Chapter Review of Atomic Habits by James Clear
‘Small but consistent habits’.
I always saw this book every time I went to one of my favorite book stores and decided to give it a read. It took a while before I actually read it but when I did I reaped maximumly. Writing book reviews in the form of sharing what I have learned from them is going to be a habit that I build. This will act as a memento of the books I read.
This article will highlight the things I picked up based on each chapter.
Be my guest!
Chapter One: The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits
The chapter takes us through why systems/processes should be the things that matter instead of goals. Goals can be achieved but you need to have a plan after the goal is achieved. An emphasis is also made on the compound interest of habits. Developing habits is not a magic trick, it takes some time. To see results you need to be patient.
Chapter Two: How Your Habits Shape Your Identity
Changing habits becomes a challenge because we either try to change the wrong thing or we try to change our habits the wrong way. Habits mean more to us when they are woven into our identities.
A true habit change is a change in our identity. Making progress means unlearning and learning new things about ourselves. Habits get results, but the most important thing is learning how to trust ourselves and believe that we can actually get things done.
Most days will be days where you get to live up to your habits, but do not let it happen twice when you slip up. Choosing to change includes two simple steps:
- Deciding the type of person you want to be,
- Proving it to yourself every day with small wins.
Identities are not written on stones so you can easily choose who you want to be through the choices you make each and every moment.
Chapter Three: How To Build Better Habits in Four Simple Steps
Habits are behaviors repeated so many times that it becomes autonomous.
Steps to build a habit:
- Cue: what triggers your brain to initiate behavior
- Cravings: the desire to change
- Response: the thoughtful action
- Rewards: the end goal of every habit
The main reason we chase rewards is that they satisfy us and teach us things about ourselves.
Chapter Four: The Man Who Did Not Look Right
1st Law: Make it obvious
Habits are often unconscious and that means that if we want to change our habits we need to be aware of them.
To make you aware of the habits that you have you can use a point and call system. This is where you call out your habits and make yourself aware of them.
You can also make a list of your habits by creating a habit scorecard where everything that is: good you add a “+” sign, if it's bad, “-” sign and in case of being neutral “=” sign.
To determine how to rate a particular habit you can use the following questions:
- Does this behavior help me become the person I wish to be?
- Does this habit cast a vote against/for my desired identity?
When coming up with a habit scorecard do not praise yourself or judge yourself. Desist from this, the point is to be aware of the cues and triggers of your habits to be able to respond in a way that benefits you.
Chapter Five: Best Way To Start A Habit
An implementation intention is where you make a plan beforehand about when and where to act. This makes it easier since you do not have to think about it just follow through with your plan, no motivation is required.
A template you can use for this is:
“ I will [Behavior] at [Time] in [Location]”
Tying your habit change to the first of something in terms of date, day, month week, etc is ideal since during those times we are very hopeful. A fresh start always feels motivating.
Specificity about what you want and how you want to achieve it protects you from things that may distract your attention. Tie your desired behavior to something you do every day in order to take advantage of the natural momentum of things.
Chapter Six: Motivation Is Overrated, The Environment Often Matters Most
Make the cue to your habit part of your environment to create visibility. Things that are not visible can easily be missed.
You can change your environment by rearranging your current one or getting a new environment. Implement one environment one use.
Make the cues of your habit available all through your environment so that you can think of them and make them the obvious choice.
To create behaviors that are stable and predictable you need an environment that is stable and predictable.
Chapter Seven: The Secret To Self Control
Self-controlled people are those that need to use it least. To improve discipline is to create a more disciplined environment. The simplest way to break a bad habit is to reduce your exposure to the cue causing the bad habit.
Self-control is a short-term strategy, you may resist but eventually, you will give in. Instead of struggling to get the energy to desist, you may easily make good habits cues obvious while making bad habits invisible.
Chapter Eight: How To Make A Habit Irresistible
2nd Law: Make It Attractive
Dopamine is associated with pleasure and plays a huge role in neurological processes. Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. Dopamine is released when you experience pleasure as well as anticipate it. Our habits need to be attractive because the rewarding experience motivates us to act in the first place, the craving leads to the response.
Temptation bundling is linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do. To make your habits attractive use temptation bundling.
Chapter Nine: The Role Of Family and Friends In shaping Your Habits
Everyone wants to fit in and earn respect from their peers. This can be a good thing when the people around you enable you to make improvements in your life. Equally, it can be a bad thing if they enable you to do the wrong thing, mostly because most of the time you would rather be wrong with the crowd than right by yourself.
Chapter Ten: How To Find And Fix Causes Of Your Bad Habits
Desire is the difference between where you want to be and where you are now.
Habits are considered as the solutions to ancient desires. Habits become attractive when we associate them with positive feelings.
Chapter 11: Walk Slowly But Never Backwards
3rd Law: Make It Easy
Make it easy to perform your repetitions by leaving clues. You may get stuck in feeling like you are making progress but you are not.
Motion and action sound similar but are very different. When you are in motion, you’re planning, strategizing, and learning, which don't produce a result while action produces an outcome. Motion makes you feel like you are making progress which is good but when it becomes a form of procrastination, you need to start practicing.
The best is the enemy of good -Voltaire
Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about it, making it seem effortless. Habits form based on frequency, not time. The number of times you have performed a habit is more important than the amount of time you have been performing it.
