Habits are the compound interests of self-improvement. We are taught that we need goals to aim at. But nobody talks about the systems we must apply daily to reach those goals. The systems we need are the correct habits repeated over long periods. Our outcomes are lagging results of our everyday behavior. If we want to change our current results, we must change our present behavior. The good news is that it doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful we are. What matters are the habits we’re currently working on acquiring for ourselves.
Good habits can improve the quality of our lives and help us achieve what we want. Habits like morning running will increase our energy and keep us fit. Creating healthy habits is challenging unless you know the right strategies to practice today. We’ll take a look at James Clear’s book called Atomic Habits to learn the easy and proven way to build new habits and break old ones. The book gives excellent advice for hacking habits in a way that will cause a long-term change in life.
About Author (James Clear)
James Clear is an American journalist or author known for Habits Master. He is also a speaker focused on decision-making and continuous improvement. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Times magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, and CBS.
James also created the Habits Academy, the premier training platform for organizations and individuals. They are interested in building habits in life and work. He has built his all-around platform habits. His book ‘Atomic Habits’ has sold over 4 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50+ languages.
Atomic Habits Book Summary
The author initially lets you know what an atomic habit is. So he talks about how to build better habits in four simple steps. Those four simple steps make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. They argue that if you can do this and change your habits, it helps you from being merely good to being great. There are so many quotes in this book.
The first thing that order emphasizes is that little habits have huge power to change a life. But people often underestimate little habits because we can see no immediate impact. If you are out of shape today and go for a run, you’ll still be out of shape tomorrow. If you keep running for six months, your physical conditioning will improve, and you’ll likely lose some weight. Little changes add up, and eventually, they deliver massive results. Just remember that this is how bad habits can creep up on you.
The next topic author describes is understanding habit loops. The habit loop consists of three elements. There is a cue routine and reward. These three elements are consistent for all the habits. The habit loop is a framework for understanding how habits work. Also, it’s up to you to identify each component to modify or replace existing habits with new ones.
This might be a notification if you have a bad habit of wasting time on social media. That makes you check out your phone. Once you pick up the phone and read the message, you feel the temptation to get some dopamine. So you perform a routine of checking out Facebook and watching some videos. This will give you the desired reward, a little dose of dopamine.
In the next chapter, James explains the environment. One of the best ways to create good habits is to change the environment and develop powerful triggers for new habits. This was greatly executed in the experiment when the hospital wanted to improve patients’ dietary habits without consciously deciding to pull this off. We can adjust our environment to make the positive cues more obvious, and we will be more likely to adopt new healthy habits.
James Clear focuses on implementation intentions in his book. Many people want to start healthy habits but are bored, which is a sure path to adopting new habits. You can’t be willing to exercise more or read more books. You have to be intentional and detailed about how you will do that. Don’t say that you want to read more. Instead, you can say you’ll make it a part of your evening routine. This way, you attach it to your existing habits, making yourself more likely to succeed.
The following important chapter is about attractive habits. We are driven by anticipation of reward. One of the ways how you can achieve the results that you want is by bundling temptation. Bundling combines activities you procrastinate on and other activities you enjoy. Another option author suggests that make your habits easy to adopt. When it comes to developing habits is to make them as easy as possible.
Making progress feels great, and that’s when the final strategy comes into play: tracking your habits. You can use the Seinfeld method, a getable calendar, and every day you make the habit, you mark the day with a big X. After a few days, you will have created a chain, and then your goal is not to break the chain for as long as possible. You can also use one of many habit-tracking apps available on the app.
Author: James Clear
Category: Health & Wellness, Psychology & Mental Health, Interactions, Self-development
Position 3 in Audible Books & Originals
Position 1 in Organizational Behavior
Position 1 in Business Processes & Infrastructure, Medical Social Psychology & Interactions
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Atomic Habits Book Review
Atomic Habits challenges to rethink the circumstances, prompting to switch from victim of the environment to architect. Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with. Ordering fast food is easy, but such a habit affects our health and increases our expenses.
