Atomic Habits is one of the world's most popular personal improvement books written by James Clear.
It talks about the power and process of building habits 'atomically,' aka bit by bit, rather than through a once-off, massive change.
The best part of this book is that it isn't filled with 'one-liner hacks', and neither does it harp about being 'focused.'
Instead, it gives a fundamental, realistic understanding of habits and how we can attune ourselves to forming habits without worrying about having the motivation for it.
The central idea
Rather than aiming for a radical, single breakthrough change, focus on improving yourself just a little each day.
Small steps are always easier than giant leaps.
The habits that stick are those where you don't even need willpower, and they are so small that they happen with little thought & effort.
- There are three layers of behavior change - outcomes, processes, and identity. Outcomes are what you get. Processes are what you do. Identity is what you are.
- Instead of setting goals, focus on outcomes & changing your identity. When you want to try and quit smoking, don't say, 'I am trying to quit.' Say, 'I am not a smoker.'
- Building habits, good or bad, is a 4 step process where you first have a cue that indicates an impending pleasure.
Then comes the craving, wherein you think of the excitement or pleasure doing that action would bring.
Then comes the response, when you perform the action.
Finally, the reward results from the action you had been craving.
It's tweaking around these four steps that'll help you build or break habits.
- To build good habits, here is what you need to do:
- Cue - Make it obvious. If you want to work out every day, keep your equipment where you can notice it often, and don't have to remind yourself to do it.
- Craving - Make it attractive. Tweak your goal into something that you like so much that you can't not do it. E.g., The feeling induced by dopamine and endorphins after a workout.
- Response - Make it easy. Don't try hard things at one go. Making it as easy as a routine action will make it highly likely that you see it through.
- Reward - Make it satisfying. The better the reward, the more motivated we are to continue. E.g., Reward yourself with a movie each time you complete a workout.
- To remove bad habits, do the exact opposite of the good ones:
- Cue - Make it invisible. If you can't find cigarettes easily, it is hard to smoke them.
- Craving - Make it unattractive. Cigarette makes you stink, bad for social situations.
- Response - Make it hard. Try to spend time in a no-smoking zone so that you'd have to go all the way outside to smoke.
- Reward - Make it unsatisfying/discouraging. You penalize yourself monetarily each time you smoke.
- You can use habit stacking, which uses your existing habits to build new ones. After doing A, I will do B. Completion of existing habit A, say brushing your teeth, should be your cue to do your new habit B, say, going for a walk
- Motivation is overrated; the environment is underrated. To avoid temptation, remove the cues that cause it.
- The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it. Small but frequent is the key.
- Start small to ease off the friction. The two-minute rule should come in handy here when you start a habit, it should take you less than 2 minutes to do it. You can then build upon it to get better
- An accountability partner helps you stick to your habits.
- Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities. Pick a habit that suits you.
- The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
- Professionals stick to the schedule. Amateurs let life get in the way.
"Atomic Habits" is an interesting guide to breaking destructive behaviors and adopting constructive ones by breaking them down into four steps.
The author shows you how small, incremental, everyday action can compound into massive, positive change over time. It is a worthy read.