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Atomic habits

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

Author- James Clear

  • Understanding the meaning of the book

This book defines habit formation and how small things can have a huge impact over time when they get compounded. Atomic habits are the small part of a larger system that builds over time with patience and persistence. Doing 1% progress each day can make you build habits over time in the long run. You just have to contribute tiny-tiny progress. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are always delayed. Just one single bad thing which you perform seems tiny but over time you eventually get degraded and the habit will work against you. Real change comes from the compound effect of these small changes which accumulate over time to show remarkable results. This is what the author calls the power of atomic habits.

  • Why tiny changes make a big difference

It is this theory James Clear talks about which is "developing 1% every day". If you progress by 1% every day you end up being 37% better at the end of the year and if you become 1% worse every day you end up to nearly zero. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Also, the seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated the habit sprouts and grows stronger. When everything doesn't happen how we think will happen we fall into the valley of disappointment and just get disappointed because we don't see any results and then we break the habit. But actually, the thing is building slowly and the increments will add up, and once you break through the plateau of latent potential you will see the results. You won't be able to see the results of the 1% improvement but it stacks up and over time you will see the bigger picture. Even if you don't see any changes just keep doing it.


  • Forget the goals work on the system

When you just have that goal in your mind you won't see any difference or progress that you are making but instead if you are focusing on the process more rather than the goals there is a higher possibility of winning. Until you don't focus on the system you are working through you are not achieving success. Goals restrict your happiness or simply they just postpone your happiness because you aim to be happy when you reach the level of success and then become happy but instead when you enjoy the process you live in the moment and be happy with what you are doing. Goals are odd regarding the long-term progress. Once you hit the goal you don't keep up with your development and then you fall off from the things you had created. We don't need to change our results we need to change our systems to work efficiently. Create process-based goals. So if you want to get good marks in your exams your goal should be "studying for 3hrs every day or solving more past papers" this kind of mindset can make you progress rather than just keeping a goal of achieving good marks in the exam. Winners and losers always want the 1st position or the jobs which they are applying for but winners win because they focus on their process and not on winning the battle. If you keep looking at the scoreboard you are never gonna win but if you focus on your game the scoreboard will take care of itself.

  • How your habits shape your identity If you want to change your habits you need to think identity-based, not outcome or process-based. Once you set your goals from achieving something to becoming something you stick to a habit. Habit becomes a part of your identity it defines how you are or how you want to become. Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become. The two-step method to change your identity is by-

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.

  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

New identities require evidence. So when you keep casting the votes for the type of person you want to become it will help you to stick to a habit. Once you get that identity that you are that type of a person you create an image of yourself and you try to maintain it. Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity. You have to become part of your identity to stick to the habit. Once you repeat the same story to yourself there is more probability to slip into these mental grooves and accept them as facts. But they also work in two ways positively as well as negatively. Eg. If you tell yourself "I am terrible with directions" you will become that type of person as you keep repeating it. Also if you tell yourself that "I am that kind of person who exercises regularly" then you stick to your words to save your identity.

  • How to build better habits in 4 simple steps The ultimate purpose of our habits is to solve the problems we are facing. The 4 ways a habit occurs are by cue, craving, response, and reward. Firstly you get a cue it triggers your brain to initiate the behaviour. Second, you get the craving which is the motivational force behind that action. Then comes the response which is the action and lastly you get the reward of the following action. Our habits are the feedback loops. It keeps trying to find the things which will satisfy you. If this doesn't work then that will. Our habits are formed to solve the problem we are facing. To form a good habit you should ask yourself "how can I make the cue obvious, how can I make it attractive, how can I make it easy and how can I make it more satisfying". To break a bad habit you need to ask yourself "how can I make the cue invisible, how can I make it unattractive, how can I make it unsatisfying". Once you find the reward and the solution with a feedback loop you automatically get into the zone without further thinking. Feelings of pleasure and disappointment are part of the feedback mechanism that helps your brain distinguish useful actions from useless ones. Reward close the feedback loop and complete the Habit cycle. Habits are mental shortcuts learned from experience.


  • Step 1- Make it obvious Make the cues of good habits obvious. Environment plays a major role in habit formation more than motivation. When you have to build a new habit you should increase the number of cues around you and that will increase the probability of you performing the habit. If you keep the book on the desk instead of keeping it inside a cupboard there will be a higher possibility of you reading the book. Make the cues of new habits obvious in your environment. Also when you are starting with a new habit start it in a new place so that you don't have to struggle with the old cues.


  • Step 2- Make it attractive You will have to make the habits irresistible. When you want to make a habit you have to make the opportunities more attractive. We need to make our habits attractive because it is the expectation of a rewarding experience that motivates us to act in the first place. One way of making your habits attractive is by temptation bundling. Temptation bundling- It is one way to create a heightened version of any habit by connecting it with something. Connecting a habit that you need to do with the habit which you want to do. Its formula is. After (habit I need), I will (habit I want). If you want to keep your sink clean then you will bundle it with another habit like drinking water or cleaning the dishes. So when you go to the kitchen to drink water you will instantly do the task which is bundled with it that is cleaning the sink.


  • Step 3- Make it easy Human behaviour follows the law of least effort. Lesser the effort or resistance required to perform a particular habit more is its probability. The greater the friction the less likely the habit will occur. If you are struggling with not keeping up with your habit then make the environment more resistance-free and make the habit more accessible and easy without any higher efforts. Plan your environment properly so that you make future action easier. Like you, if you have to read a book you should keep the book on your desk or where ever you work rather than keeping it on a shelf in this way you will read more books. This small change of least effort will make a huge difference as you don't have to go again and again to the shelf to pick up the book and then start reading.


  • Step 4- Make it satisfying The last step of habit formation is to make the habit more satisfying. When you receive the reward you repeat the habit. "What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided". This is the cardinal rule. Most of the tasks we perform give us delayed rewards. So if you want to make a habit of such tasks you need to make them satisfying instantly. The way we can change delayed rewards into satisfying habits is by making them more rewarding. So how can you convince yourself to read a book? By telling yourself that if I read a book I will be able to write some valuable insights or some new ideas in my blog or I can get some more content that I can add to my blog. Or If you want to make healthier living satisfying you can take a massage so that you would feel rewarded and also you will feel satisfied and also it will not be unhealthy like eating a pack of chips.

These are the simple four steps you have to take to form a habit. But if you have to break a bad habit you just have to do the exact opposite of the above steps. To break the bad habit your steps will be "Make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult, make it unsatisfying. So whenever you have to break a bad habit just follow the steps.

  • Conclusion The holy grail of habit change is not a single percent improvement but a thousand of them. It's a bunch of atomic habits which are stacking on each other. In the beginning, small improvements can seem meaningless but over time the scale of habit formation starts to move. "Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross it is a system of constant and endless improvement". The secret for the habits that last is to never stop but instead, keep moving with small improvements. Small habits don't add up they get compounded. This book contains many techniques and various examples on how to make your habits more strong and how to break bad habits. Read the book and explore the techniques on how to break bad habits because I haven't added them here. The book is a must-read for self-development and habit formation.

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