Atomic habits by James Clear book summary and notes

Top 3 take aways from the book:

  1. There is a simple formula that can be applied to any part of your life when creating good a habit or breaking a bad one.
  2. To change your identity for the better, you need to make small incremental improvements not builder painter life changing results.
  3. Success is the journey, not the outcome.

My thoughts:

not only does this book teach you about productivity, but also the long term journey of success and how it is built through atomic habits.

I love how this book gives you actionable tips on how you can put these concepts into practice in your own life, as well as the end of chapter summaries which help you remember them in short And concise detail.

Who should read this book:

the value in this book can be pretty much applied to anybody who wants to change their life for the better by using atomic habits as their system for improving, however, there are some instances where I can see it would be more beneficial for certain people. Such as:

  • people who are sick and tired of setting New Year's resolutions and not achieving them.
  • People who know they are indulging in bad habits but don't know how to change.
  • People who want to continuously improve.

How the book changed me:

This book helped me have a much deeper understanding of how habits are created and destroyed, allowing me to take this concept into my own life. This has allowed me to:

  • become more aware of where my habits come from in the first place.
  • create the habit of reading at least a chapter of a book and learning Spanish every single day whilst maintaining my usual workflow.
  • Focus on the micro actions I can take to achieve the macro results i want to have.

Top 5 quotes by James Clear:

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.

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 goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to spend the whole game staring at the scoreboard.

Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Book notes:

I'll now go over a summary of the key concepts and golden nuggets that I have taken from this book and how it can be applied.

Goals vs systems

To fully understand how you can use atomic habits to create success in your life, you firstly need to understand the difference between goals and systems.

  • A goal is a target that you are aiming to achieve a specific result, usually within a set amount of time and can be measured or quantified.
  • A system is a process that can be habitually followed by taking a repeatable set of actions consistently, these micro steps build up to macro results through continuous improvement.

Goals are great for setting a direction but a system will take you to where you want to go.

Why are systems better than goals?

There are many reasons why systems are better than goals, one of these being that using a system allows you to constantly grow with no limitations, whereas with a goal there is an end result and once it is achieved there is no next step to develop further.

Let’s say you're going to compete in a marathon, your goal would be to cross the finish line, not only might you not complete the race and become a failure but even if you do, what happens next? Do you become a couch potato? With a system there is no finish line and you will be able to run to your hearts content.

small habit compounding for big results

we often believe that to become succesful we have to take massive action towards our goals but in actual fact, most progress is made by making tiny changes to our life that build up over time.

to put this into perspective, if you become 1% better every day for a whole year, this will compound and equate to a 37.78 improvement overall.

these small improvements take a long time to amount to anything significant and often go unnoticed compared to a drastic change which is expected, this area in between what is expected and what is true James likes to call the valley of disappointed, which can easily deter people from sticking to a habit.

A graph showing the Valley of disappointment = the difference between linear progress and 1 percent improvement.

The idea of small incremental changes having a huge impact is not new, These 1% changes can be seen in the Kaizen method, which is a productivity system used by Toyota and many more.

How to create an atomic habit (simple formula)

an atomic habit is a small, yet effective way of making change. The formula for creating an atomic habit consists of four key characteristics:

  • Cue
  • Craving
  • Response
  • Reward

This process that helps you stick to your habits, is commonly known as the habit loop.

habit loop showcasing the 4 stages of habit from: cue, craving, response and reward

If you look at any of your habits, good or bad, it will consist of these four components, Let's take a deeper look into each individual one.

Habit cue

a habit cue is the initial triggering factor in a habit loop, that sets off the actions that will proceed it. These triggers have a chain reaction on what will happen next. There are five main forms of a Habit cue:

  • time
  • location
  • emotional state
  • other people
  • proceeding an action

An example of this could be Waking up... At a certain time you have set your alarm clock will go off, waking you up and then forcing you to get out of bed to turn it off.

Habit craving

craving is the 2nd part of the habit loop. It focuses on desire and what you want to get out of completing that habit. They are the motivating factor that push us towards taking action. Without craving, there would be no ambition to pursue a goal. On the other hand, when we crave something, we will stop for almost nothing to achieve it.

An example of this could be learning Spanish because you want to be able to talk to the beautiful senorita’s (definitely not why I'm learning Spanish!).

Habit Response

the habit response is the penultimate stage of the habit loop. Otherwise referred to as the routine, this is the part where you actually take action in response to your triggering cue and your craving for whatever it is that you want.

The example for this would be, after the cue of your phone ringing and the craving to want to find out who was ringing you, you would then respond by looking at your phone to see who it was.

Habit reward

rewards are the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to habit formation. Rewards are the byproduct of what you get out of taking action and usually have a direct link to your cravings as they are solving the problem. Not only do they make you feel satisfied, they also make you more likely to repeat the habit again, rewards are what makes habits stick.

For example, if you feel sad and are craving social status, you might upload a picture on social media, and then the reward would be the rush when people engaging with it. Over time your rewards get associated with cues so in this case when you feel sad, you want likes and comments to feel happy again.

how to apply atomic habits to your life (advanced formula)

It's all well and good knowing how to create a habit loop, but the positive impact on your life comes when you learn to put it in a real world scenario.

So you have your habit loop; cue, craving, response and reward.

How do you turn this into an actionable step-by-step process?

habit loop into step by step formula: cue make it obvious, craving make it attractive, response make it easy and reward make it satisfying

You make your cues obvious, you make your cravings attractive you make your response easy to accomplish and you make your rewards satisfying.

Make it obvious.

Habits are an automatic process that we are often unaware of. If you want to create or change a habit, you need to make it obvious for yourself.

one way that I like to do this is by setting timers that will alert me when I need to engage in a certain behaviour.

Make it attractive.

Making a habit attractive gives us the motivation and willpower to practice them, Unfortunately, most good habits aren't actually that enjoyable and can put us off taking action.

The way that I like to combat this is by doing something that I enjoy whilst also doing the habit that I find hard, James calls this temptation bundling.

I like to watch and listen to podcasts whilst I am exercising.

Make it easy.

making a habit easy, means that you are more inclined to do it. This is because there is less friction from where you are and where you have to be.

In my case I write these blogs for you guys to enjoy However, sometimes when I'm starting to write them, they can become very daunting, to make it easier, I break it down into smaller chunks and then I start with just one single paragraph.

Make it satisfying.

When your brain experiences pleasure after completing a habit, the more likely it is to repeat the action the next time, this is why you need to make your positive habits as rewarding as possible.

A quick and easy way to achieve this is with a habit tracker, Just the simple act of checking off your tasks can be very rewarding.

these were the most valuable lessons I gained from atomic habits.

There is so much more value in this book that I couldn't write all of it in this post, from how your identity plays a huge roll in your behaviour, To how to make things obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.

This is why I strongly suggest that you invest in this book.

 Atomic habits by James Clear

James also has a website with lots of valuable information on habits which you can check out here.

Some of the links in this blog may be affiliate links which means if you make purchase on a product, I will make a commission of it but, IT WILL NOT be at an extra cost to you. Any money I make through this is put towards the upkeep and improvement of this blog. Thank you in advance, Jake.

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