Atomic Habits

book: Atomic Habits
author: James Clear

my main takeaway from Atomic Habits was that it’s very possible to change your habits by making small changes on a very regular basis. a 1% improvement daily, over an extended period of time can do wonders for changing the way you think and act. essentially, small habits compound over time. as James Clear says in the book, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. very similarly to how money multiplies through compound interest, the effect of your habits multiplies each time you repeat them. the impact your new formed habits can make over months and years can be tremendous.

the process of creating a habit can be divided into four simple steps:

  1. cue
  2. craving
  3. response
  4. reward

you don’t crave smoking a cigarette, you crave the feeling of relief it provides for you.

your cravings are linked to your desire to change your internal state.

your response (thought or action) is the actual habit you perform.

rewards are the end goal of every habit and the first purpose of the reward is to satisfy your craving.

cues can be referred to as triggers. there are five primary ways that a new habit can be triggered. if you can grasp each of them, then you can select the right one for the particular habit that you’re working on.

the cues are:

  • time – likely the most common way to trigger a new habit. i.e. waking up early in the morning usually triggers a string of habits: going to the bathroom, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, making a cup of coffee, etc.
  • location – have you ever walked into your kitchen and seen a plate of brownies on the counter and then eaten them because they were right there in front of you? if so, then you understand the power of location on our behavior. i believe location is the most powerful driver of mindless habits. an example of a location habit in a positive light would be arriving at the gym and heading to the same spot to stretch and warm up. that specific location in the gym is a habit cue for you to start getting focused on your workout.
  • preceding event – many habits are a response to something happening. for example, when your phone vibrates and you immediately grab it to check your text messages, or when you get a mention on Twitter and you quickly check to see who it was from. these are examples of habits that are triggered by a preceding event.
  • emotional state – emotional states of depression or boredom are triggers for negative habits like eating or online shopping. James talks about how paying attention is a powerful (but difficult) way to build better habits. noticing when your body is experiencing stress and using that as a trigger to begin a deep breathing exercise is a great example of a habit that could significantly help with making you feel better.
  • other people – it should come as no surprise to you that the people you surround yourself with play a role in your habits and behaviors. if you surround yourself with people who have the habits that you want to have then you’re putting yourself in an optimal position to learn from them and begin to develop those habits too. businessman and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, is known for saying, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

James talks about forgetting about goals and concentrating on systems. goals are the results you want to achieve. systems are about the processes that lead to those results. with the proper systems in place you can “10X” your goals.

Atomic Habits states that if you focus on the system then the goal will take care of itself. a perfect example of this is that both winners and losers have the same goals, it’s the difference in their systems that allow them to achieve those goals.

according to Atomic Habits, one of the best ways to create a new habit is to identify an existing habit and stack a new behavior on top of it. this is referred to as habit stacking.

examples: 

>> after i shower in the morning i will meditate.

>> as soon as i take off my shoes after work i will spend 30 minutes learning Italian. 

once you begin to master habit stacking, you can create larger stacks by chaining atomic habits together.

a quote from the book that i really enjoyed was, “the greatest threat to success is not failure, but boredom.”