My Key Takeaways from the James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”

📢 Some Interesting Ideas that Caught My Eyes:

A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination. Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant at the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be. Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. 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.

Habits fundamentally are not about having or achieving something, they are about becoming someone – ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be.

Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it. In fact, people who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom.

On identity:

Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe. Previously, you were on your own. Your identity was singular. You are a reader. You are a musician. You are an athlete. When you join a book club or a band or a cycling group, your identity becomes linked to those around you. It transforms a personal quest into a shared one. Growth and change are no longer an individual pursuit. We are readers. We are musicians. We are cyclists. The shared identity begins to reinforce your personal identity.

When you spend your whole life defining yourself in one way and that disappears, who are you now? To mitigate the loss of your identity, you’ll need to redefine yourself in such a way that would enable you to keep important aspects of your identity even if your particular job/role changes. For example, “I’m the CEO” translates to “I’m the type of person who builds and creates things”, or “I’m an athlete” becomes “I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge.”

In the beginning, repeating a habit is essential to build up evidence of your desired identity.

On personality:

Genes do not determine your destiny. They determine your areas of opportunity. The areas where you are genetically predisposed to success are the areas where habits are more likely to be satisfying. The key is to direct your effort towards areas that both excite and match your natural skills, to align your ambition with your ability.

There is a strong genetic component to how obedient or rebellious you are when facing authority, how vulnerable or resistant you are to stressful events, how proactive or reactive you tend to be, and even how captivated or bored you feel during sensory experiences.

Bundled together, your unique cluster of genetic traits predisposes you to a particular personality (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism). You should build habits that work for your personality. Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities that’s why you should always choose the habits that best suit you.

There are a series of questions you can ask yourself to continuously narrow in on the habits and areas that will be most satisfying to you:

  • What feels like fun to me, but work to others?
  • What makes me lose track of time?
  • Where do I get greater returns than the average person?
  • What comes naturally to me?

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right. Scientists found that to achieve a state of flow (the experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in the activity), a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.

You can’t repeat the same things blindly and expect to become exceptional. Habits are necessary, but not sufficient for mastery. What you need is a combination of automatic habits and deliberate practice. To become great, certain skills do need to become automatic.

The process of mastery requires that you progressively layer improvements on top of one another, each habit building upon the last until a new level of performance has been reached and a higher range of skills has been internalised.

⭐ My Highlights on Habit Building & 4 Laws of Behaviour Change

A Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to give little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.

In order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau.

The results of our efforts are often delayed. It is not until months or years later that we realise the true value of the previous work we have done.

An atomic habit is a little habit that is part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.

Forget about goals, focus on systems instead: goals are about the results you want to achieve, systems are about the processes that lead to those results. For example, if you are an entrepreneur, your goal might be to build a million-dollar business. Your system is how you test product ideas, hire employees, and run marketing campaigns.

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.

  • Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. 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. Fix the inputs and outputs will fix themselves.
  • The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.

How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

There are 3 layers of behavioural change:

The first layer is changing your outcomes: This level is concerned with changing your results (losing weight or publishing a book).

The second layer is changing your process: This level is concerned with changing your habits and systems – implementing a new routine at the gym or decluttering your desk for better workflow.

The third layer is changing your identity: This level is concerned with changing your beliefs, your worldview, your self-image, and your judgments about yourself and others.

Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. Instead, we should focus on who we want to become.

The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.

True behaviour change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity:

  • 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.

Research has shown that once a person believes in a particular aspect of their identity, they are more likely to act in alignment with that belief.

You can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs and to upgrade and expand your identity.

The more you repeat a behaviour, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behaviour. The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.

The effect of habits gets reinforced with time, which means your habits contribute most of the evidence that shapes your identity. In this way, the process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.

New identities require new evidence. If you keep casting the same votes you’ve always cast, you’re going to get the same results you’ve always had. If nothing changes, nothing is going to change. It is a simple two-step process:

1 )Decide the type of person you want to be: What do you want to stand for? What are your principles and values? What do you wish to become? As yourself, “Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?”

