Do you wish you had the motivation to do things like go to the gym, use less sugar, read more books, or study on your own time? We all do. In fact, many of us struggle with using our daily energy in the most efficient and fulfilling ways. To help you learn how to get more done in less time, Stephen Guise has written Atomic Habits. His book includes a chapter on how to hack your habits by leveraging the science of behavior change. If you’re looking for some motivation with a side of discipline, this is your story.
For many of us, it’s quite hard to change our habits. We want things to change, but when we’re faced with the decision of what to do, we just can’t think fast enough. We want immediate results, but if we truly want lasting change, patience is essential.
The good news is that it doesn’t take years of effort to transform yourself from a couch potato into an athlete or a world-class thinker. At its core, your behavior is nothing more than habits and practices. And with the right information in your hand, you can quickly bring these changes into your life.
As one who is intrinsically resistant to change, despite my vocalizations of wanting to, I found atomic habits to be absolutely doable! James clear is very clear and succinct about his approach to cultivating the habits we want and phasing out the habits we don’t. I’m not one to suffer a lot of blah blah and his style totally appealed to me. The extras (worksheets etc) are super helpful for an old dog like me who prefers to hold certain papers in my hand. If you think you’re getting ready to make some changes or are just sticking one toe in the water please consider purchasing this book. I purchased the audio first and listen to it when I was driving down to see my daughter, liked the audio so very much that I knew I had to have the book. Give it a shot, you might surprise yourself.
Cody Allen –
If you imagine the structure of your life as a brick building, your habits are the bricks. They are the foundation that allow you to lead the life you desire, the life of your design. The reason habit formation is so important is because the conscious brain can only focus on one task at a time. Rote habits are carried out by the subconscious (or nonconscious) mind, and the more aspects of your daily life that you can pass off to your subconscious, the more mental bandwidth you have available to concentrate on other problems.In his book, Clear lays out four laws that influence habit formation: Make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. Each of these laws govern both our good habits and our bad habits, and they are the roadmap for change. For example, if we want to start exercising first thing in the morning, we can make it obvious by putting our running sneakers next to the bed the night before. For another example, if we are trying to quit a bad habit like smoking, we might make it difficult (the reverse of making it easy) by locking our cigarettes up in a place that is difficult to get to.The two biggest cues that activate a habit are place and time. If you eat breakfast at the same time every morning, your body will learn to get hungry at that time. Similarly, if you always smoke cigarettes in your garage, when you go in there to do your laundry, your body will crave nicotine. This is because our “environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” We often think that changing bad habits into good ones requires diligent will-power, and while this internal approach does sometimes work, it is not the only solution: sometimes changing the external environment that we are existing in can be just as impactful. This is because “our behavior is not defined by the objects in the environment but by our relationship to them.” If your relationship with your garage is that it is a quiet place where you go to smoke, then anytime you go there for any other reason, you will be triggered to smoke. You must change your relationship to your garage in order to curb the desire to smoke every time you enter.The biggest misconception about habits is the difference between setting goals and building systems. “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game,” Clear writes, “the purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.” You might start a habit because you are motivated to do so, but you’ll stick with it because it becomes a part of your identity. It is the difference between saying to yourself “I am going to lay 100 bricks” and “I am going to be the best brick layer I can be.” Achieving a goal only changes your life momentarily, whereas adjusting your system changes your life forever. This is the purpose of creating strong and healthy habits: to improve your life one small brick at a time.Reading this book led me to a personal revelation about my writing. When I first started writing book reviews, I set the goal of completing three a month. This inevitably became tiresome. Instead of remaining chained to this goal, I decided to change my mindset: Instead of writing three a month, I simply write as many as I can with the time that I have. I may have some months where I only produce one or two book reviews, but this will not take any wind out of my sails. My goal is no longer to write three reviews a month, but instead it is to be the best writer I can be. Reading and writing book reviews started off as something I was motivated to do because I wanted to share my favorite books with the world. Now it has become a part of my identity. I am a writer.I humbly thank you for reading!
