Atomic Habits Book Summary/Notes

Tiny improvements/habits compound over time and can have dramatic positive effects. (Patience is key, small changes often appear to make no difference until a critical threshold is crossed).

Example – ice cube doesn’t start melting until it reaches 32 degrees, so at 31 degrees and below nothing changes.

Try to get 1% better each day.

Focus on systems/processes to get results, not goals. Achieving a goal is not just about setting one, and once you achieve it then what?

True long term thinking is goal less thinking, it’s not about any single accomplishment, but rather constant and never ending improvement.

Commitment to the process determines progress.

In order for a habit to stick, it needs to be part of your identity. Most people focus on outcome based habits such as a goal they want to accomplish, but you must focus on identity based habits and who you want to become.

It’s hard to change a habit if you never change the underlying belief that led to creating this past habit/behavior.

Research shows that once a person believes in a particular aspect of their identity they’re more likely to act in alignment with that belief.

The stronger the belief (I’m not a morning person, I’m bad with directions, I’m always late, etc), the more you’ll do everything in your power to maintain that self image.

Two step process to changing your identity

The word Identity is derived from Latin and means “repeated beingness”

New identities require new evidence that can then be used to reinforce that you are capable of being this person if you continue to perform the habits.

1 – decide the type of person you want to be (who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?)
2 – prove it to yourself with small wins

The focus should always be on becoming that type of person not on achieving a specific outcome.

4 steps of habit formation

Cue – a bit of information/signal your brain receives
Craving – the motivation to want to act on it
Response – the actual habit in action
Reward – the pleasure received from taking the action

4 laws of behavior change

Make it obvious
Make it attractive
Make it easy
Make it satisfying

Implementation intention – a plan you make beforehand about when and where you will act out a certain goal/implement a particular habit.

The most common cues that trigger a habit are time and location.

When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.

I will (behavior) at (time) in (location).

Research shows that people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through with it. **setting the start date for action at the first day of the week/month is beneficial as it’s when hope is higher for people.

It’s not a lack of motivation, but a lack of clarity!

Habit stacking – a special form of an implementation intention. Start by identifying a current habit you do daily and stack your new behavior on top of it, the key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day (this allows you to create a set of simple rules that guide your future behavior).

Make sure the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.

(behaviors don’t happen in isolation, each action becomes a cue that triggers the next behavior. Ex- going to the bathroom leads to washing hands which leads to throwing dirty clothes in the hamper, etc).

Habit stacking formula

After (current habit) I will (new habit).

Advanced stacking based on situations:

Mood. When the phone rings, I will take one deep breath and smile before answering.

Phone. When I grab my phone just to do so, ask myself if it’s necessary to use it right now.

Minimalism. When I buy a new item, I will give something away.

Inversion of make it obvious is make it invisible.

The secret to self control is to optimize your environment so that the cues/triggers that lead to a bad habit are removed from the equation (reduce exposure to the cue), leading to you not acting out the habit. Willpower is short term, focus on tweaking your environment for long term.

People with high self control tend to spend less time in tempting situation. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.

Repetition of an action is what leads to the creation of a habit, which then becomes automatic on an unconscious level.

When you repeat a habit it leads to physical changes in the brain to become efficient at the activity, called long term potentiation, strengthening of connections between neurons. “Neurons that fire together wire together”.

Habits form based on frequency, not time.

Human brain is similar in size to our ancestors from 200k years ago. It hasn’t developed for the modern day. It’s still wired to living in an immediate return environment (finding food, shelter/protection) versus present day which is a delayed return environment (you can smoke today but might not feel the long term effects for decades).

This leads to time inconsistency, where our brains evaluation of rewards is inconsistent across time. We value the present more than the future. The cost of good habits are in the present, the cost of bad ones are in the future.

What is immediately rewarded is repeated, what is immediately punished is avoided. We must focus on delayed gratification versus instant.

To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful even if it’s in a small way. By making it satisfying and rewarding yourself at the end of performing the habit, it increases the odds that the behavior will be repeated next time.

Use a habit tracker to provide clear evidence of your progress, leading to a satisfying feeling. Never miss a habit twice in a row!

We need to build habits that work for our unique personalities, where we have an advantage. What comes easy to you? Where do you feel like you make progress rapidly and receive positive feedback?

Goldilocks rule – a way to maintain peak motivation (flow state) by working on tasks right on the edge of their abilities, of just manageable difficulty, not too easy or too hard.