  1. Prove it to yourself with small wins: once you have a handle on the type of person you want to be, you can begin taking small steps to reinforce your desired identity.

How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps:

A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.

All habits proceed through four stages in the same order: cue, craving, response, and reward.

What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers (you do not crave smoking a cigarette, you crave the feeling of relief it provides).

Cues are meaningless until they are interpreted. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the observer are what transform a cue into a craving.

The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behaviour.

Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: 1) they satisfy us and 2) they teach us.

If a behaviour is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit.

The 4 laws of behaviour change:

The 1st law (cue): make it obvious

The 2nd law (craving): make it attractive

The 3rd law (response): make it easy

The 4th law (reward): make it satisfying

These simple set of rules can also be used to break a bad habit:

Inversion of the 1st law (cue): make it invisible

Inversion of the 2nd law (craving): make it unattractive

Inversion of the 3rd law (response): make it difficult

Inversion of the 4th law (reward): make it unsatisfying

Whenever you want to change your behaviour, you can simply ask yourself:

  1. How can I make it obvious?
  2. How can I make it attractive?
  3. How can I make it easy?
  4. How can I make it satisfying?


1️⃣ The 1st Law: Make it Obvious

Write down all of your current habits to become aware of them. Then mark each of them as either positive, negative or neutral – this will allow you to see how many of your habits are positive and should be kept, and how many are negative that should be removed from your life. Neutral habits can stay or be replaced with better habits.

The two most common cues are time and location. Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location:

  • The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOUR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

You can also use a habit stacking strategy, where you pair a new habit with your current habit:

  • The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment. The most persistent behaviours usually have multiple cues. You can and should alter the space you live and work at to increase exposure to positive cues and reduce your exposure to negative ones. Environment design allows you to take back control and become the architect of your life.

One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that caused it. Remove a single cue from your environment and the entire habit often fades away.


2️⃣ The 2nd Law: Make it Attractive

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming. 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. You’re more likely to find a behaviour attractive if you get to do one of your favourite things at the same time. The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is:

  • After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED].
  • After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].

The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits:

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular:

  1. Imitating the Close – we pick up habits from the people around us. We copy the way our parents handle arguments, the way our peers flirt with one another, the way our coworkers get results.

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day. If you’re surrounded by fit people, you’re more likely to consider working out to be a common habit. Join a culture where 1) your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour and 2) you already have something in common with the group.

  1. Imitating the Many – wherever we are unsure how to act, we look at the group to guide our behaviour. The downside is that the normal behaviour of the tribe often overpowers the desired behaviour of the individual.

The reward of being accepted is often greater than the reward of winning an argument, looking smart, or finding truth. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves. 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.

  1. Imitating the Powerful – humans everywhere pursue power, prestige, and status. Once we fit it, we start looking for ways to stand out. This is one reason why we care so much about the habits of highly effective people. We try to copy the behaviour of successful people because we desire success ourselves. Many of our daily habits are imitations of people we admire.

How to Find and Fix The Causes of Your Bad Habits:

Reframing your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks is a fast and lightweight way to reprogram your mind and make a habit seem more attractive. So, highlighting the benefits of AVOIDING a bad habit will make it more unattractive.

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.


3️⃣ The 3rd Law: Make it Easy

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get things done. When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practising.

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection (in other words, taking action rather than just being in motion).

The more you repeat an activity, the more the structure of your brain changes to become efficient at that activity. This means that simply putting in your reps is one of the most critical steps you can take to encode a new habit – habits form based on frequency, not time.

To build a habit, you need to practice it. And the most effective way to make practice happen is to adhere to the 3rd Law of Behaviour Change: make it easy,

The Law of Least Effort

The greater the obstacle (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. If you can make your habit more convenient, you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practise environment design – optimising your environment to make actions easier. Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your daily routine.

Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with our bad habits.

Prime The Environment For Future Use

Whenever you organise a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy. E.g if you want to exercise more, set out your workout clothes and gym bag ahead of time.

Whether you are approaching behaviour change as an individual, ask: “How can I design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right?” Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.

How To Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-minute Rule

Habits are automatic choices that influence the conscious decisions that follow. A habit can be completed in just a few seconds, but it can also shape the actions that you take for minutes or hours afterwards.

When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon. To counteract this, you can try using Two-Minute Rule, which stated, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” Nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version, e.g. reading before bed each night can become reading one page before bed each night.

A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down to a more productive habit.

Strategies like this will enable you to reinforce the identity you want to build. 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 are not worried about getting in shape. You’re focused on becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. You’re taking the smallest action that confirms the type of person you want to be.

Eventually, you will be able to combine this Two-Minute rule with a technique called Habit Shaping to scale your habits back up toward your ultimate goal. For example, if you want to become eating animal products, you can start by eating vegetables at each meal. Once you get used to it, stop eating animals with four legs. Then, stop eating animals with two legs. Once you get used to this again, stop eating animals with no legs until you are comfortable to stop eating all animal products altogether.

Decisive Moments

Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. The moments can be called decisive moments. Each day is made up of many moments, but it is really a few 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.

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.


4️⃣ The 4th Law: Make it Satisfying

The Cardinal Rule of Behaviour Change

The fourth law of behaviour change – make it satisfying – increases the odds that a behaviour will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop.

Every habit produces multiple outcomes across time. With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good.

Thankfully, it’s possible to train yourself to delay gratification and the best way to do this is to add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little of immediate pain to ones that don’t.

It’s important to select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity. Eventually, the identity itself will become the reinforcer. You will want to do things because it will feel good to be you. The more the habit becomes part of your life, the less you’ll need outside encouragement to follow through.

How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures-like moving paper clips or ticking off boxes-provide clear evidence of your progress. They reinforce your behaviour and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity. Visual measurement comes in many forms, but perhaps the best way to measure your progress is with a habit tracker.

The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine. As time rolls by, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak.

Habit tracking is powerful because it leverages multiple laws of behaviour change. It simultaneously makes a behaviour obvious, attractive, and satisfying. It will also keep you honest – one glance at the calendar will show you how much work you have been putting in.

However, manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits – it is better to consistently track one habit than to sporadically track ten.

When using habit trackers, try not to break the chain and keep your habit streak alive. Never miss twice – if you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.

The habit stacking + habit tracking formula is:



How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

The inversion of the 4th law of behaviour change is to make it unsatisfying as we are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.

We repeat bad habits because they serve us in some way, and that makes them hard to abandon. The best way to overcome this is to increase the speed of the punishment associated with the behaviour. The strength of the punishment must match the relative strength of the behaviour it is trying to correct. For example, to be productive, the cost of procrastination must be greater than the cost of action.

There is a straightforward way to add an immediate cost to any bad habit: create a habit contract – a verbal or written agreement in which you state your commitment to a particular habit and the punishment that will occur if you don’t follow through. Then you find one or two people to act as your accountability partners and sign off on the agreement with you. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.


📌 Noteworthy Quotes

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

“The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.”

“Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.”

“Be a designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.”

“Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.”

“When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out.”

“A good player works hard to win the game everyone else is playing. A great player creates a new game that favours the strengths and avoids their weaknesses.”

“Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.”

“Play a game that favours your strength. If you can’t find a game that favours you, create one.”

“The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, then do them the same way every time.”

“When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle. Lose that one thing and you lose yourself.”

“Happiness is the state you enter when you no longer want to change your state.”

“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.”

“The desire to change your state is what powers you to take action. It is wanting more that pushes humanity to seek improvements, develop new technologies, and reach for a higher level. With craving, we are dissatisfied but driven. Without craving, we are satisfied but lack ambition.