Mike Pritchard –
Atomic Habits by James Clear is one of those rare books that I immediately read twice in a row. It is filled with dozens of science-backed and actionable nuggets of wisdom. Do you want to improve any habits in your life? I heartily recommend Atomic Habits to you! We are all driven by our habits – many of which are unconscious. Below are 9 quotes and takeaways from this life-changing book:1. “Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.” Atomic Habits explains why the little things you do every day matters. Your little habits matter. It may not seem like a big deal to skip a workout or to be kind, but it is a big deal. Imagine if you improved your habits by only 1% every day. You’d be dramatically a different person in a year. Then imagine if you let your habits decline by 1% every day. You’d be in a much worse spot in life overall a year from now. Your little habits – atomic habits – count for a lot in the long run. What little habits are you improving upon (or neglecting…) today?2. “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” This is such an important point in the book. Oftentimes we focus on goals in our life, while neglecting to focus on the systems that help us achieve goals. As an example, I had a friend who had the goal to complete a triathlon. He achieved this goal! And then he quit working out for the next year and got out of shape… He was so focused on achieving a goal that he neglected his underlying systems of being healthy. Goal achievement can actually set us back if we don’t get set up sustainable systems. Get the systems right and then we’ll indeed also achieve our goals. Systems > Goals.3. “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.” I love this quote from the book. Every action – every habit – you take casts a vote for the type of person you want to become. Do you want to be a more organized person? When you develop habits and systems that organize your life, you are casting votes for thinking of yourself as an organized person. You think to yourself, “hey, I’m an organized person.” And then you reinforce that belief with your habits and actions – a virtuous cycle! The flip side of this can be true too. What if you often show up late to meetings? You’re casting votes that may make you think “well, I’m just a person that is always late.” An un-virtuous cycle. Be careful to make sure that your habits and ultimately your beliefs cast votes for the type of person you want to become and, indeed, who you truly are.4. “How long does it actually take to form a new habit? You just need to get your reps in.” Atomic Habits answers the question of “how much time does it take to form a new habit” with a better answer of : X number of actions. Meaning, you may need to simply complete a new habit 100 times for it to stick, which could be done in 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months, depending on the new habit. It is better to think of forming new habits in terms of consistently taking action, versus trying to stick to a habit for just X number of days. Get your reps in.5. “Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.” The inverse of this is also true – increase friction between you and your bad habits! I think about this a lot when it comes to eating healthy. I need to reduce friction by having healthy food in the house and healthy snacks at work. And I need to increase friction by not having candy in the house or in my office! Out of sight, out of mind. In sight, and I eat it. 🙂 (which of course reminds me of the Dad joke I often tell my girls: “I’m on a seafood diet. I see food and I eat it…)6. “Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.” This is a powerful concept. I put this in practice by only “watching TV” when I’m on the treadmill. I am able to run at a 6 MPH pace and watch TV or videos on the iPad when I’m on a treadmill. So, I generally only watch sporting events or movies or 80s music videos on YouTube when I’m running on the treadmill. This approach actually allows me to run longer if I want to watch a full half of a game, for example. And 80s music videos will often give me the energy to run that extra mile. 🙂 Think about a new habit you want to start and how you can bundle it with an action you’re already taking. Stack them together – i.e. habit stacking.7. “Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and ‘don’t break the chain.'” Atomic Habits does a nice job of explaining the importance of tracking your habits for success. What gets measured gets managed. One of my favorite habit trackers is a FitBit/Apple Watch, which tracks steps, heart rate, sleep, weight and can even track food intake/calories, if you input this data. My behavior definitely changes thanks to these habit trackers. Atomic Habits gives you additional habit tracker resources.8. “Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately.” We all will have days where we fall off the bandwagon and our habits go in reverse. Well, that’s okay for one day. Don’t let it happen twice. Get back on track as soon as possible. (And, yes, sometimes we miss a habit two days in row. Just don’t let it become three days…)9. Author James Clear gets to the point quickly in Atomic Habits and with actionable advice. James has been blogging about habits, health, happiness, creativity and productivity since 2012. Check out a sampling of his writing at his website. James is also fun to follow on Twitter. Atomic Habits has 20 relatively short chapters that open with compelling stories and end with helpful chapter summaries. If you listen to books on Audible, I highly recommend the audio book as James reads this book very passionately.
