Atomic Habits is a revolutionary system to get 1 percent better each day. It’s the first book by James Clear, internet author and habits expert, detailing his idiosyncratic system for breaking bad habits and replacing them with ones that help you achieve your goals.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits is a simple and effective system for habit-based change.
Building upon his own personal experience, author James Clear explains his four-step approach to changing and breaking habits to deliver long term compounded changes. With examples from psychology, sport, science and self- help, it’s an excellent practical read.
Below are some of the key ideas I took from this book:
- Habits are compound interest of self improvement. (1% better daily = x37 better p.a.)
- Habits can be either work for/against your own personal goals, forming your character slowly but consistently over time.
- Small changes make no immediate difference but achieve exponential results once you pass the plateau of latent potential.
- You do not rise to the level of your goals but fall to the level of your system. All competitors want to win but only some commit to a winning system.
- Habit change can be outcome based, process based or identity based (compliance, conformity or internalisation)
- The most effective way to change is to work at the identity level with every habit treated as a vote for the kind of person you wish to become.
- Taking stock of Atomic habits allows you to pair good habits together and make bad habits more difficult to achieve.
- The real value of habits is not the activity achieved but the power to change your own sense of identity.
- Habits are simply repeated behaviours (reps) and work with a specific feedback loop (cue, craving, response, reward)
- These responses are dynamically mapped against dopamine levels in the brain.
- To create good habits we need to make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
- To break bad habits we need to make it invisible, unattractive, hard and disgusting.
- Using a habits scorecard with point and call response can help us become aware of and modify the cues that lead to good and bad habits over time.
- Setting time and location helps to make a habit attractive. We can also use the law of least effort to pair easy/attractive habits with more difficult/unattractive ones.
- Motivation is often overrated while environmental factors and clarity of response is actually more important. You can only order what is on the menu.
- Self control is a short term strategy. Far better to shape your environment in a way that requires less control over time.
- The anticipation of a reward is more important than the reward itself. So speak your habits outloud to determine whether the reward itself is worth it.
- Culture shapes our habits more profoundly then we realise or give credit for. Swapping one culture for another makes it easier to commit.
- Bad habits are often maladaptive modern day solutions to ancient cravings. Making this a conscious process helps reduce the attraction of the habit.
- With habits, it’s important to walk slowly but never backwards. Better to miss frequently but never twice then allow the habit to diminish.
- The most effective form of learning is practice not planning. (Quality vs. Quantity example)
- Human behaviour naturally follows the law of least effort, so aim to reduce friction for all of your habits to achieve the desired results you seek.
- Habits can take only two minutes but will shape the direction of your day for hours to come afterwards – priming the mind for a good or bad overall daily experience (Winning the First Hour)
- Switching good habits to automatic and bad habits to manual helps to change the calculus of difficulty faced by the average self improver.
- Making a bad habit immediately unsatisfying and a good habit immediately satisfying is a highly effective strategy to shape our decisions (e.g. President kills the first man)
- The secret to success is to pick the right competitions. Michael Phelps would never be competitive as a distance runner no matter how good his habits would be.
- The best way to understand your competitive field is to understand your personality, genetics and where your natural interests lie.
- The Goldilocks Rule suggests that we experience flow states of enjoyment when a challenge is just 4% beyond our typically capacity to respond. Not too easy, not too hard.
- Professionals find a way to stick to the schedule while amateurs let life get in the way of their goals and habits.
- The tighter we cling to an identity the hard it becomes to move beyond it. (Fixed vs. Growth Mindset)
- Deliberate Practice + Reflection is a sure fire way to perfect your habits over time, making it easier to become the person you wish to be.