Changes that seem small and unimportant at first, will compound into huge effects over the years. The quality of our lives is a sum of the quality of our habits. With the same habits, it’s the same results. With better habits, anything is possible. Small wins, tiny breakthroughs. 

– James Clear

This book in Three Tweets:

  • Atomic habit is a tiny part of a system that when regularly practised, compounds the greatest effect over time, negative or positive.
  • Systems, not goals, are the best way to create productive habits over time. Design systems that both encourage good habits and deter bad habits.
  • Improvements or decline is built on the foundation of our daily habits. Who we become tomorrow is clearly predicted by what we do today.

Atomic Habits Summary

Atomic Habits Book summary James Clear
Image from Jamesclear.com/atomic-habits

Habits are the compound Interests of actions

We convince ourselves that massive success leads to massive goals, so we’re under pressure to perform what everyone can see. Improving by 1% isn’t noticeable but it’s differential in the long run. 

“If you can get 1% better each day for a year you’ll end up 37x better at the end of that period. The same way the pileup of many missteps leads to a problem. Small improvements accumulate to make a big difference.”  

“A slight change in your daily habits can have a meaningful impact. Over the span of your life, your choices determine the difference between who you are or who you could be”.

“YOUR OUTCOMES IS A LAGGING MEASURE OF YOUR HABITS. YOU GET WHAT YOU REPEAT.” 

“Monitor how your daily choices compound and you can predict your future. Time will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally or vice versa.”

All big things come from small beginnings

“Breakthrough moments are often the sum of little moments. Bamboo can’t be seen for the first five years but later blooms in six weeks. The most powerful outcomes are delayed because it isn’t immediate.”

“All big things come from small beginnings. But what causes us to a breakthrough in small habits is to forget about goals and focus on systems instead.”

What’s the difference between systems and goals?

Goals are the results you want to achieve but systems are the processes involved.

An example: Winning a medal is a goal. Training, recruiting coaches and dieting, on the other hand, is the system that propels you to win the medal.

“Problems arise when you spend too much time on goals and not enough time designing the systems to achieve those goals.”

  • Achieving a goal is only a temporary change.
  • Goals restrict your happiness until you achieve it.
  • Goals are at odds with long term success. What is left to push you forward after you achieve your goal?

True long term thinking is systems thinking. The results aren’t the problem, the systems are the key. 

“You don’t rise to the levels of your goals, You fall to the level of your systems. Atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.”

PS: A single decision is easy to dismiss but when we replicate bad decisions day after day and rationalising excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results.

atomic habits
Image from STD

How Habits shape your identity and vice versa. 

“Few things can have a more powerful impact on your life than your habits. Bad habits feel impossible to break and good habits are tough to keep up with because we try to change the wrong thing.”

“Behavior that is in-congruent with yourself won’t last.” 

“Your behaviour won’t change without changing your beliefs. Your old identity will sabotage your new plans for change. It’s hard to change your habits if you don’t change the beliefs that led to your behaviour”.

True behaviour change is identity change. What you do is an indication of who you are. 

“The process of building habits is the process of being yourself. Every action you take is a vote for the kind of person you want to become. Small habits are the foundation for a meaningful difference.”

“To change who you are is to change what you do. Each time you do something, you embody that. You become your habits”

• Decide the type of person you want to be

• Prove it to yourself with small wins. 

The Science of how habits work.

There are four laws of behavioral change:

  • Cue
  • Craving 
  • Response 
  • Reward

“The purpose of every habit is to solve a problem like turning on a light bulb in a dark room. You don’t even think about it, it just happens but you’ve solved a light problem.  Example of the four phases”:

  • Cue: Phone buzzes
  • Craving: You want to learn the contents of the message
  • Response: You grab your phone
  • Reward: You satisfy your craving of wanting to know the message. Now grabbing your phone becomes associated with your phone buzzing.

“The key to creating good habits is understanding these laws and adjusting it to your system.”

