Atomic Habits by James Clear Summary

Small changes in our habits lead to big changes in our life.

Atomic Habits by James Clear Summary
Source: brainboostreading

What are atomic habits?

Imagine you board a flight from New York to Los Angeles. Before takeoff, if you shifted the trajectory of the plane by 3 degrees south, you'd end up closer to Tijuana in Mexico than Los Angeles. This small change in trajectory would have led to a big change in destination. This is the idea behind Atomic Habits. Small changes in our habits lead to big changes in our life.


Goals vs Identity

Rather than focusing on a goal (run a marathon), focus on an identity (become a "runner"). This creates longer-lasting habits. We can develop our identity by developing habits. If you play basketball every day, you will naturally begin to identify as a basketball player.


The 4 laws of making good habits:

Law 1: Make it obvious

Tactic 1: Use a habit tracker.

Tactic 2: Set a time and place to do your habit.

  • Use: "I will [behavior] at [time] in [this location]."
  • Bad example: I will read a book this month.
  • Good example: I will [read A Short Guide to Wealth] at [7:00 am] in [my living room].

Tactic 3: Make your environment conducive to your habits. If you want to practice the guitar but your guitar is kept in the basement, you'll never practice. But if you set up your environment so that your guitar is next to your desk in your room, you're much more likely to practice.

Tactic 4: To break bad habits, remove triggers. If you want to stop eating chocolate, for example, remove all of the chocolate from your house.


Law 2: Make it attractive

Tactic 1: Temptation bundling. For example, you could bundle exercise with watching Netflix. Anytime you want to watch Netflix, you only allow yourself to do it if you workout while you watch.

Tactic 2: Group influence. Get a partner to go to the gym with, for example. Another way to use group influence is to join a group where your desired behavior is normal. You could join a running club if you want to become a runner.

Tactic 3: Logically think through the long-term benefits. Before going for a run, don't think about how difficult it will be, think about the future health benefits.

Tactic 4: To break bad habits, logically think through the future negatives. Before smoking a cigarette, for instance, think about how it will damage your lungs.


Law 3: Make it easy

We are more likely to complete habits that require less effort. Are you more likely to read an entire book or one page of a book? We can get ourselves to commit to habits by making the habit easier to complete.

Tactic 1: The 2 minute rule. Instead of starting a habit as "run 5 miles a day," make the habit something that only takes 2 minutes. "Run 5 miles" becomes "put on my running shoes and stretch." Once you have your shoes on, you'll be more inclined to follow through on running.

Tactic 2: Plan properly. If your gym is 30 minutes away from your house, you have to put in a lot of effort to drive there. But if your gym is on the way home from work, that requires less effort and you are more likely to go. Proper planning would lead to you going to the gym after work.


Law 4: Make it satisfying

Tactic 1: Habits are difficult to conceptualize. We often cannot see the progress until months or years later. To help visualize your progress, try moving a paper clip from one jar to another every time you complete a habit.

Tactic 2: Mark off each habit on your calendar. This helps you conceptualize your habit chain – the consecutive days that you completed your habit.


Don't break your habit chain

“Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.” - James Clear

Every day that you continue to do your habit adds another link to your habit chain. When you have bad days and cannot complete your habits, make sure that you do not miss 2 days in a row. Missing 2 consecutive days breaks your habit chain. It is essential not to break your habit chain.

If you break your habit chain, you will lose self-esteem: "I believe deep down we all know who we are. You cannot hide anything from yourself. Your own failures are written within your psyche, and they are obvious to you. If you have too many shortcomings, you will not respect yourself. The worst outcome in this world is not having self-esteem." – Naval Ravikant

Tactic: Get an accountability partner. If you don’t do your habit, you have to pay your accountability partner $20. This motivates you to complete your habits otherwise you lose money and respect.


One-time actions that lock-in good habits:

  • Buy a water filter to clean your drinking water
  • Use smaller plates to reduce caloric intake
  • Buy a good mattress
  • Get blackout curtains
  • Remove all TV’s
  • Unsubscribe from emails
  • Turn off notifications and mute group chats
  • Put your phone on silent
  • Use email filters
  • Delete games and social media apps from your phone
  • Get a dog
  • Move to a friendly, social neighborhood
  • Get vaccinated
  • Buy good shoes to avoid back pain
  • Buy a supportive chair or standing desk
  • Enroll in an automatic savings plan
  • Set up automatic bill pay
  • End cable service
  • Ask service providers to lower your bills