Atomic Habits
Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits

What made him different from previous coaches was his relentless commitment to a strategy that he referred to as “the aggregation of marginal gains,” which was the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. Brailsford said, “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” (Location 218)

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. (Location 247)

Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat. (Location 284)

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You think, “I’ve been running every day for a month, so why can’t I see any change in my body?” Once this kind of thinking takes over, it’s easy to let good habits fall by the wayside. But in order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau—what I call the Plateau of Latent Potential. (Location 329)

When you finally break through the Plateau of Latent Potential, people will call it an overnight success. The outside world only sees the most dramatic event rather than all that preceded it. But you know that it’s the work you did long ago—when it seemed that you weren’t making any progress—that makes the jump today possible. (Location 335)

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Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. (Location 381)

Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves. (Location 395)

“Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone. (Location 401)

A systems-first mentality provides the antidote. When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. And a system can be successful in many different forms, not just the one you first envision. (Location 407)

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If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. (Location 418)

Most people don’t even consider identity change when they set out to improve. They just think, “I want to be skinny (outcome) and if I stick to this diet, then I’ll be skinny (process).” They set goals and determine the actions they should take to achieve those goals without considering the beliefs that drive their actions. They never shift the way they look at themselves, and they don’t realize that their old identity can sabotage their new plans for change. (Location 474)

Behavior that is incongruent with the self will not last. You may want more money, but if your identity is someone who consumes rather than creates, then you’ll continue to be pulled toward spending rather than earning. (Location 483)

■ The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader. ■ The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. ■ The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician. (Location 506)

Good habits can make rational sense, but if they conflict with your identity, you will fail to put them into action. (Location 534)

No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it actually is big. That’s the paradox of making small improvements. (Location 567)

It doesn’t matter if you cast a few votes for a bad behavior or an unproductive habit. Your goal is simply to win the majority of the time. (Location 580)

This is precisely what happens when a habit is formed. Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks. (Location 677)

The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them. ■ Pointing-and-Calling raises your level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level by verbalizing your actions. (Location 925)

The punch line is clear: people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.7 Too many people try to change their habits without these basic details figured out. (Location 957)

Habit stacking is a special form of an implementation intention. Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit. This method, which was created by BJ Fogg as part of his Tiny Habits program, can be used to design an obvious cue for nearly any habit.15 fn2 The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].” (Location 1011)

The key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next—a positive version of the Diderot Effect. (Location 1024)

Unlike an implementation intention, which specifically states the time and location for a given behavior, habit stacking implicitly has the time and location built into it. (Location 1055)

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it obvious. Strategies like implementation intentions and habit stacking are among the most practical ways to create obvious cues for your habits and design a clear plan for when and where to take action. (Location 1091)

People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are. (Location 1118)

Note: Also people consume content because of the ready availability of it

Eventually, I took my own advice and redesigned my environment. I bought a large display bowl and placed it in the middle of the kitchen counter. The next time I bought apples, that was where they went—out in the open where I could see them. Almost like magic, I began eating a few apples each day simply because they were obvious rather than out of sight. (Location 1173)

If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house. (Location 1182)

A few years later, I could finally afford to move to a home with a separate room for my office. Suddenly, work was something that happened “in here” and personal life was something that happened “out there.” It was easier for me to turn off the professional side of my brain when there was a clear dividing line between work life and home life. Each room had one primary use. The kitchen was for cooking. The office was for working. (Location 1225)

■ Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time. ■ Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out. (Location 1243)

The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least. It’s easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it very often. (Location 1278)

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. You may be able to resist temptation once or twice, but it’s unlikely you can muster the willpower to override your desires every time. Instead of summoning a new dose of willpower whenever you want to do the right thing, your energy would be better spent optimizing your environment. This is the secret to self-control. Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible. (Location 1316)

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supernormal stimuli. A supernormal stimulus is a heightened version of reality—like a beak with three red dots or an egg the size of a volleyball—and it elicits a stronger response than usual. Humans are also prone to fall for exaggerated versions of reality. Junk food, for example, drives our reward systems into a frenzy. After spending hundreds of thousands of years hunting and foraging for food in the wild, the human brain has evolved to place a high value on salt, sugar, and fat. Such foods are often calorie-dense and they were quite rare when our ancient ancestors were roaming the savannah. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, eating as much as possible is an excellent strategy for survival. (Location 1371)

