Atomic Habits by James Clear : Book Summary

Atomic Habits by James Clear : Book summary

The high points of the book are as under 

How the habits work
How to form good habits
How to reduce bad habits
How to introduce new habits

Mainly there are two types of habits identity based and the outcome based. In the identity based habits the habits are built on the Identity of the person. The outcome based habits are based on the outcome of an action. Ex. Drinker trying to quit was offered a peg. (Identity based response) not a drinker. After quitting drinking the identity changes to sober. (Outcome based response) trying to quit drinking will create new identity.

The specific goal must be on the identity and not the outcome (ex. Goal is no to read a book but to become a reader).

4 steps of a habit




Create a Good Habit

  • Cue: Make it obvious

  1. Pointing and calling: point and call the habit while starting it.
  2. Schedule the time and the location of the task so that it will be obvious.
  3. Habit stacking: after a current habit do a new habit. The reward of the current habit is the cue for the new habit.
  4. Environment matters more than the motivation. Surrounded by good food without motivation helps better than the motivation to eat good food while surrounded by bad food. Change the environment. Ex. To reduce internet usage stop paying for subscription. To stop eating junk food remove all the junk food from home, make a shopping list while going for shopping and don’t add junk food in the list.

  • Craving: Make it attractive

  1. To make a habit irresistible, use habit stacking. Do the habit you want before the habit you need. Ex. Workout before watching TV.
  2. Role of Society: People tend to conform to other people in the circle. Make friends who has the habit that you want to have.

  • Response: Make it easy

  1. When the habit is newly started the effort to do the task is higher but after certain repetitions, the task become autonomous and the effort required reduces.
  2. The law of least effort says that we tend to do the things that require a least effort to start. If you want to work out, keep your gym cloths, equipment and water ready well ahead of time.
  3. To stop procrastinating, use 2 minute rule. Start small and make it to complete within 2 minutes. Ex. Study for class will become open the book and mark things to read. By the time you complete marking, you are in the flow and start to read and after certain repetitions you tend to complete reading before closing the book.

  • Reward: Make it satisfying

  1. Create an incentive that you get immediately after completing the task. Generally, the task that rewards immediately has huge craving and the task that punishes immediately will be avoided.

Break a Bad Habit

  • Cue: Make it Invisible

  1. Reduce the exposure by completely eliminating the cue. To stop eating junk food, ban it from home.

  • Craving: Make it unattractive

  1. The basic underlying cravings
  2. Conserve Energy
  3. Obtain food and water
  4. Find love and reproduce
  5. Connect and bond with others
  6. Win social acceptance and approval
  7. Reduce uncertainty
  8. Achieve status and prestige

All the distractions appeal to these basic cravings to make them attractive. It is easy to replace if you know what is the basic craving that is needed to be satisfied?

  • Response: Make it difficult

  1. Find one time tasks that make the habit easy or harder and do it. Ex. Create an automatic savings plan to save money. Switching off the mobile phone to avoid distractions before starting any work.

  • Reward: Make it unsatisfying

Sticking with good habits

  1. Track the habits: quantifies the work done and gives the satisfaction of doing it.
  2. Don’t miss the streak.
  3. Know when to not track habits. Ex. While losing weight, tracking the workouts, calories intake, sleep quality etc. will be motivating but tracking weight everyday can be demotivating.
  4. Accountability partner: appointing someone to police your habits and pay a punishment if the habit streak was broken.

Other tactics

  1. Personality and genes affect the habits, so choosing the profession or the habits that you have a higher odds of succeeding will get you forward. To know the habits that you have edge over others, ask the following questions.

  • What feels like fun to me but work to others?
  • What make me loss tack of time?
  • Where do I get greater returns than average person?
  • What comes naturally to me?

How to stay motivated in life?

  1. Use Goaldilocks zone: people are most motivated to do the tasks that are not too easy to do or too hard to do. When the new habit is started, keep the process as easy as possible to keep doing it. After the habit is formed and the process is automated to the subconscious mind, keep advancing the habit in small steps to keep you engaged in the work.
  2. Stay focused when you get bored: After certain time every task stops to keep you engaged and gets boring. At some point it comes down to who can handle the boring every day and show up over and over. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Draw backs of creating a habit

After creating a habit and practising religiously, you tend to master it. At this point generally the improvement tends to stop. Reflect and review the habits to make conscious improvements. The tighter we hold to an identity, the harder it is to improving beyond it.

Hope, you like the summary made by Mr.Kirit Patel, Motivational speaker in Gujarat

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