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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones - James Clear

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About the book



1. The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.

If you can get just 1 percent better each day, you'll end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year.

It doesn't matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.

If you want to predict where you'll end up in life, all you have to do follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choice will compound ten or twenty years down the line. Are you spending 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.

Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It wil multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.

Mastery requires patience. All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.

We often expect progress to be linear. At the very least, we hope it will come quickly. In reality, the results of our efforts are often delayed. It is not until months or years later that we realize the true value of the previous work we have done. This can result in a "valley of disappointment" where peo ple feel discouraged after putting in weeks or months of hard work without experiencing any results. However, this work was not wasted. It was simply being stored. It is not until much later that the full value of previous efforts is revealed.

If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.

2. How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it. If you're proud of how your hair looks, you'll develop all sorts of habits to care for and maintain it. If you're proud of the size of your biceps, you'll make sure you never skip an upper-body workout. If you're proud of the scarves you knit, you'll be more likely to spend hours knitting each week. Once your pride gets involved, you'll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.

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.

Each habit not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start to believe you can accomplish these things.

Your habits shape your identity, and you identity shapes your habits. It's a 2-way street.

3. How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Habits are mental shortcuts learned from experience. In a sense, a habit is just a memory of the steps you previously followed to solve a problem in the past. Whenever the conditions are right, you can draw on this memory and automatically apply the same solution. The primary reason the brain remembers the past is to better predict what will work in the future.

Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves 4 steps:

  • cue: make it obvious
  • craving: make it attractive
  • response: make it easy
  • reward: make it satisfying

THE 1ST LAW: Make It Obvious

4.The Man Who Didn't Look Right

You don't need to be aware of the cue for a habit to begin. You can notice an opportunity and take action without dedicating conscious attention to it. This is what makes habits useful.

With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it. Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing.

5. The Best Way to Start a New Habit

Make it obvious, the 2 most common cues are time and location, pair a new habit with time and location.

Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit.

6. Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose is an environment where habits can easily form.

Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time.

Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment. It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.

7. The Secret to Self-Control

Once you notice something, you begin to want it. Once a habit is formed, it is unlikely to be forgotten.

You can break a habit, but you're unlikely to forget it.

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. You may be able to resist temptation once or twice, but it;s unlikely you can muster the willpower to override your desires every time.

Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.

People with high self-control tend to spend less time in temping situations. It's easier to avoid temptation than resist it.

THE 2ND LAW: Make It Attractive

8. How to Make a Habit Irresistible

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.

Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. When dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act.

It is the anticipation of a reward - not the fulfillment 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.

9. The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

The culture we live in determines which behaviors 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.

We tend to imitate the habits of 3 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 behavior is the normal behavior and 2. you already have something in common with the group.

THe normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual. Most days, we'd rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.

If a behavior can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.

10. How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

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 feeling and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

THE 3RD LAW: Make It Easy

11. Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.

In practice it doesn't really matter how long it takes for a habit to become automatic. What matters is that you take the actions you need to take to make progress. To build a habit, you need to practice it.

The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.

12. 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 behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy.

Increase the friction with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.

Prime your environment to make future actions easier.

13. How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.

Standardize before you optimize. You can't improve a habit that doesn't exist.

14. How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behavior in the future.

The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits.

Onetime choices - like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic saving plans - 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 behavior.

THE 4TH LAW: Make It Satisfying

15. The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided. You learn what to do in the future based on what you were rewarded for doing (or punished for doing) in the past. Positive emotions cultivate habits. Negative emotions destroy them.

The consequences of bad habits are delayed while the rewards are immediate. Smoking might kill you in 10 years, but it reduces stress and eases your nicotine cravings now. Overeating is harmful in the long run but appetizing in the moment.

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

A habit needs to be enjoyable for it to last. Simple bits of reinforcement can offer the immediate pleasure you need to enjoy a habit. And change is easy when it is enjoyable.

16. How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit. This is a distinguishing feature between winners and losers. Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly. The breaking of a habit doesn't matter if the reclaiming of it is fast.

We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done. We care more about getting 10000 steps than we do about being healthy. We teach for standardized tests instead of emphasizing learning, curiosity, and critical thinking. In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior.

One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making 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.

17. How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

Laws and regulations are an example of how government can change our habits by creating a social contract. As a society, we collectively agree to abide by certain rules and then enforce them as a group. The group agrees to act in a certain way, and if you don't follow along, you'll be punished.

To make bad habits unsatisfying, yur best option is to make them painful in the moment. Creating a habit contract is a straightforward way to do exactly that.

ADVANCED TACTICS: How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

18. The Truth Abut Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don't)

Genes do not determine your destiny. They determines your areas of opportunity. The key is to direct your effort toward areas that both excite you and match your natural skills, to align you ambition with your ability.

Your personality is the set of characteristics that is consistent from situation to situation:

  • Openness to experience: from curious and inventive on one end to cautious and consistent on the other.
  • Conscientiousness: organized and efficient to easygoing and spontaneous.
  • Extroversion: outgoing and energetic to solitary and reserved
  • Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate to challenging and detached.
  • Neuroticism: anxious and sensitive to confident, calm and stable.

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.

Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

19. The Golidlocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

The human brain loves a challenge, but only if it is within an optimal zone of difficulty. The Goldilocks Rule states that human experience peak motivation when work on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, Not too easy. Just right.

When you're starting a new habit, it's important to keep the behavior as easy as possible so you can stick with it even when conditions aren't perfect. Once a habit has been established, however, it's important to continue to advance in small ways. These little improvements and new challenges keep you engaged.

If you manage to start a habit and keep sticking to it, there will be days when you 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. 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.

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.

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.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.

20. The Downside of Creating Good Habits

Habits create the foundation for mastery.

The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside of habits is that you get used to doing things a certain way and stop paying attention to little errors. You assume you're getting better because you're gaining experience. In fact, some research has shown that once a skill has been mastered there is usually a slight decline in performance over time.

Habits are necessary, but not sufficient for mastery. What you need is a a combination of automatic habits and deliberate practice.

Although habits are powerful, what you need is a way to remain conscious of your performance over time, so you can continue to refine and improve. It is precisely at the moment when you begin to feel like you have mastered a skill - right when things are starting to feel automatic and you are becoming comfortable - that you must avoid slipping into the trap oof complacency.

A lack of self-awareness is poison. Reflection and review is the antidote.

Conclusion: The Secret to Results That Last

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1% improvement, but a thousand of them. It's a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system. Each improvement is like adding a grain of sand to the positive side of the scale, slowly tilting things in your favor. Eventually, if you stick with it, you hit the tipping point. Suddenly, it feels easier to stick with good habits. The weight of the system is working for you rather than against you.

The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements.

  • It's remarkable what you can build if you just don't stop.
  • It's remarkable the business you can build if you don't stop working.
  • It's remarkable the body you can build if you don't stop training.
  • It's remarkable the knowledge you can build if you don't stop learning.
  • It's remarkable the fortune you can build if you don't stop saving.
  • It's remarkable the friendships you can build if you don't stop caring.

Small habits don't add up. They compound. That's the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.