Andreas Aristidou –
I began reading this book with very high expectations and it did not disappoint. I, myself, am a big believer of the power of habits and have done a lot of research on the topic. Yet I learned a lot, especially the clarity with which the author presents his ideas. Big parts of the book were, in some sense, confirmation that I was doing things the right way, since I was oftentimes thinking “oh yeah, that’s similar to what I’m doing”. Still, parts of the book and strategies proposed were new to me and really helped add habit strategies to my toolbox. As mentioned though, the best thing about this book is the clarity with which the ideas are presented and the way they blend together.This quote from the last chapter summarizes the “Four Laws of Behavior Change” (that the book is about) well: ” (1) Sometimes a habit will be hard to remember and you’ll need to make it obvious. (2) Other times you won’t feel like starting and you’ll need to make it attractive. (3) In many cases, you may find that a habit will be too difficult and you’ll need to make it easy. (4) And sometimes, you won’t feel like sticking with it and you’ll need to make it satisfying.”Here’s some of the notes I made while reading the book:- Habits are like compound interest in self-improvement.- Outcomes are a lagging measure of habits.- The “Valley of Disappointment” is the period where you are putting in the hard work but still seeing no results. –> but remember, your work is not being wasted, it is being stored.- You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.- Your habits shape your identity and your identity shapes your habit. It’s a feedback loop. (reverse causation for the nerds here)- Make clear plans – Use the “Implementation Intention”: When X happens, then I will do Y OR if Z happens, then I will do W.- Use “Habit Stacking”: After behavior X, I will immediately perform behavior Y OR If Z happens, I will immediately perform behavior W. (i.e. As soon as I begin boiling water for tea, I will do 10 burpees). Also, be very clear. (i.e. I will do the burpees next to the fridge in the kitchen, or whatever, you get the idea. As long as it works, it’s good!)- People with high self-control are the ones who structure their environments in such a way to minimize exposure to tempting situations.- Use “Temptation Bundling” + “Habit Stacking”: After X, i will Y. Right after Y, I will immediately Z,where X – habit I already do, Y – habit I need to do, Z – habit I want to do. (The anticipation of a reward is what gives us the most motivation – and not the reward itself.)- Do something you enjoy before a difficult habit.- Planning can sometimes be a form of procrastination because it can make you feel like you are making progress (while you are not).- Make your habits as easy as possible to start (i.e. do one set of abs, read one page of my book) – This is called a “Gateway Habit”. and it helps to reinforce your identity of who you are which will itself help motivate you to keep going.- Prime your environment for future use – “resetting your environment” (i.e. Take out your coffee and mug the night before, make your bed perfectly, to remove the sense of sleep / bedroom if you’ll be working from your bedroom)- Use pre-commitment devices to make it harder/ impossible to deviate from good habits.- Even one minute of a bad habit (i.e. checking instagram) can manifest into a lot (i.e. getting lost in time browsing instagram).- Put some immediate reward into good habits / immediate punishment to bad habits.- Create a habit tracker / calendar to provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation.- Rule: Never miss a habit twice! (life gets in the way, but don’t let it derail you off your path)- Finding what you are naturally gifted in will make good habits easier. To do that ask the following questions. (1) What feels like fun to me but work to others? (2) What makes me lose track of time? (3) Where do I get greater returns than the average person? (4) What comes naturally to me?- You can also win by being different, by rewriting the rules (i.e. by combining your unique set of skills)- Periodic reflection and review can enable the long-term improvement of all habits – identity building.Finally, some quotes I liked:- “Really successful people feel the same lack of motivation as everyone else. The difference is that they find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.”- “The greatest threat to success is not failure, but boredom.”- “You have to fall in love with boredom.”- “Improvement is not just about learning habits, it’s also about fine-tuning them.”- “Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.”And my favorite:- “It is remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop.”
I have never tried self-help books before, turns out that I am the intended demographic.Negative reviews point out that nothing in this book hasn’t been covered elsewhere. That topics in here are often phrases you have heard throughout your life. I argue that this is the entire point.Self-help is a rabbit hole that can lead you with a pile of books, podcasts, and Youtube presentations of motivational bullcrap that drain all of the time you are supposed to actually be doing things.If you have no idea of this world and want all of the good ideas put into a single book that allows you to never fall into this trap, this is the one book.
