atomic habits book review

atomic habits book review

The Power of Atomic Habits

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1. Introduction: Unleashing the Potential of Atomic Habits

The philosophy of continuous improvement has been at the forefront of some breakthrough moments with James Clear. This started by reading countless self-help books, then after becoming unmotivated, the ideas from the books were put into practical action by building habits to prove the theories of behavior change. Once the idea of writing a book took place, it was decided that the most effective way to understand the topic was to become a writer. The identity change would solidify the habit. By adhering to a philosophy of continuous small improvements, the identity of “writer” was formed incrementally, rather than a sudden transformation. This resulted in the development of Atomic Habits and the culmination of research into how individuals’ systems could be improved and identity change could occur.

Clear is that we do not rise to the level of our goals. Nor do we fall to the level of our talent. We fall to the level of our systems. This brings us to an important conclusion: you do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. A clear result of this can be seen in a range of fields such as performance and result stripes are awarded not on the intended outcome, but by the systems that delivered them. For example, the UK cycling team experienced a remarkable turnaround, improving from a lowly performance at the previous Olympics to win 7 out of 10 possible gold medals.

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. In this book, you’ll get a proven plan that can take you to new heights.

2. The Four Laws of Habit Transformation

Law 4: Make it satisfying. An action should be very satisfying for it to repeat. As satisfaction is derived from a finished completion, it is not very helpful in the context of a habit. It is crucial to employ some form of reinforcement immediately after the action in question. This is essentially adding to the overall satisfaction of the action and will increase the likelihood of its repetition. This reinforced satisfaction will solidify said action as a habit.

Law 3: Make it easy. The inverse of this law is the more difficult an action is, the less likely it is to occur. A person will begin to do what is convenient and easy if this behavior is more satisfying than a more difficult one. A simple and practical approach to overcoming this law is to begin the desired habit in very small steps. As the habit becomes more and more established, its complexity/repetition can gradually increase.

Law 2: Make it attractive. Any action is 4 times more attractive if it is immediately satisfying. Therefore, the addition of a rewarding experience to the end of an action will make it seem more attractive. In opposition, the more immediate the consequences for a bad habit, the more unattractive it will usually be. It is possible to make a bad habit seem unattractive to the point where it is no longer a part of the person’s life.

Law 1: Make it obvious. Habits are initiated by a cue and must be obvious. Make the desired action easily accessible. Conversely, make any cue for an unhealthy action difficult to see. The implementation of this law requires an understanding of current habitual tendencies.

3. Building a Foundation: The Importance of Identity

Imagine that you have a bowl of boiling water and you place a carrot, an egg, and a tea bag into the pot. The carrot goes in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it comes out mushy and weak. The egg is fragile and its thin outer layer protects the fluid inside. However, after sitting in the boiling water, its inside becomes hardened. The tea bag actually changes the water. The longer it sits in the hot water, the better the water tastes. In this scenario, the boiling water is the environment, the carrot is the initial state of the individual before exposure to a detrimental outside force. The heat is the force acting upon the individual, boiling on high for the first time surrounding the individual in said force. The carrot comes out weakened. Clearly the carrot represents someone who doesn’t adapt well to a negative environment with detrimental social forces. The egg is the same individual after exposure to the negative force, only this time around the individual has acquired more sureness about themselves. They have become harder in this facet of their personality, so as to better protect themselves. This is hardly an effective means of surviving in the negative environment, and is unsatisfactory. This person has not become the best version of themselves, and has only succeeded in preventing further damage. Finally the tea bag represents someone who is capable of changing the very environment itself. At the lowest point in his life, this individual is able to learn, adapt and overcome and with time and effort he manage to evoke change on both the forces within himself, and the forces acting upon him. He becomes the very force he previously struggled against; turning what was once a destructive cycle a positive cycle of self-reinforcement. His identity has changed, for the better. He now embodies what he wishes to become, what he should become, and is fortified against any similar negative forces. This individual has succeeded in building an identity-based habit. A habit that will change him, what he does, and how he does it.

4. Making Habits Stick: Practical Strategies for Success

If it is possible, find a way to automate the habits. This takes out the thought process and decision making of whether or not you will do it. Simply pre-plan your actions. Prep your meals for a new diet, lay out your workout clothes the day before, etc. Reduce the friction it takes to complete the task. This can also be seen in an opposite manner with a habit you are trying to quit, make it more difficult to perform. Remove the batteries from the remote if you watch too much TV. Being out of sight and out of mind is a very powerful thing.

Never ever miss twice. This is a general rule for creating a new habit. If you somehow manage to miss a day, the next day act as if it were the first day in trying to form this habit. This will help the habit and idea of the self-betterment stick and it’s okay to miss one here and there.

Start by making sure you adhere to the daily thought of the habit you are trying to form. Utilize a calendar and place a red X on each day that the habit is complete. This creates a chain and after some time, you will have a sense of not wanting to break that chain. As this chain gets longer and you get the feeling of accomplishment when you see your progress.

5. Achieving Extraordinary Results: Leveraging Atomic Habits

These small changes may seem insignificant in the moment, but over time they compound and lead to a radical difference in behavior. Using the same 1 percent rule, you can improve a habit that is declined 1 percent every day. If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. What looks like a small step now will lead to a significant change over time. This is the problem with a goals-first mentality. You’re focused on the destination. But when you fall in love with the process, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. And a change is easy to make and easy to affirm. Crimson gold plume and milkweed have broken my heart. I always try to keep it simple and think of a habit as a two-step process. Step 1 is the cue. An easy and obvious trigger that tells your brain to begin a behavior. Step 2 is the craving. This is the motivation behind the act. It’s the why. The purpose of every habit is to solve a problem. It is the craving that leads to a response which eventually leads to a reward. The 2nd law of behavior change is to make it attractive. The more attractive it is, the more a person is motivated to do it. You can make cues and cravings attractive, but the best way to do so is to associate them with a positive feeling or emotion. The more instantaneous pleasure you get, the more likely you are to enjoy the habit. Generally, it is a human behavior to judge immediate pleasure as a positive act and an instant pain as a negative act. Personally, it’s not a very good way to judge things, but it’s the way that our brains have evolved to behave. The best way to do this is to create a motivational ritual. I wrote a post on one way to create a motivational ritual which you can check out here. Come take my E course to have it taught to you in extreme detail. In the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” author Amy Chua describes how she used a study to cultivate a great love of music in her children. She told them to practice their music for 30 minutes today. If after the 30 minutes you’re done and you don’t want to play anymore, then we’ll quit and have ice cream. According to Chua, her daughter never once quit after 30 minutes and never once chose to have ice cream over continuing to play her instrument. Chua created an attractive habit in her children to practice music because the immediate pleasure for her daughter didn’t come from stopping playing the instrument and eating the ice cream, it came from playing the instrument itself.

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