When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it.16 Gambling addicts have a dopamine spike right before they place a bet, not after they win. Cocaine addicts get a surge of dopamine when they see the powder, not after they take it. Whenever you predict that an opportunity will be rewarding, your levels of dopamine spike in anticipation. And whenever dopamine rises, so does your motivation to act.17 It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. (Location 1433)

Your brain has far more neural circuitry allocated for wanting rewards than for liking them. (Location 1459)

It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike. ■ 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. (Location 1518)

Your culture sets your expectation for what is “normal.” Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together. (Location 1588)

The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual. For example, one study found that when a chimpanzee learns an effective way to crack nuts open as a member of one group and then switches to a new group that uses a less effective strategy, it will avoid using the superior nut cracking method just to blend in with the rest of the chimps. (Location 1629)

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Note: When you get into a new team which has substandard practices, should you follow them - in order to fit in?

When changing your habits means challenging the tribe, change is unattractive. When changing your habits means fitting in with the tribe, change is very attractive. (Location 1637)

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. ■ We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige). (Location 1660)

■ One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group. (Location 1664)

To summarize, the specific cravings you feel and habits you perform are really an attempt to address your fundamental underlying motives. Whenever a habit successfully addresses a motive, you develop a craving to do it again. In time, you learn to predict that checking social media will help you feel loved or that watching YouTube will allow you to forget your fears. Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings, and we can use this insight to our advantage rather than to our detriment. (Location 1751)

I once heard a story about a man who uses a wheelchair. When asked if it was difficult being confined, he responded, “I’m not confined to my wheelchair—I am liberated by it.5 If it wasn’t for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and never able to leave my house.” This shift in perspective completely transformed how he lived each day. (Location 1764)

Exercise. Many people associate exercise with being a challenging task that drains energy and wears you down. You can just as easily view it as a way to develop skills and build you up. Instead of telling yourself “I need to go run in the morning,” say “It’s time to build endurance and get fast.”6 (Location 1769)

Finance. Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. However, you can associate it with freedom rather than limitation if you realize one simple truth: living below your current means increases your future means. The money you save this month increases your purchasing power next month. (Location 1772)

Meditation. Anyone who has tried meditation for more than three seconds knows how frustrating it can be when the next distraction inevitably pops into your mind. You can transform frustration into delight when you realize that each interruption gives you a chance to practice returning to your breath. Distraction is a good thing because you need distractions to practice meditation. (Location 1774)

Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires. ■ The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling. (Location 1807)

Note: Meditation helps with "catching" this feeling in the light and being aware of it, so you can act differently.

Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit. (Location 1811)

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Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.1 fn1 It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.” (Location 1850)

If motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it? Sometimes we do it because we actually need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure. (Location 1863)

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it. This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in. (Location 1872)

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. (Location 1899)

In practice, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes for a habit to become automatic. What matters is that you take the actions you need to take to make progress. Whether an action is fully automatic is of less importance. (Location 1924)

The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning. ■ Focus on taking action, not being in motion. (Location 1930)

The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it. (Location 1933)

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possible. It is human nature to follow the Law of Least Effort, which states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.2 fn1 For example, expanding your farm to the east where you can grow the same crops rather than heading north where the climate is different. Out of all the possible actions we could take, the one that is realized is the one that delivers the most value for the least effort. We are motivated to do what is easy. (Location 1964)

Look at any behavior that fills up much of your life and you’ll see that it can be performed with very low levels of motivation. (Location 1973)

You don’t actually want the habit itself. What you really want is the outcome the habit delivers. The greater the obstacle—that is, the more difficult the habit—the more friction there is between you and your desired end state. This is why it is crucial to make your habits so easy that you’ll do them even when you don’t feel like it. (Location 1977)