Vicki Peterson –
Loved the habit stacking ??. Being retired, we have daily rituals… so a couple of them are a total waist of time to me but of interest to my husband. So your habit stacking gave me the idea to do what I wanted to do at the same time as husbands habit. Which also made me feel better about myself?. And I fulfilled a new habit ?. Loved the parenting extras. I’m a grandparent.. so different from when we had kids…technology is incredible & an absolute hinderance to our kids..Loved the daily info by email.. felt good to be in school learning again.Thankyou James Clear!!I first listened on audio, then ordered the workbook & got all the addition daily Emails which were even better! Looked forward to them everyday!Brilliant!Thankyou so muchHave passed on to friends & family
Tom Venuto, Author of Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle –
I’ve read a lot of books on changing behavior and building habits and James Clear’s Atomic Habits is my new favorite. This book is different from others in the way it covers an enormous amount of ground in the larger area of self-improvement while seamlessly tying all these ideas back into the central theme of habits.One of the core concepts in Atomic Habits is to focus on the small improvement. The impact a 1% improvement per day can make may appear negligible at first, but Clear makes a compelling argument that in the case of habits, thinking small produces the biggest results over time. “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement,” explains Clear.Over the months and years, the accumulated effect of small habitual daily behaviors is staggering. Early in the book we are also warned that this compounding works both ways, so we’d better make sure we’re making it work in the positive direction, not for the negative.This is a concept I was introduced to years ago under a different name – Kaizen – the Japanese term for continuous incremental improvement. What’s different and new in this book is how the concept is applied specifically to building habits.I found the information introduced in chapter two about behavior change at the identity level to be spot-on. You’re also given a simple two-step process for changing your identity and this one idea alone is incredibly powerful.In chapter three, we are introduced to the habit loop – cue, craving, response, reward – and we learn how to build good habits in 4 simple steps and break bad habits in 4 simple steps.One of those steps to habit formation, which goes hand in hand with the 1% concept, is how to make it not only small, but easy. In the chapters that follow, this is exactly what you find out.Other ideas of great value that stood out included, habit stacking (the best way to form a new habit), habit tracking, habit shaping and how to design your environment – physical and social – for habit building success. You learn the truth about self-control, how to stop procrastinating and how to use implementation intentions, temptation bundling and motivational rituals. The book is simply packed with actionable ideas, tactics and strategies.Virtually every idea in the book is useful and resonated with me. While I may not agree that we should “forget about goals,” I agree with one of Clear’s core principles in the book – that we must develop systems for change. If we only focus on goals and don’t develop systems and a focus on the process, we risk falling into a number of goal-related traps which ultimately lead to stagnation. With the right systems, we’re rewarded with continuous improvement on a lifelong journey of success.Another difference between Atomic Habits and other books in this genre is that while it’s based on science it doesn’t bog you down with unnecessary details of the research. Clear’s book is intensely practical, giving you a huge toolkit of organized and named strategies you can apply immediately to create and strengthen positive habits and stop the negative ones.The book is conversational, and includes many interesting stories, making it easy to read – and hard to put down (I read it cover to cover in one day).It’s possible this might become your most highlighted personal improvement book because every page is so chocked full of memorable and quotable gems of advice.
Haical Sajovic Haddad –
I previously wrote this review right after reading the book. Today, February 15th, after applying James’s system for 100 days on a few tiny habits, I feel compelled to share updates with you because they have sincerely worked.I will divide the review into 5 parts. The first part is a summary of the book with short excerpts highlighted while taking notes. Next, I hope to share pieces of advice that have motivated me while building new habits. Following that, I will share how I implemented the first 3 habits throughout these months. Then, some thoughts to whom I would recommend reading the book. Last, there are 4 complementary readings.SUMMARY[Introduction] James starts by sharing personal strategies he implemented to recover from a serious accident in high school. That event forced him to improve the quality of his routine to get his life in order, coming to the conclusion that “we all deal with setbacks, but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you will end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.”[Section I : The Fundamentals][Chapter 1] Here we learn the power of compounding effect: changes that seem small and unimportant at any given day will compound into remarkable results if we are willing to stick with them for months and years. James explains that “breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.” Comparing to habits, he shows that bamboo can barely be seen during the first couple of years while the roots grow underground before exploding for almost 100 feet into the air in a few weeks. From that perspective, we come to understand the best outcomes are generally delayed.