Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Summary

Atomic Habits is a basic personal development book that will help you understand the importance of habits and how they form. You can leverage this understanding to improve your habits and quality of life. If you’re new to personal development literature, this book may be a good place to start.

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Key Takeaways

What are habits?

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. It’s the small actions everyday that determine the things you accomplish and the person you become.

Leverage visual cues

Let’s say you want to build a habit of going to the gym. You can setup your house so that you’re visually reminded that you should go to the gym. For example, you can layout your workout clothes before going to bed so that you see them in the morning when you’re supposed to work out. Or you could put a big sign on your door that says, “Did you workout today?” These visual reminders can make the habit formation process easier.

Structure your right correctly

Even though habits like reading, exercise, and healthy eating are good for us, we often don’t want to do them, especially if it’s the end of the day and we’re tired. Your willpower to do what’s good for you is finite, so you have to setup your environment so that you don’t rely purely on willpower to do the good things for your life.

For example, imagine you want to eat well and have a penchant for binge eating tasty chips. One strategy is to keep buying chips at the store and rely on your willpower not to eat too many of them. This relies on self-control, which may work in the short-term. But once you get stressed, you’re going to binge eat those chips. A better strategy is to not buy the chips.

So even though you may crave them, you won’t have them readily available in your house. If you really want them, you would have to go to the store and buy them, which is usually enough friction to stop you from doing it. What’s the takeaway? Don’t rely on self-control to do the good habits in your life. Structure your environment so that it’s easy for you to do your good habits

Use dopamine

We all love dopamine. It feel good. So to build a new habit, you can leverage the universal human love for dopamine. I did this when I wanted to learn how to surf. Every time I went surfing, I ate a small piece of dark chocolate after I surfed. It was a little treat for doing the action I wanted to do, and the ritual gave me something to look forward to after a tough surf.

Use social pressure

If you want to write a book, you could sit at your house and try to motivate yourself to write. Or, you could join a writer group that meets once a week to discuss progress on your book. By having the weekly meeting where you discuss progress, it’s unlikely you would ever have a week without progress. That’s because there is a social element involved where you don’t want to look lazy or undedicated to your book.

Another example is surrounding yourself with people who embody the qualities and habits you aspire to have. If you surround yourself with friends who work out regularly and eat healthy, you’re more likely to take on these habits. Our peer groups help establish and reinforce our identities and habits.

Great quotes

“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.”

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

“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.”

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