On the other hand, developing a writing habit takes more effort, but the benefits are well worth it in the long run. So let’s look at the best takeaways from atomic habit to understand how habits are formed and what strategies we can use to build lasting habits.
Chapter: The Fundamentals (Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference)
James started the book with the story of the cycling team of Great Britain. The British cycling team was suffering from mediocrity for over a century. Their performance was so bad that a leading European cycle manufacturer refused to sell their bicycles to the team. They thought it would hamper their goodwill, brand position, and sales. If people see that British cyclists use their cycles and perform poorly, it will negatively message their psyches. So that must have been not very comfortable for the team.
Brailsford believed that if he breaks down all the aspects of cycling into small portions and then improves them by one percent, it would be a remarkable outcome when they add up the results. So that was his idea, and that’s what he did. He executed his philosophy on the cycling team.
So he got the cycle seats designed for complete comfort for the cyclists. Then he rubbed alcohol on the tires for maximum grip. After five years, the British cycling team ruled the track and the roads. They won many medals in the Olympics 2000, and eight in Beijing. That’s the concept of the book.
That’s why it’s called Atomic Habits, as Atom is the smallest unit, and this is the book’s central theme after habit. So, according to James Clear, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The effects of small habits compounded over time. If you can get one percent better every day, then you will end up with results that are nearly thirty-seven times better after one year. Also, a fantastic quote in the book says that time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it.
Why is it hard to build habits?
Habits appear to make no difference until we cross a threshold and unlock a new level of performance. The latent potential plateau shows us why building habits can be challenging. You make a change but fail to see any tangible results and give up. Habits must persist long enough to break through this plateau, which will take time.
Forget about the goal, concentrate on the systems
Goals are the results you want to achieve, and systems are the processes leading to those results. Now, atomic habits state that the goal will take care of itself if you focus on the system. Why is this?
- Firstly, winners and losers have the same goals. So every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every entrepreneur wants to be successful. Thus it’s the system of the winners that gets them. Those results are not the goals because everyone shares the same goal.
- Secondly, achieving a goal is only a momentary change. If our goal is to tidy a room and we tidiest, we fit our goal without changing. Our system will soon be looking at a messy room again. Also, goals restrict your happiness. But that sets us up to fail because you achieve your goal but don’t feel fulfilled or fail to achieve your goal. That makes you feel unhappy.
So if you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Focusing on the overall system rather than a single goal is one of the core themes of atomic habits. You do not rise to the level of your goals. Instead, you fall to the level of your system. So it’s all about the system, not goals.
Three layers of behavior change
The three layers of behavior change: Outcome, Processes, and Identity. You can think about outcomes as being about what you get. Processes are about what you do, and identity is about your beliefs. So when people set out to improve, they think, I want to be skinny. If I stick to this diet, then I’ll be skinny. So they’re thinking about the outcome and the process they must follow to achieve it. They don’t realize that their old identity can sabotage their plans for change.
For example, you might want better health, but prioritizing comfort over accomplishment will draw you to relaxing rather than training. So it’s hard to change your habits if you don’t change the underlying beliefs that led to your previous behavior.
True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation but only stick with one because it becomes part of your identity. Good habits can make sense rationally, but you will fail to maintain them if they conflict with your identity. Your identity is formed through evidence.
So if you run, even when it’s snowing, you have some evidence that you’re a runner. But it doesn’t happen with one run. It’s a gradual process that might even take years. Now, every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become, and no single instance will transform your beliefs. But as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. So here’s a simple two-step process for change.
One, decide the type of person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins and small atomic habits daily. This will set up a feedback loop.
The habit loop
Your habits will shape your identity, but your identity will eventually start to shape your habits. Habits work like this:
- First, there is the cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior by predicting a reward.