[Chapter 2] Based on a 3-layer concentric circle behavior change model—divided into outcome change, process change, and identity change—James explains that we should pay attention to our inner identity by focusing on beliefs, assumptions, and values. “Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.” The strongest changes, then, happen from inside out, starting from our identity, passing through the process, and ultimately changing the outcome.[Chapter 3] In this chapter we are introduced to a 4-step framework, which is composed of cue, craving, response, and reward. James calls it ‘The 4 Laws of Behavior Change’. He then explains that we can think of each law as a lever that influences our behavior—when the levers are in the right positions, they create good habits effortless whereas when they are in the wrong position, it is nearly impossible. Through examples, he explains that “the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.” Together they create a habit loop that, when repeated many times, habits become automatic.[Section II : Make It Obvious][Chapter 4] A primer on how cues play a crucial role in predicting habit formation without consciously thinking about the outcomes. Once our habits become so common, the cues associated with them become essentially invisible because they are deeply encoded. If we want to create better habits, a good idea is to be aware of the cues. James finishes up by sharing a strategy called ‘Habits Scorecard’—a simple exercise to become more aware of our behavior on a daily basis. We first write down a chronological list of our daily habits and, once we have a full list, we score each habit as an effective, ineffective, or neutral habit. Besides noticing what is actually going on, we can notice if certain behaviors help us become the type of person we wish to be.[Chapter 5] The cues that can trigger a habit come in a wide range of forms, and the 2 most common cues are time and location. When we make a specific plan for when and where we will perform a new habit, we are more likely to follow through. Stacking our habits by pairing a new habit with a current habit is a form to connect our behavior to our own advantage. An example when building a daily journaling habit would be: “after I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will journal for 5 minutes.”[Chapter 6] This chapter shows how our environment plays a crucial role in defining habit behaviors. “Given that we are more dependent on vision than any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior.” To build good habits, then, we should either make desirable cues obvious in our environment or build new habits in a new environment to avoid fighting against old ones.[Chapter 7] One of the most practical ways to break a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it. As James points out, “it is easier to avoid temptation than resist it.”[Section III : Make It Attractive][Chapter 8] James explains how the modern food industry has created products that are more attractive and addictive to consumers, and by doing so he shows that the more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming. Every behavior that is highly habit-forming tends to be associated with higher levels of dopamine. It is the anticipation of a reward that motivates us to take action. “Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.”[Chapter 9] “We tend to adopt habits that are praised and approved of by our culture because we have a strong desire to fit in and belong to the tribe.” That said, it is common to pick up habits and behaviors from our parents, peers, and colleagues. There is also a tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the tribe. And, finally, we try to copy the behavior of successful people because we desire success ourselves. One of the best strategies to build better habits is to join a culture where the desired behavior is the normal behavior.[Chapter 10] To avoid unnecessary and detrimental cravings, we should highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit by making it seem unattractive. “Habits are unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings.”[Section IV : Make It Easy][Chapter 11] “All habits follow a similar trajectory from effortful practice to automatic behavior, a process known as automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which occurs when the nonconscious mind takes over.” The key component is to pay close attention to the frequency we perform a habit, not much for how long we have been practicing it.[Chapter 12] Since every action requires a certain amount of energy, we are motivated to do what is easy. By contrast, the more energy required, the less likely it is to occur. “You don’t actually want the habit itself. What you really want is the outcome the habit delivers. The greater the obstacle, the more friction there is between you and your desired end state.” That is why we should reduce the friction associated with our habits by creating a prosperous environment to make future actions easier.[Chapter 13] There are decisive moments that deliver an outsized impact every single day. As James puts, these decisive moments are a fork in the road, sending us in the direction of a productive path or an unproductive one. To avoid procrastination, the skill of ‘Showing Up’ says that we should start a new habit by taking baby steps, making it as easy as possible to take action. “A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first 2 minutes should be easy. What you want is a gateway habit that naturally leads you down a more productive path.” He calls it the ‘Two-Minute Rule’, meaning that new habits should take less than 2 minutes to do in the beginning. Once the habit is established we can improve and master the finer details.[Chapter 14] In order to keep bad habits away is to make them difficult in the first place. There are 2 interesting strategies to improve our future behavior.  