The best way to start a new habit

How you intend to execute a new habit is crucial to forming it. The two most common cues are time and location.

“Making clear and specific plans for where and when you’ll perform a habit makes it easier to perform. Living it up to chance or to memory reduces the probability you will do it drastically.”

“Motivation isn’t what is lacking, clarity is. When Intention is set, you don’t have to wait for motivation, when the moment of the action occurs, simply follow your premeditated plan.”

“Being specific at what you want and how you will achieve it helps you put off distractions. Give your habits time and space and make them obvious.”

4 laws of behavioral change
Jamesclear.com

Habit Stacking – A plan to overhaul your habits. 

“The Didero effect states that one purchase can lead to a domino effect of purchases. Human behaviour follows the same pattern. One habit leads to another. “

“No behavior happens in isolation. One way to build a new habit is to identify a habit you already do and stack one on top. The key is to chain multiple habits together.” 

a) Write the habits you do without fail

b) Write the things that happen to you without fail each day. 

“Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and actionable.”

Habit stacking
Image from STD

Motivation is Overrated, The Environment Matters More.

“Behaviour is a function of the person in their environment “ – Lewin. 

“We think we are in control but many of the actions we take are the most obvious option. The most powerful of human receptors is vision.

“Visual cues are the greatest catalyst in our behavior. A small change of what we see influences what you do”

How to design your environment for success.

“Obvious cues are the keys to retaining good habits. What you see, you will most likely move towards.  Environmental design is powerful. Be the designer of your world and not the consumer.”

“Habits can also be easier to change in a new environment. Change your environment and fill them with new habits instead of competing with present ones.”

“Redefine or recreate your environment. Try one space for one use. Whenever possible don’t mix the environments of one habit for another.

“Every habit should have a home as habits thrive under predictive conditions.” 

The secrets to self-control 

It’s easier to practise self-restraint when you don’t have to use it. The key is to create a disciplined environment.

“Simply resisting temptation isn’t a great attempt. A more reliable approach is to cut it out in the first place. Cut the cues out! Make it obvious for good habits, make it invincible for bad habits.”

How to create good habits 

1. Make it obvious 

2. Use intentional implementation 

3. Habit stacking. 

4. Design your environment 

How to remove bad habits 

1. Make it invisible 

2. Reduce exposure

3. Remove the cues that trigger them.

Ps: You can download the atomic habit cheat sheet here

Atomic habits
Jamesclear.com

How to find and fix the causes of your bad habits 

“Habits are all about associations. The cause of your action is caused by the prediction that precedes them. A craving is a sense that something is missing.”

“Desire is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be.”

“Habits are attractive when we associate them with rewards or a positive experience. Re-frame your habits to highlight their rewards and benefits.”

“The key to transforming your habit is to re-frame the associations you have about them.”

Habit formation

“It’s our nature to follow the law of least effort. We’ll always follow the path that delivers the most value with the least effort. The less energy a habit requires the most likely it will be performed. “

“It’s crucial to make your habit easy so that you do them even when you don’t feel like it. The less friction you have the easier it is to do it.”

“Try as much as possible to reduce the friction in your habits by simplifying the process it takes to do it.”

“The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible and increase the difficulty of doing a hard habit.” 

“Friction can be the difference between good habits and bad habits. Prime your actions so that future actions are easier.”

How to Stop Procrastination by using the Two-minute Rule

“We’re limited by where our habits lead us. A few habitual choices determine our days, each choice determines how you spend the chunk of time”

The Two-minute Rule 

“When you dream about making a change, excitement takes over and you begin to start too big which is too much too soon. Use the two-minute rule: When you start a new habit, it should be easy to do in two minutes.”

Example: To exercise is to do a push-up, read a book every night should be a page every night. 

“Map out your goals from very easy to very hard and choose the easiest gateway to begin. The point isn’t to do one thing, it’s to master the habit of showing up.”

“Do the easiest thing on a consistent basis.”

