Atomic Habits

Book Summary

Everybody glorifies goals and wants to achieve the set goals when they want to change or get better at and this book helped us in understanding how it's absolutely important to set systems that help us achieve. This breakthrough book from James Clear is the most comprehensive guide on how to change your habits and get 1% better every day. 

Atomic Habits - James Clear


Atomic Habits is James Clear's years of blog posts in one book. This book explains how basically improving ourselves 1 percent every day results in a significant increase in our productivity but never counts those small changes as progress. Atomic Habits is a small change towards every day, by building systems and how to build better systems to achieve our goals. James mentions there are 4 laws of behavior change that we can use to create good habits and break the bad ones. He mentions as any habit is made of

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

By making our behavior change according to these components, the habits fall into place thus resulting in building better systems that ultimately make a good habit and break a bad one.


What are habits?

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

James goes on to explain how 1 percent of improvement on any topic of interest is exceptional as we gain 37% gain yearly statistically.

The Habit loop helps us keep hitting us with small rewards that we tend to stay in the game longer.

He even mentions how habits and systems' main goal is not to win at a game. It is to continue playing the game. (after reading and listening, had me wondering every single habit I broke because I thought the goal achieved is goal met. Where in, it is to continue playing the same goal over and over.)

The 1 percent graph - Book Summary - Atomic Habits
The 1 percent graph - Atomic Habits

There are 4 laws of behavior change that we can use to create good habits and break the bad ones.

A single habit is made of a cue, craving, response, and reward. And these components are formed according to the 4 laws of behavior change:

Make it obvious: The habit needs to be done so many times that after a while you don't apply your mind at all. For example, making the bed every day as soon as you wake up, will at some point have an automatic effect on you one day without your knowledge you will make the bed even when you are half asleep.

He also talks about the plateau of latent potential. which means that our mind always assumes growth to be linear and we see progress in a straight line as soon as we start a habit but in reality it is a slow increase in time, compounding growth that we actually don't understand.

The area between the point from the habit starts to the point where we cross our linear projectile assumption is called Valley of Disappointment, which means that the growth is invisible but the growth is present. The growth is just being stored.

Graph representing the valley of disappointment - Atomic Habits
Graph representing the valley of disappointment

Make it attractive:

Making it attractive can be basically summed up with this one line from the book -

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.
Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.
The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious.

Make it easy:

Making it easy is making your process easy to perform the habit you want to progress on. For example,

  1. If you want to exercise daily, having what you want to do today at the start of the day is the way to decide your habit.
  2. If you are a writer, have a place for yourselves to write every day to become a better writer.

Make it immediately satisfying:

Our brain rewards immediate returns so it’s good to come up with something simple that brings us joy right after we perform our habit. Every time I go to the gym, I hop into a pool and spend 10 to 20 minutes in a spa. I know that it sounds a bit excessive but this little routine makes me much more optimistic about spending an hour or two in the gym.

Over the long run, however, the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way. This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
Your identity emerges out of your habits. You are not born with preset beliefs. Every belief, including those about yourself, is learned and conditioned through experience.

Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it. If you go to church every Sunday for twenty years, you have evidence that you are religious. If you study biology for one hour every night, you have evidence that you are studious. If you go to the gym even when it’s snowing, you have evidence that you are committed to fitness. The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.

This is a gradual evolution. We do not change by snapping our fingers and deciding to be someone entirely new. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit. We are continually undergoing microevolution of the self.

Each habit is like a suggestion: “Hey, maybe this is who I am.” If you finish a book, then perhaps you are the type of person who likes reading. If you go to the gym, then perhaps you are the type of person who likes exercise. If you practice playing the guitar, perhaps you are the type of person who likes music.

Favorite Quotes:

Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
“When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.”
“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”

Final Takeaways:

This book is a collection/best guides from a lot of writings for his newsletter.

James Clear has been writing on the internet for more than 3 years before he published this book. He just says the things that make sense and are scientifically proven methods to improve the habits you want to create.

Atomic Habits is the most comprehensive and practical guide on how to create good habits, break bad ones, and get 1 percent better every day. I do not believe you will find a more actionable book on the subject of habits and improvement.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system.

Bad habits repeat themselves not because you don’t want to change but because you have the wrong system for change. This is one of the core philosophies of Atomic Habits: You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. In this book, you’ll get a proven plan that can take you to new heights.

James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible.

You can purchase the Atomic Habits hardcopy from here and get started on living 1 percent better every day.

I personally took the audiobook of Atomic Habits from Audible and have listened to it at least three times.

Audible is great to have books narrated and you can multitask chores while listening to it.

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