Make good choices in advance before we can fall victim to temptation in the future. James gives a personal example by sharing that whenever he is looking to cut calories he will ask the waiter to split his meal and box half of it to go before the meal is served. If, however, he waits for the meal to be served and tries to eat just half, that would never happen.  Make onetime actions that can automate our future habits and deliver increasing returns over time such as buying a good water filter, unsubscribing from unwanted emails, moving to a friendlier neighborhood, buying a standing desk, or setting up automatic bill pay.[Section V : Make It Satisfying][Chapter 15] We should make sure to feel immediately satisfied after performing a new habit to increase the odds that the behavior will be repeated next time. “The human brain has evolved to prioritize immediate rewards over delayed rewards.” For that, we can add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run.[Chapter 16] Here we learn how to measure our progress by tracking our habits. The immediate satisfaction it delivers—as mentioned earlier in Chapter 15—is one of the many benefits that standout. Besides that, James says, “when we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path.” The most basic format to track our habits is to get a calendar and mark an X each time we stick with our routine. One of the most important passages of the entire book is as follows: “If you miss one day, try to get back into it as quickly as possible. The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit. This is a distinguishing feature between winners and losers. Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly.”[Chapter 17] In order to prevent bad habits and/or eliminate unhealthy behaviors, James says that we could either add an instant cost to the action or make it painful. A habit contract is also another strategy to hold our accountability: “It is a verbal or written agreement in which you state your commitment to a particular habit and the punishment that will occur if you don’t follow through. Then you find one to two people to act as your accountability partners and sign off on the contract with you.”[Section VI : Advanced Techniques][Chapter 18] We learn how to distinguish habits when genes may or may not influence our performance especially for competitive activities. “One of the best ways to ensure your habits remain satisfying over the long-run is to pick behaviors that align with your personality and skills.” James proposes us to set some time apart to explore new activities in the beginning, before shifting our focus to exploit them thoroughly.[Chapter 19] When we find the sweet spot of our ability we tend to learn best and fastest. The ‘Goldilocks Rule’ states that “humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.”[Chapter 20] One downside of certain habits, James explains, is that we may stop paying attention to the little details and errors. To counterbalance that we should review and reflect on the process over time to remain conscious of our own performance. Using a simple chart to convey his message, we learn that “the process of mastery requires that you progressively layer improvements on top of one another, each habit building upon the last until a new level of performance has been reached and a higher range of skills has been internalized.”PERSONAL THOUGHTSReading the book twice helped me take better notes and capture details. In the meantime, I thought about 3 simple strategies that could improve our adherence to new habits. Let me share these strategies here with you, and in the following section, I will describe how I managed to cultivate the first 3 new habits upon reading the book—following the system proposed by James together with these 3 strategies. The first strategy is about determining a ‘commitment time frame’ to avoid excuses during this initial trial period. A 1-month time frame is a fair commitment, choosing to start on the first day of the month to practice it every single day for a full month. Just at the end of the period, I will take the time to reflect and evaluate the pros and cons. The next one is to choose only 1 new habit each month. In doing so we become familiar with the practice intentionally while we develop a sense of purpose. Last, during the first month of any new habit, I noticed that if I spend time exploring the details and the benefits, my motivation stays high. It doesn’t only help us create better practices, but it is also inspiring to learn from others who have succeeded previously by adding the same habit into their lives. Podcasts, articles, videos, books, online courses, tutorials, and blog posts are all good sources.IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW HABITS[Nov 1, 2018] I had been wanting to journal on a daily basis for many years but that had never happened. Although I have carried a notebook with me for quite a while, it has never worked as a real journal—a daily routine, when we sit down and write personal thoughts, intentions, and reflections at around the same time. Instead, it has been mostly used to take notes during meetings, to write down ideas and thoughts, to express travel memories, and to doodle. Today, after 3+ months, I haven’t looked back once, and still can’t believe it took me that long to start this daily habit. During the first month, I read blog posts, watched videos, and even read a short and inexpensive book to foster my creativity.[Dec 1, 2018] I have been impressed by the physical capabilities we can develop through body movement. Although yoga has been a special part of my life since I was 18, I hadn’t given proper attention to handstands. But now, after 2+ months practicing it every day, it is rewarding to see improvements on a weekly basis. Again, I definitely recommend watching videos and reading tutorials to find your favorite method. This is the perfect habit to stack at the end or in the middle of any physical movement practice you may enjoy.