“The two-minute rule states that it should take not less than two minutes to perform a habit. Standardise before you optimise, you can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.” 

Bad Habits

How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible 

“Sometimes success is more about making bad habits difficult than good habits easy. Using a commitment device you can bind yourself to commit a good habit than waiting on your desires to move you. “

“Commit to action before your desire wanes. (I practised this by publishing a list of topics I want to write ahead of time) Like paying for the gym while you make a goal to exercise. 

How to automate a habit and never think about it again

“The best way to stop a bad habit is to make it impractical to do, increase the friction to a point where you don’t even have the option to do it.”

“One time actions are a way to employ the third law of making it easy. Like removing your tv from the living room or unsubscribing from emails can increase your productivity over time.”

“When you automate most of your life as much as you can, it frees you to do more important things”. 

“The ultimate way to lock in future behaviour is to automate it. “

Habits

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

“Humans are looking for immediate satisfaction. We’re more likely to repeat a behavior when it’s effect is satisfying.”

“Pleasure teaches your brain that this behavior is enjoyable and should be repeated.”

“What is rewarded is repeated, what is punished is avoided. Positive emotions increase habits. Negative emotions destroy them.” 

“Bad habits are terrible in the long run but satisfying in the present. With good habits, the immediate consequence feels bad while the long term is remarkable.” 

The Sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter, it’s later fruit. – Frederick Bastia

“The cost of your good habits are in the present, the cost of bad habits are in the future. So you can’t rely on your brain or good intentions. Instant gratification always wins in the moment.

“As a general rule, The more immediate pleasure you get from something, the more questionable it is.” 

“Make choices for the future you. The road less travelled is the road of greater resistance. If you delay immediate gratification, you stand a better chance of success.

How to use immediate gratification to work for your good habits 

“At the beginning of any good habit, you need a reason to do it as it’s all sacrifice.”

“Use reinforcement — An immediate reward to make it satisfying. For instance out 5$ in your savings every time you skip going out to eat. Select short term rewards that reinforce your identity.

“Incentives can start a habit, identity sustains a habit. In summary, a habit needs to be enjoyable for it to last. “

How to stick to good habits every day

“The paper clip strategy- Making visual progress adds immediate satisfaction to any habit. The best way to measure a habit is to get a habit tracker.”

“A habit tracker is a simple way to measure your habits like crossing off a calendar for days you did a habit.”

“Benjamin Franklin carries a booklet in which he measured 13 life virtues like lose no time etc and checked his progress. Don’t break the chain is a great way to be consistent.” 

  • Habit tracking is obvious: When the evidence is in front of you, you’re more likely to do it
  • Habit tracking is satisfying and effective: If it feels good, you’re more likely to endure. 

“But the dark side of tracking is that we can become driven by the number instead of the purpose of the habit. We optimise for what we measure and when we measure wrongly, we fail.

“Measurement is only good when it guides you not when it consumes you.”

Accountability as a powerful motivator

“As we are more likely to repeat something that’s satisfying, we’re more likely to stop an action when the ending is painful. When the consequences are severe, people learn quickly.”

“The more immediate the cost, the less likely you’ll do it.”

“The best way to make this work for you is to speed up the punishment when the action is taken. To be productive, the cost of procrastination must be greater than the cost action.

“Behavior shifts when the pain is costly enough and reliably enforced. The more delayed it is, the less likely to influence behavior” 

“To make bad habits unsatisfying, the best way is to make them immediately painful. Use an accountability partner. Knowing someone is watching is a powerful motivator.”

How to Go from Being Merely Good to be Really Great

The truth about talent

“The secret to maximising your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition. Habits are easier to perform and more satisfying when they allow with your more natural inclinations and abilities.” 

“You want to play where the odds are in your favour, accepting that people are born with different abilities. Genes can provide a serious advantage in some areas and disadvantage in other areas.

“It’s harder to dunk when you’re 5 feet.”

“Competence is highly dependent on context. If you want to be truly great, selecting the right place to focus is crucial. Align your ambition with your ability.” 

