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About the book

Atomic Habits (Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results) was written by James Clear and published in 2018 in the USA by Random House LLC, New York.

The book shares a step-by-step plan for building better habits—not for days or weeks, but for a lifetime. It’s an operating manual that contains wisdom and practical advice presented in a way that is easy to understand and apply on how to create and change one’s habits.

The book draws on biology, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and more, providing the reader a synthesis of the best ideas smart people figured out a long time ago as well as the most compelling discoveries scientists have made recently.

Major insights from the book

  • Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.
  • Small changes often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. You need to be patient. Click To Tweet
  • An atomic habit is a little habit that is part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.
  • If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
  • You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
  • There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change.
  • The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning. Click To Tweet
  • Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
  • Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
  • The real reason habits matter is not because they can get you better results (although they can do that), but because they can change your beliefs about yourself.
  • A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.
  • The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.
  • Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
  • The Four Laws of Behaviour Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
  • The process of behaviour change always starts with awareness. You
    need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
  • Pointing-and-Calling raises your level of awareness from a non-conscious habit to a more conscious level by verbalizing your actions.
  • The Habits Scorecard is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behaviour.
  • The two most common cues are time and location.
  • Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location.
  • The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
  • Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit.
  • The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
  • Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behaviour over time.
  • Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
  • Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
  • Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behaviour. The context becomes the cue.
  • It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues. Click To Tweet
  • The inversion of the 1st Law of Behaviour Change is make it invisible.
  • Once a habit is formed, it is unlikely to be forgotten.
  • People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.
  • One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
  • Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.
  • The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.
  • It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfilment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.
  • Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
  • The culture we live in determines which behaviours are attractive to us. We tend to adopt habits that are praised and approved of by our culture because we have a strong desire to fit in and belong to the tribe. Click To Tweet
  • We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).
  • One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour and (2) you already have something in common with the group.
  • The normal behaviour of the tribe often overpowers the desired behaviour of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves. If a behaviour can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.
  • The inversion of the 2nd Law of Behaviour Change is make it unattractive.
  • Every behaviour has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.
  • Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires.
  • The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling.
  • Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.
  • The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning. Click To Tweet
  • Focus on taking action, not being in motion.
  • Habit formation is the process by which a behaviour becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.
  • The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.
  • Human behaviour follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
  • Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
  • Reduce the friction associated with good behaviours. When friction is low, habits are easy.
  • Increase the friction associated with bad behaviours. When friction is high, habits are difficult.
  • Prime your environment to make future actions easier.
  • Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behaviour for minutes or hours afterward.
  • Many habits occur at decisive moments—choices that are like a fork in the road—and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.
  • The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
  • The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.
  • Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. Click To Tweet
  • The inversion of the 3rd Law of Behaviour Change is make it difficult.
  • A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behaviour in the future.
  • The ultimate way to lock in future behaviour is to automate your habits.
  • Onetime choices—like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan—are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time.
  • Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behaviour.
  • We are more likely to repeat a behaviour when the experience is satisfying.
  • The Cardinal Rule of Behaviour Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
  • To get a habit to stick, you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way. Click To Tweet
  • The first three laws of behaviour change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behaviour will be performed this time. The fourth law of behaviour change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behaviour will be repeated next time.
  • One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.
  • A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit—like marking an X on a calendar.
  • Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.
  • Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.
  • Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
  • Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.
  • The inversion of the 4th Law of Behaviour Change is make it unsatisfying.
  • We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.
  • An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.
  • A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behaviour.
  • It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful. Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.
  • The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.
  • Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle. Click To Tweet
  • Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favourable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavourable circumstances.
  • Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities. Choose the habits that best suit you.
  • Play a game that favours your strengths. If you can’t find a game that favours you, create one.
  • Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.
  • The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.
  • The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
  • As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored. Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
  • Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Click To Tweet
  • The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.
  • Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
  • Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.
  • The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it. Click To Tweet

 

Build good habits

 

Making the mind connection

The book enlightens me to see the principles and psychology behind the formation of habits. In what is an interesting read, the book makes me feel I’m capable of creating new good habits and discarding current bad habits. I’m invigorated and excited to achieve remarkable results in my life through tiny changes in my habits.

Opinion

I like the fact that one can easily relate to the insights and stories shared in the book. The language is simple and easy to comprehend for the average reader, and the use of frequent subheadings and illustrations make for a convenient read.

I will recommend it to all my friends and family who want to learn new good habits and discard old bad ones.

 

Action points

  • Accomplish one extra task every day.
  • Learn one new idea every day.
  • Be a little nicer in each interaction.
  • Point and call out bad habits anytime I want to perform them.
  • Develop new habits by stacking them on current habits.
  • Adopt the mantra “one space, one use.” Use a space for just one task.
  • Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
  • Organise every space, especially workspace, for its intended purpose to make the next action easy.
  • Join a culture where my desired behaviour is normal behaviour and where I already have something in common with the group.
  • Scale down new habits into 2-minute actions and start with those.
  • Direct my efforts towards areas that both excite me and match my natural skills. Align my ambition with my ability.
  • Always redefine myself such that I get to keep important aspects of my identity even if my particular role changes.
  • Use habit tracking in conjunction with habit stacking to encourage good habits.
  • Practice good habits with great consistency and patience to master them.
  • Never miss a habit twice.
  • Use commitment devices and develop relevant habit contracts to break bad habits.