- Next, you have the craving, what you crave is not the habit itself, but the state change it delivers.
- The response is the actual habits you perform. This can be a thought or an action.
- Finally, the response delivers a reward.
The four steps form a neurological feedback loop: cue, craving, response, and reward. That ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. This is the habit loop. So atomic habits provide a framework to transform the four steps of the habit loop to design good habits and eliminate bad ones.
Chapter: The 1st Law (Make it Obvious)
If you want to design good habits, you must make them obvious. We need to make it easy, and we need to make it satisfying. Conversely, if you want to break bad habits, you must make them invisible, unattractive, complex, and unsatisfying. Now note that the method of breaking a bad habit is always the opposite of building a good one.
According to atomic habits, one of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify an existing habit and then start a new behavior on top of it. Also this is called habit stacking. Habits start stacking works best when the cue is particular and immediately actionable. Now, as an inversion, we have the secret of self-control. Bad habits are autocatalytic. They feed themselves. For example, if you feel bad, you try to eat junk food. The idea that self-discipline can solve our bad habits is deeply embedded within our culture.
Research shows that disciplined people spend less time in tempting situations. And a practical way to remove a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the Q that causes it. For example, stop using social media if you regularly feel like you’re not enough. That triggers your jealousy, anger, and envy. As a result, this practice is an inversion of the first law of behavior change. Rather than make it obvious, we want to make it invisible. Self-control is short-term, not long-term.
Chapter: The 2nd law (Make it attractive)
The second law is to make it attractive, and temptation bundling is a way to create a more desirable version of a habit by connecting with something you already want. Now, temptation bundling can be used to make most habits more attractive. It says that you’re more likely to find a behavior pretty. Temptation bundling can be used in conjunction with habit stacking to create a set of rules to guide your behavior.
Your bad habits are modern solutions to ancient desires. For example, if your underlying motive is to find love, you have it might be using Tinder. If your underlying motive is to achieve social acceptance, your habits might be posting on Instagram.
Why is this important? It’s crucial because many ways to address the same underlying motive exist. You might reduce your stress by going for a run, or you might reduce your stress by smoking a cigarette. Your current habits are not necessarily the best way to solve problems. They are the messes you’ve learned to use.
So when a habit successfully addresses a motive, you develop a craving to do it repeatedly. In time you learn to predict that checking Instagram, for example, will make you feel accepted. So a simple way to make a bad habit seem unattractive is to try and find a better way of meeting your underlying motive.
Chapter: The 3rd law (Make it easy)
The book has a great concept of motion versus action. When you’re in motion, you are planning and strategizing. That’s very different from taking action. It’s the only action that can directly lead to actual results. But if the motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it? Sometimes we need to plan and learn, but more often than not, motion allows us to feel as though we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. It makes us feel like we’re getting things done.
To build a habit, you need repetition, not perfection. You need action. So how long does it take to form a habit? That’s the wrong question. The real question should be, how many reps does it take to form a habit? Because habits are based on frequency, not time.
So your current habits have been internalized over hundreds or even thousands of repetitions. New patterns will require the same level of frequency. Atomic habits might take a short moment to complete, but they can continue to impact your behavior for hours afterward.
The 2-minute rule utilizes this fact by saying that it should take less than two minutes to do so when you start a new habit. There are two reasons why the two-minute rule works.
- Firstly, it’s a gateway habit that naturally leads you down the road.
- Secondly, it reinforces the identity you want to build. If you show up at the gym seven days a week, even if it’s for five minutes, you’re becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.
A key point here is to get started simply. You can worry about improving your atomic habit later, but you cannot improve a habit without existence. Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard. One way to do this is by using something called a commitment device. It is a choice you make in the present to control your actions in the future. Now, a commitment device makes bad habits impractical to do. They increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act.
Next is one-time strategic decisions. These are things you only have to do once, but that keeps on giving and giving. If you want to improve the quality of your sleep, you could buy a blackout blind. Maybe you could get a dog to improve your mental health.