How your personality influences your habits

“You have to work with your personality type. For instance, a less organised person will need more environmental design to build good habits. Choose the habits that best suit you.”

“People who are talented in an area tend to do better than those who aren’t. Pick the right habit and progress is easy, vice versa.” 

“Ask yourself these questions to find what you excel in”:

  • What feels like fun to me but work for others? 
  • When am I enjoying myself where others are complaining 
  • What makes me lose track of time? 
  • Where do I get greater returns than the average person?
  • What comes naturally to me?
  • When have I felt alive? Like the real me?

“The truly great work hard and are exposed to opportunities that favour them. You can also create your own luck.

“Everyone has an area where they can be in the top 25% of people. Find or create the game where the odds are stacked in your favor. “

“Specialization is a way to go around genetics. Find your environment.”

“Our genes do not remove the need for hard work. They clarify where we need to put it into. Genes can’t make you successful if you don’t put in the work.”

“Work hard on the things that come easy. “

The Goldilocks Rule: How to stay motivated in life and work. 

“The way to make habits stick is to make it just manageable difficulty. The brain loves a challenge of just optimal difficulty. 

“The rule states that humans reach peak motivation by working on tasks that are not too hard and not too easy. “

“Keep the behaviour as easy as possible so it’s easy to be consistent yet easy to advance in small ways till you achieve a flow state. A state where you’re fully immersed.

“Improvement requires a delicate balance. Without variety we get bored and boredom is an enemy in the quest of self-improvement.”

Goldilocks rule
Image from STD

 

How to stay motivated even when bored.

“At some point, it comes down to who can handle the boredom, the repetition of doing the same thing over and over. Really successful people experience the same lack of passion but find a way to show up regardless.

The greatest threat to success is boredom. You need just enough winning to embrace satisfaction and just enough losing to have a desire.”

“Fall in love with boredom. If you only do the work when it’s convenient or exciting, you won’t achieve great things. When you step up even when it’s a drag, that makes the difference.

“Don’t be fair-weather anything. Amateurs watch the wind and let life get in the way.” 

“The only way to become great is to be fascinated at doing something over and over. Be committed to repetition.” 

The Downside of creating good habits. 

“Habits are the backbone of any pursuit of excellence. However habits repetition comes at a cost as you can fall into mindless action. You stop looking for ways to improve and assume you’re getting better.

“But when you want to maximise performance you can’t repeat the same things blindly and expect to reach peak performance” 

“Habits + Deliberate Practise equals mastery. Mastery is the point of narrowing your focus to a tiny bit of success and then using it as a foundation to improve the next step”.

“Each habit unlocks the next level of performance. You can improve by establishing a system for reflection and review.”

How to review your habits and make adjustments 

“Sustaining an effort is the most important thing in any enterprise, learning how to do things right then repeating it. Reflection and review help you be aware of your mistakes and helps your progress.

“It’s how you know if you’re performing better today than yesterday.” 

“Keeping a decision journal, for instance, helps you see what made the most impact and what didn’t. You don’t want to keep practising what isn’t effective.” 

“Reflection also brings perspective. It offers an ideal time to revisit an important aspect of your life- Identity. You want to view the entire picture not obsess over it.” 

Conclusion  – The Secret to Results That Last

“Can one tiny change transform your life? The Paradox parable talks about what result of repeating a habit can have. If you made one after another, it could change your life”

“It’s a bunch of atomic habits that make the weight.  As you continue to layer one plus change, things slowly tilt in your favour if you’re consistent.” 

“Success is not a line to cross or goal to reach, it is a system to improve. Build better systems and shape better habits using the four laws of behaviour change. It’s a continuous process without a finishing line.”

“Rotate the laws when you’re looking for a way to improve, always be looking for ways to make 1% improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you don’t stop.

“Small habits compound. That’s the power of atomic habits, Tiny changes, remarkable results. “

For more, check out atomic habits website

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