I like to refer to this strategy as addition by subtraction.5 fn2 The Japanese companies looked for every point of friction in the manufacturing process and eliminated it. As they subtracted wasted effort, they added customers and revenue. Similarly, when we remove the points of friction that sap our time and energy, we can achieve more with less effort. (This is one reason tidying up can feel so good: we are simultaneously moving forward and lightening the cognitive load our environment places on us.) (Location 2008)

It is remarkable how little friction is required to prevent unwanted behavior. When I hide beer in the back of the fridge where I can’t see it, I drink less. When I delete social media apps from my phone, it can be weeks before I download them again and log in. These tricks are unlikely to curb a true addiction, but for many of us, a little bit of friction can be the difference between sticking with a good habit or sliding into a bad one. Imagine the cumulative impact of making dozens of these changes and living in an environment designed to make the good behaviors easier and the bad behaviors harder. (Location 2064)

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Human behavior follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. ■ Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. ■ Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy. ■ Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult. ■ Prime your environment to make future actions easier. (Location 2072)

We are limited by where our habits lead us. This is why mastering the decisive moments throughout your day is so important. Each day is made up of many moments, but it is really a few habitual choices that determine the path you take. These little choices stack up, each one setting the trajectory for how you spend the next chunk of time. (Location 2116)

Note: And its ok to make bad choices as long as you can stack up good ones.

Habits are the entry point, not the end point. They are the cab, not the gym. (Location 2118)

When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon. The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use the Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” You’ll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version: ■ “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.” ■ “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.” ■ “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.” ■ “Fold the laundry” becomes “Fold one pair of socks.” ■ “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.” (Location 2121)

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You can usually figure out the gateway habits that will lead to your desired outcome by mapping out your goals on a scale from “very easy” to “very hard.” For instance, running a marathon is very hard. Running a 5K is hard. Walking ten thousand steps is moderately difficult. Walking ten minutes is easy. And putting on your running shoes is very easy. Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes. That’s how you follow the Two-Minute Rule. (Location 2135)

The secret is to always stay below the point where it feels like work. (Location 2161)

If you show up at the gym five days in a row—even if it’s just for two minutes—you are casting votes for your new identity. You’re not worried about getting in shape. You’re focused on becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. (Location 2165)

Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward. ■ Many habits occur at decisive moments—choices that are like a fork in the road—and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one. ■ The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” ■ The more you ritualize 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. ■ Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. (Location 2182)

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If you find yourself continually struggling to follow through on your plans, then you can take a page from Victor Hugo and make your bad habits more difficult by creating what psychologists call a commitment device. (Location 2200)

Commitment devices increase the odds that you’ll do the right thing in the future by making bad habits difficult in the present. (Location 2219)

The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do. Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act. The brilliance of the cash register was that it automated ethical behavior by making stealing practically impossible. Rather than trying to change the employees, it made the preferred behavior automatic. (Location 2236)

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behavior in the future. ■ The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits. (Location 2299)

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Onetime choices—like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan—are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time. ■ Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable (Location 2302)

Behavioral economists refer to this tendency as time inconsistency. That is, the way your brain evaluates rewards is inconsistent across time.fn2 You value the present more than the future. Usually, this tendency serves us well. A reward that is certain right now is typically worth more than one that is merely possible in the future. But occasionally, our bias toward instant gratification causes problems. (Location 2421)

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If you’re willing to wait for the rewards, you’ll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded. (Location 2448)

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In summary, habit tracking (1) creates a visual cue that can remind you to act, (2) is inherently motivating because you see the progress you are making and don’t want to lose it, and (3) feels satisfying whenever you record another successful instance of your habit. Furthermore, habit tracking provides visual proof that you are casting votes for the type of person you wish to become, which is a delightful form of immediate and intrinsic gratification. (Location 2560)

Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice. If I miss one day, I try to get back into it as quickly as possible. Missing one workout happens, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with a healthy meal. I can’t be perfect, but I can avoid a second lapse. As soon as one streak ends, I get started on the next one. (Location 2593)

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you.7 It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident.8 Missing twice is the start of a new habit. (Location 2597)

In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior. (Location 2628)

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”9 Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system. (Location 2629)

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A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit—like marking an X on a calendar. ■ Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress. ■ Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive. ■ Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible. (Location 2646)

As soon as actions incur an immediate consequence, behavior begins to change. (Location 2677)

