Atomic Habits - By James Clear

Date read: 
December 1, 2018
See My Collection of 50+ Book Notes

My Thoughts

The BEST book on building new habits and breaking back ones. Period. Super actionable and detailed. I've given away about a dozen copies of this book as gifts to my closest friends. Go read it NOW!

Summary Notes

Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits.
Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits.
Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits.

You get what you repeat.

Small choices compound

Get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better.

Our small choices compound into toxic results. It’s the accumulation of many missteps.

You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.

It's easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.

Aggregation of Marginal Gains.jpg

Process, Systems, and Goals

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still succeed?

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

Fall in love with the process rather than the product.

Ask yourself:
Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?
Who is the type of person that could lose forty pounds?
Who is the type of person that could learn a new language?

Blueprint of habits

A habit is just a memory of the steps you previously followed to solve a problem in the past.

The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.

Make a list of your daily habits. Categorize your habits by how they will benefit you in the long run.
Good habits will have net positive outcomes. Bad habits have net negative outcomes.

Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be?

Create an implementation intention: “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.” People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.

The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.

How to Create a Good Habit:

  1. Cue: Make it obvious
  2. Craving: Make it attractive
  3. Response: Make it easy
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying

How to Break a Bad Habit:

  1. Cue: Make it invisible
    Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start.
  2. Craving: Make it unattractive
    Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act.
  3. Response: Make it difficult
    Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it.
  4. Reward: Make it unsatisfying
    And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future.

Change the sequence & location

We tell ourselves, “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to write more,” but we never say when and where these habits are going to happen.

Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do. You often decide what to do next based on what you have just finished doing. The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

Social skills: When I walk into a party, I will introduce myself to someone I don’t know yet.
Finances: When I want to buy something over $100, I will wait twenty-four hours before purchasing.
Healthy eating: When I serve myself a meal, I will always put veggies on my plate first.
Minimalism: When I buy a new item, I will give something away.

Habits can be easier to change in a new environment. It is easier to associate a new habit with a new context than to build a new habit in the face of competing cues.

Create a separate space for work, study, exercise. One space, one use.

Focus comes automatically when you are sitting at your work desk.
Relaxation is easier when you are in a space designed for that purpose.
Sleep comes quickly when it is the only thing that happens in your bedroom.

Practice self-restraint not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.

Remove a single cue and the entire habit often fades away.

Habits & culture

Whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you’ll find.

The Polgar sisters grew up in a culture that prioritized chess above all else - praised them for it, rewarded them for it. In their world, an obsession with chess was normal.

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular:
The close.
The many.
The powerful.

Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have.

Put the reps in

Reframe your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks. Instead of telling yourself “I need to go run in the morning,” say “It’s time to build endurance and get fast.”

If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action. Motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure.

To master a habit, start with repetition, not perfection.

It doesn’t matter if it’s been thirty days or three hundred days. What matters is the rate at which you perform the behavior.

Master the habit of showing up.

If you show up at the gym five days in a row - even if it’s just for two minutes - you are casting votes for your new identity. You’re becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.

Don’t break the chain of creating every day and you will end up with an impressive portfolio.

If I miss one day, a simple rule: never miss twice. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it - even if you do less than you hope. Going to the gym for five minutes may not improve your performance, but it reaffirms your identity. The all-or-nothing cycle of behavior change is just one pitfall that can derail your habits.

Successful weightlifting comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work toward it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life.

Mastery is the process of narrowing your focus to a tiny element of success, repeating it until you have internalized the skill, and then using this new habit as the foundation to advance to the next frontier of your development.

Peak performance is the process of getting slightly better each day.

Pleasure & Pain

The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.

What is immediately rewarded is repeated.
What is immediately punished is avoided.

Add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.

You want the ending of your habit to be satisfying. The ending of any experience is vital because we tend to remember it more than other phases.

Related Notes

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