Take action to produce an outcome.
Progress over perfection.
Chapter 12: The Law Of Least Effort
Environmental design is an effective way to reduce the friction associated with your habits. Creating an environment where performing is the habit is the most obvious and as easy as possible.
Create an environment where it is easier to make future actions. Redesign your life so that actions that matter the most are the easiest to do.
Chapter 13: How To Stop Procrastinating By Using The Two-Minute Rule
When starting a new habit it should take less than two minutes to do. The idea behind this is to make your habits possible to start. The key thing is to master the habit of showing up. Instead of trying to engineer the best habit to start to do the easier thing on a more consistent basis, standardize before you can optimize.
Doing one thing is better than doing nothing at all.
After establishing a habit you can move up to habit shaping to scale up then repeat.
The more you ritualized the beginning of a process the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.
Chapter 14: How To Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible
Make your bad habits difficult to do, or whatever you are trying to break from making it near impossible to do. Starve your bad habits.
A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. For example, getting into a savings plan that automatically charges your account to be able to build a savings habit. Technology has made it easier to build habits by having apps for habit tracking. To lock in a future behavior rather than relying on willpower use automation.
Chapter 15: The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change
4th Law: Make it satisfying
The cardinal rule of behavior change is the more satisfying the behavior is the more it is repeated. When a behavior is satisfying it is more likely to be repeated. The cost of your good habit is in the present while the cost of your bad habit is in the future.
Success requires you to ignore an immediate reward in favor of a delayed reward. Immediate reinforcement helps maintain motivation in the short term while waiting for long-term rewards to arrive. Make your habits enjoyable if you want them to last.
Chapter 16: How To Stick With Good Habits Every day
You can use habit trackers. This makes it visual which provides clear evidence of your progress.
This is beneficial because:
- you are less likely to lie to yourself because it is obvious and visual,
- for motivation to show you that you are moving forward, in other words, progress,
- satisfying that you performed a habit,
- keeps you focused on the process than the end result.
How to recover quickly when your habits break down
The first mistake is never the one that ruins but the spiral of mistakes that follows. Missing twice is a form of a new habit. Show up even when you do not feel like it, this is because showing up reaffirms who you are though it may not improve your performance.
Do not be consumed by measurements, let them guide you and add context to a larger picture. Measurements are as important as things that cannot be measured.
Chapter 17: How An Accountability Partner Can Change Everything
An accountability partner creates an immediate cost to inaction. We care about how others think about us and we do not want them to think less of us. Which is a good motivation factor. Knowing someone is watching is a powerful motivator. Create a habit contract to add immediate cost.
Chapter 18: The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter And When They Don’t)
In order to make the most out of your odds of success, you need to choose the right field of competition. Habits are easier to perform when they align with your natural inclinations and abilities.
Competence is dependent on context -James Clear
Genes determine your areas of opportunity. They predispose but do not predetermine your habits. Your personality plays a huge role in building your habits.
To explore options of what habits you would like to build you can use the following questions:
- What feels fun to you but work to others?
- What makes you lose track of time?
- Where do you get greater returns than the average person?
- What comes naturally to you?
The difference between good and great players is that good players work hard to win the game everyone is playing while great players create new games that favor their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.
The more you practice and master a specific skill the harder it becomes for others to compete with you.
Work hard on things that are easy for you.
Chapter 19: The Goldilocks Rule: How To Stay Motivated In Life and Work
The Goldilocks rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, not too easy, just right.
When creating a new habit it's advisable to keep the behavior as easy as possible so that you are able to stick with it even when the conditions are not perfect. However, when the habit sticks it's vital to advance it in small ways.
Improvement is a delicate balance where you push yourself to the edge whilst still making progress to stay motivated.
The difference between good and great is the great finds a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom. Fall in love with boredom.
To achieve remarkable results you need to do the work despite the inconveniences.
The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over again -James Clear
Change 20: The Downside Of Creating Good Habits
Habits are necessary but not sufficient for mastery. Habits coupled with deliberate practice equate to mastery. When you have the momentum and feel like you have mastered the skill you begin to be complacent. To avoid this you need to create a system for reflection and review.
Sustaining an effort is the most important thing for any enterprise. The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, then do them the same way every time. Pat Riley — NBA Legend
Reflection and review create awareness of your mistakes and help you consider paths for improvement as well as ensure that you spend time on the right things.
The Secret To Results That Last
Success is an endless process to refine. The secret to getting lasting results is by making improvements.
ITS REMARKABLE WHAT YOU CAN DO BUILD IF YOU JUST DON’T STOP -James Clear
My Take on the Book
I liked that the book was easy to read especially in the separation of the author’s thoughts. I liked how the ideas flowed from the laws, stories involved, and each concept's impact. Completing the book is actually really easy because you can easily finish two chapters in one sitting.
I also liked the links at the end to various templates, summaries of takeaways at the end of the chapter, and the chapter's table illustrations.
Was it worth it? Definitely, you get to learn something new, this book encourages you to start small, and iterate from there making big changes into small ones makes them less scary.
This book allows you to put focus on the process and not just on the output. It allows you to understand that processes are important to attain remarkable results.
Take a chance and read it for yourself here