An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us. ■ A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behavior. It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful. (Location 2740)

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What feels like fun to me, but work to others? The mark of whether you are made for a task is not whether you love it but whether you can handle the pain of the task easier than most people. When are you enjoying yourself while other people are complaining? The work that hurts you less than it hurts others is the work you were made to do. (Location 2899)

What makes me lose track of time? Flow is the mental state you enter when you are so focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away.19 (Location 2901)

Where do I get greater returns than the average person? We are continually comparing ourselves to those around us, and a behavior is more likely to be satisfying when the comparison is in our favor. When I started writing at jamesclear.com, my email list grew very quickly. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing well, but I knew that results seemed to be coming faster for me than for some of my colleagues, which motivated me to keep writing. (Location 2905)

A good player works hard to win the game everyone else is playing. A great player creates a new game that favors their strengths and avoids their weaknesses. (Location 2924)

Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on. Once we realize our strengths, we know where to spend our time and energy. (Location 2936)

The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition. ■ Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle. (Location 2948)

FIGURE 15: Maximum motivation occurs when facing a challenge of just manageable difficulty. In psychology research this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, which describes the optimal level of arousal as the midpoint between boredom and anxiety.4 (Location 3000)

They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.5 In real life it’s typically not feasible to quantify the difficulty of an action in this way, but the core idea of the Goldilocks Rule remains: working on challenges of just manageable difficulty—something on the perimeter of your ability—seems crucial for maintaining motivation. (Location 3004)

“Men desire novelty to such an extent that those who are doing well wish for a change as much as those who are doing badly.”6 (Location 3029)

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work toward it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life. (Location 3054)

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. ■ As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored. ■ Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference. (Location 3066)

Habits deliver numerous benefits, but the downside is that they can lock us into our previous patterns of thinking and acting—even when the world is shifting around us. Everything is impermanent. Life is constantly changing, so you need to periodically check in to see if your old habits and beliefs are still serving you. (Location 3219)

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system. (Location 3238)

Small habits don’t add up. They compound. That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results. (Location 3270)

Peace occurs when you don’t turn your observations into problems. The first step in any behavior is observation. You notice a cue, a bit of information, an event. If you do not desire to act on what you observe, then you are at peace. (Location 3297)

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Observation without craving is the realization that you do not need to fix anything. Your desires are not running rampant. You do not crave a change in state. Your mind does not generate a problem for you to solve. You’re simply observing and existing. (Location 3299)

Being curious is better than being smart. Being motivated and curious counts for more than being smart because it leads to action. Being smart will never deliver results on its own because it doesn’t get you to act. It is desire, not intelligence, that prompts behavior. (Location 3306)

We can only be rational and logical after we have been emotional. The primary mode of the brain is to feel; the secondary mode is to think. Our first response—the fast, nonconscious portion of the brain—is optimized for feeling and anticipating. Our second response—the slow, conscious portion of the brain—is the part that does the “thinking.” Psychologists (Location 3312)

Your response tends to follow your emotions. Our thoughts and actions are rooted in what we find attractive, not necessarily in what is logical. Two people can notice the same set of facts and respond very differently because they run those facts through their unique emotional filter. (Location 3318)

Reward is on the other side of sacrifice. Response (sacrifice of energy) always precedes reward (the collection of resources). The “runner’s high” only comes after the hard run. The reward only comes after the energy is spent. (Location 3330)

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This is the wisdom behind Seneca’s famous quote, “Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more.”7 If your wants outpace your likes, you’ll always be unsatisfied. You’re perpetually putting more weight on the problem than the solution. (Location 3342)

Desire initiates. Pleasure sustains. (Location 3356)

Hope declines with experience and is replaced by acceptance. (Location 3359)

This is one reason why we continually grasp for the latest get-rich-quick or weight-loss scheme. New plans offer hope because we don’t have any experiences to ground our expectations. New strategies seem more appealing than old ones because they can have unbounded hope. As Aristotle noted, “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.”8 Perhaps this can be revised to “Youth is easily deceived because it only hopes.” There is no experience to root the expectation in. In the beginning, hope is all you have. (Location 3362)