Thirdly, technology. This is especially useful when habits aren’t something you do every day. For example, you could use an app to automate your savings each month or automate bill payments every month.
Chapter: The 4th Law (Make It Satisfying)
The fourth law is to make it satisfying. You’re more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is pleasurable. As humans, it can be hard to pick up new habits. That’s because the beginning of a new habit is mostly sacrificing without reward. You go to the gym a few times, and nothing happens.
It takes months to see real results. This difficulty is compounded because the human brain prioritizes immediate rewards over delayed rewards. So if you want to get a habit to stick, you need to figure out a way to give yourself an immediate reward. One technique you can use when the long-term reward is setting up a loyalty system for yourself.
Is Atomic Habit worth it?
This popular self-help book explores the science behind habit formation and provides practical strategies for building good and breaking bad habits. If you want to make positive changes in your life and are interested in learning about the psychology and science of habit formation, then “Atomic Habits” could be a valuable resource. Ultimately, the success of the strategies outlined in the book will depend on your efforts and commitment to changing your habits and behavior.
10 Main Point of Atomic Habit
- Habits are the building blocks of long-term success and happiness.
- Small, consistent improvements to our habits can lead to significant long-term gains.
- Our environment shapes habits, and making small changes to our environment can make it easier to form good habits and break bad ones.
- The four key principles of habit formation are: make habits obvious, make habits attractive, make habits easy, and make habits satisfying.
- Habits are more effective when linked to our sense of identity and who we want to become.
- The importance of setting clear, specific goals and tracking progress towards those goals.
- The power of small wins and how they can create momentum for further progress.
- The impact of our social environment on our habits, and the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who support our goals.
- The role of mindset in habit formation and the importance of developing a growth mindset.
- The importance of continuously adapting and refining our habits as we progress towards our goals.
Atomic Habits Cheat Sheet
- Focus on small improvements to your habits to create significant long-term gains.
- Use the four principles of habit formation: make habits obvious, make habits attractive, make habits easy, and make habits satisfying.
- Define who you want to become and align your habits with that identity.
- Set clear, specific goals and track your progress towards them.
- Use the power of small wins to create momentum for further progress.
- Surround yourself with people who support your goals and will help you stay on track.
- Develop a growth mindset and focus on the process of habit formation, rather than just the outcome.
- Continuously adapt and refine your habits as you progress towards your goals.
- Use habit stacking to link new habits to existing ones.
- Use temptation bundling to pair a habit you want to do with a habit you already enjoy.
These are a few key points from the book. I highly recommend reading the book for a more in-depth understanding of the concepts and strategies.
Who can read Atomic Habits?
“Atomic Habits” can be read by anyone interested in making positive changes in their life and looking for practical strategies for building good habits and breaking bad ones. The book is written in a clear and accessible style and is suitable for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
Whether you want to improve your health and fitness, boost your productivity at work, or achieve financial success, the principles and strategies in the book can be applied to a wide range of goals and aspirations.
Focusing on the overall system rather than a single goal is one of the core themes of this book. It is also one of the deeper meanings behind the word atomic. Atomic habits are small habits that can significantly impact if performed over months or even years. The goal isn’t to make a one percent improvement but to make thousands. Many atomic habits stacked against each part of a system eventually create a huge impact.
Personal rating: 4.8/5
At the start, minor improvements often seem meaningless, even if you logically know they’re the right thing to do. Gradually, though, the scales tip in your favor as you stack small changes on top of one another. Eventually, if you stick with it, you hit a tipping point. Suddenly, it’s easier to stick with good habits, and the overall system works for you rather than against you.
I found it pulled lots of different ideas together in a cohesive way. I also found the four laws of behavior change to remember and easy to implement on the downside. So I highly recommend buying this book and implementing the ideas.
Read more: Top 5 Ideas From Atomic Habits Book
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