates gets an X. As time rolls by, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak."
The habit stacking + habit tracking formula is:
After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [TRACK MY HABIT].
We are more likely to avoid an experience when the ending is painful.
"The more immediate the pain, the less likely the behavior. If you want to prevent bad habits and eliminate unhealthy behaviors, then adding an instant cost to the action is a great way to reduce their odds."
"Habits are easier to perform, and more satisfying to stick with, when they align with your natural inclinations and abilities."
🔆The Goldilocks Rule- Humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.
"I can guarantee that if you manage to start a habit and keep sticking to it, there will be days when you feel like quitting. When you start a business, there will be days when you don’t feel like showing up. When you’re at the gym, there will be sets that you don’t feel like finishing. When it’s time to write, there will be days that you don’t feel like typing. But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur."
The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom.
Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
💡Reflect and review- "Reflection and review enables the long-term improvement of all habits because it makes you aware of your mistakes and helps you consider possible paths for improvement. Without reflection, we can make excuses, create rationalizations, and lie to ourselves. We have no process for determining whether we are performing better or worse compared to yesterday."
"Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge is one of the greatest marathoners of all time and an Olympic gold medalist. He still takes notes after every practice in which he reviews his training for the day and searches for areas that can be improved."
The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.