1-sentence-summary: Atomic Habits is the ultimate four-step guide to breaking bad behaviors and adopting good ones, showing you how small, incremental daily routines add up to massive, positive changes. over time.
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author’s favorite quote:
one of the best opening speeches i’ve seen is seth godin’s pitch for his book linchpin. In one of the slides, he shows a baseball bat flying into the stands, with people ducking and raising their arms in terror.
while seth uses the image to highlight our irrational fears, in some rare cases, those fears come true. James Clear was one of those cases. when he was in high school, a loose bat hit him in the face. broken nose, dangerous brain swellings, dislocated eyes, fractures, her recovery took months.
To get his own baseball career back on track, he had no choice but to rely on the power of small wins. in college, he slowly built up good habits and eventually managed to become one of 33 players on the US academic team. wow!
Today, he is one of the most popular habit researchers, reaching millions of people through his blog at jamesclear.com. His first book, Atomic Habits, is now the definitive guide on the subject and has quickly become a New York Times bestseller.
here are 3 lessons to help you use everything you’ve learned to break bad habits and form good ones:
- Every time we perform a habit, we execute a four-step pattern: cue, desire, response, reward.
- If we want to form new habits, we must make them obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
- You can use a habit tracker as a fun way to measure your progress and make sure you don’t get discouraged.
- signal. a clue that suggests a reward can be found, such as the smell of a cookie or a dark room waiting to be lit.
- craving. the motivation to change something to get the reward, like tasting the delicious cookie or being able to see.
- answer. any thoughts or actions you need to take to get to the reward.
- reward. the satisfying feeling you get from the change, along with the lesson of whether or not to do it again.
- make it obvious. don’t hide your fruits in your fridge, put them on display front and center.
- make it attractive. start with the fruit you like best, so you’ll want to eat one when you see it.
- make it easy. don’t create unnecessary friction by focusing on fruits that are difficult to peel. bananas and apples are very easy to eat, for example.
- make it satisfying. if you like the fruit you picked, you will love eating it and feel healthier as a result!
Let’s see what it takes to form new habits by learning from a true habit master!
summary of atomic habits
lesson 1: all habits are based on a four-step pattern, consisting of cue, desire, response, and reward.
In 1776, Adam Smith laid the foundation for modern economics in his magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations. one of his most famous observations is that, in a free market system, all workers naturally maximize the welfare of their own society, even if they only act in their own interest:
“…he is in this, as in many other cases, guided by an invisible hand to promote an end that was not part of his intention.”
When it comes to habits, James suggests that the environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. That is why a warning is always the first step to make any habit. it may not always be external, but, most of the time, it will be. then three more stages follow to complete the four-step pattern:
There are several popular methodologies that attempt to predict how and why we do what we do, such as Charles Duhigg’s Habit Loop, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, or BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habit Behavior Model. James offers a more refined version of what Duhigg described in The Power of Habit, and while all of these approaches are different, none of them are mutually exclusive.
lesson 2: to form habits, you must make them obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
From the four-step pattern he suggests, James derives four laws of behavior change, each corresponding to one part of the loop. here they are, along with some ideas on how you can use them to make good behaviors easier and bad ones harder:
You can apply them to all kinds of good habits, like running, working on a side project, spending more time with family, etc. on the contrary, do the opposite with bad habits. make them invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying. For example, you could hide your cigarettes, add financial penalties, get rid of all lighters, and only smoke outside when it’s cold.
lesson 3: a habit log is a fun and easy way to make sure you stick with your new behaviors.
With a framework like this, making and breaking habits becomes fun. you’ll probably want to tackle several things sooner rather than later, but it’s important not to take on too much at once. An easy way to stay accountable without feeling overwhelmed is to track your habits with a habit tracker.
The idea is simple: keep a record of all the behaviors you want to establish or abandon and, at the end of each day, check off which ones you have been successful with. This record can be a single sheet of paper, a diary, a calendar, or a digital tool such as an app.
this strategy is based on what is sometimes called the seinfeld productivity trick. comedian jerry seinfeld apparently marked his calendar with a big ‘x’ every day he came up with a joke. Soon, his goal was not to break the chain. is a simple but effective strategy to help you develop good habits.
And since habits are the compound interest of self-improvement, that’s a process we should all start today.
review of atomic habits
When it comes to changing our behavior, we all need to figure out what works for us. That said, there are several scientifically proven strategies that we should all try first. Atomic Habits is a comprehensive, fun, engaging, and easy-to-understand compendium of those strategies. I highly recommend making it your first stop when you want to learn about the science of habit.
Who would you recommend the summary of atomic habits to?
the 17-year-old high school athlete who wants to turn pro in college, the overworked 43-year-old creative struggling to find time to play sports, and anyone who has never written a list of their habits.