[Jan 1, 2019] By now we know the benefits of cold showers—ranging from healthier skin appearance all the way to a more resilient perspective of the world. I had previously taken cold showers for 3 months in 2017, but it was a “goal” mindset instead of a “habit” mindset. After that trial I set aside and, although I have kept taking cold showers once or twice a week since then, I wished cold showers was the default mode. Now, after 1+ month, I can’t see myself taking warm showers. After all, it is about intention. Again, we can learn uncountable benefits of cold showers by reading success stories. One of my inspirations was Wim Hof. It isn’t comfortable in the beginning of any chosen day, but after 3-4 minutes, both my breath and thoughts calm down.Putting them together, these 3 habits don’t take more than 30 minutes of my day. While I spend about 10 minutes journaling and 10 more minutes practicing handstands, I save 5 minutes taking cold showers because I won’t stay any longer than necessary.RECOMMENDATION First, if you have watched videos, listened to podcasts, read articles and books on habit formation and, after all that, you feel satisfied, then, please, save your money and time. However, if you are like me, that even after reading a few books on building habits and having successfully added good habits to your life, feel that there is still room for improvement, this book can be a terrific addition. Last, if you haven’t spent much time and energy discovering a good system to build lasting habits while breaking bad ones, please, read this book.COMPLEMENTARY READINGS Game Changers, by Dave Asprey, exposed me to a wealth array of ideas/habits/tools that have helped me decide which new habit to build next. The book is divided into 46 laws. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, helped me focus on less but more important tasks, giving clarity to what matters most. This is especially interesting to break bad habits. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, brought more motivation when learning new skills based on the assumptions that we develop new talents through deep practices, finding our ignition identity, and having the right coach to guide us genuinely. I read it many years ago, then, a few years back, I read his following book called The Little Book of Talent—which is perhaps even more to the point. The Systems View of Life, by Fritjof Capra, enlightened my perspectives on how nature and living beings are systematically integrated. It is a profound and slightly academic book that can complement Atomic Habits especially to tie together the 4-step framework into the feedback loop system.I sincerely hope you, too, have fun while building new habits.Take care,Haical
Sean G –
I’ve read several books on habits and this is by far the best. The author packs the book with lots of useful nuggets and methods around habit formation and change. His main thesis is that very small habits that help reinforce a strong identity will compound over time and lead to meaningful changes.The author suggests that most people see habits as the necessary means to some specific goal or event, after which the habit may cease to be meaningful. He calls these “outcome-based” habits. However, instilling habits that resonate and fortify a personal identity, such as “athlete” or “health nut”, etc. are much more likely to stick and accumulate. These habits he calls “identity-based”.He focuses on “systems” over “habits”. Systems drive behavior and beliefs drive systems. He talks about how our language often reflects our beliefs and how making small changes in how we describe ourselves can have outsized effects on our identity and behavior. Ex: A recently former smoker is offered a cigarette and says “no thanks, I’m trying to quit” reflects an identity that still sees themselves as a smoker as opposed to someone who may respond “No thanks, I’m not a smoker”.The author introduces concepts such as “The Plateau of Latent Potential” and “The Valley of Disappointment” which describe the gap between expected short-term results and actual, delayed results. Early progress is often hard to measure and therefore often not obvious, when in fact changes are happening beneath the surface as your brain and body slowly rewire. This latent progress can demotivate us as our expectations often don’t match what we see or feel.Like most other good books on habits, the author spends time explaining the ‘habit loop” process of Cue, Crave, Routine, and Reward. He emphasizes how architecting one’s environment to help reinforce positive cues is far more effective than relying on willpower and motivation. Our environment is the most powerful influencer of our habits.The author also presents several examples of the power of just showing up. He calls this the “Two Minute Rule”. At the beginning of habit formation, what’s most important is simply showing up. Many people won’t start a new habit because they view the habit as being large and daunting. But reducing the new behavior to just 2-minutes, and only 2-minutes, can help ease you into the routine. Other concepts include Habit Stacking, Habit Tracking, and Accountability Partners.Overall I found the book enlightening, engaging, and well written. If you’re looking to engineer a better life through habit change, Atomic Habits is a great resource.
1% better everyday. Learn to love boredom. Make fulfilling the performance more satisfying than not.This book was excellent. I learned more than I thought I would. I opened it expecting to be told to buckle down and show some willpower. I closed it realizing I need to re-engineer some environments and settings in my life. I highly recommend this book.It also helped to stop comparing myself to other people. We can learn to do almost anything, but Michael Phelps does not have a great body to be an Olympic marathoner (it’ll make more sense after you read the book). This seems a simple idea, but based on some questions I had in my head and that I was working through, this was a revelation for me. Well done, James!