What’s it about?
Based on scientific research and real-life examples, “Atomic Habits (2018)” provides a practical and proven framework for building good habits and eliminating harmful practices, demonstrating how small changes in behavior can form new habits and help you achieve great goals.
About the author:
James Clear is a writer and entrepreneur who focuses on habits and their potential for self-improvement. In a weekly newsletter that reaches hundreds of thousands of people, Clear writes about the science of human behavior and habits and shares stories from his own life and the best lives in business, sports, art, and other fields.
What can I get? Find out how small habits can make a big difference in your life.
In this book, we will see how to change their lives for the better. It turns out that the easiest way to achieve positive change is to instill good habits. Listen to learn all about traditions, what they are, how you can shape them, and most importantly, how best to preserve them. You can achieve excellent results if you follow a few simple guidelines and make minor behavioral changes. Then let’s get started!
Small habits can have a surprisingly powerful effect on your life.
Imagine a plane leaving Los Angeles for New York. If the pilot decides to turn 3.5 degrees south during takeoff, the aircraft’s nose will only move a few feet. There was no one onboard outside the cabin. You will notice little movement, but as you travel across the country, the change will be significant, and the confused passengers will be getting off their planes in Washington DC rather than New York.
We did not notice small changes because their immediate impact was negligible. If you lose shape today and jog for 20 minutes, you will still be in form tomorrow. Conversely, if you eat family pizza for dinner, you won’t gain weight overnight, but if we repeat small things day in and day out, our choices will bring significant results. Eat pizza every day, and in a year, you will surely recover significantly. Jog for 20 minutes a day, and you will eventually lose weight, even if you may not notice the change.
If you want to change your life for the better, you must understand that change requires patience and confidence that your habits keep you on track, even if you don’t see immediate results.
So, if you find that your behaviors and habits are not working, try focusing on your current trajectory rather than your current outcome. If you are short on money in the bank but save a little each month, you can be sure everything is going right. Your recent accomplishments may be modest, but keep moving in that direction, and in a few months or years, you will see a significant improvement. Conversely, a millionaire who spends more than he earns monthly may not care about his bankroll. Demand from month to month, but eventually, your trajectory will catch up with you.
The key to making a big difference in your life is not significant disruption; You don’t need to revolutionize your behavior or reinvent yourself, but you can make small changes in your behavior that become habits that, when repeated, can lead to significant results.
Habits are automated behaviors that we’ve learned from experience.
When you walk into a dark room, you don’t believe what to try to do next; you instinctively reach for a light switch. It’s a habit – a behavior that you’ve repeated numerous times that now happens automatically.
So how are habits formed? Well, our brain figures out the way to answer new situations through a process of trial and error. Nineteenth-century psychologist Edward Thorndike famously demonstrated this with an experiment where cats were placed during a recorder. Unsurprisingly, each cat immediately tried to flee from the box, sniffing at its corners and clawing at its walls. Eventually, the cat would find a lever that, when pressed, would open a door, enabling escape.
Thorndike then took the cats that’d successfully escaped and repeated the experiment. His findings? Well, after being put within the box a couple of times, each cat learned the trick. Instead of scrambling around for a moment or more, the cats went straight for the lever. After 20 or 30 attempts, the typical cat could escape in only six seconds. In other words, the method of getting out of the box had become habitual.
Thorndike had discovered that behaviors that give satisfying consequences – during this case, gaining freedom – tend to be repeated until they become automatic.
Like cats within the nineteenth century, we also stumble across satisfying solutions to life’s difficulties and predicaments. And, thankfully, we now understand a touch more about how habits work.
Habits begin with a cue or a trigger to act. Suppose you’re walking into a dark room cue you to perform an action that will enable sight. Next comes a looking for a state change – during this case, to be ready to see. Then comes our response, or action – flicking the sunshine switch. The ultimate step within the process, and therefore the end goal of each habit, is the reward. Here, it’s the sensation of mild relief and luxury that comes from having the ability to ascertain your surroundings.
Every habit is subject to an equivalent process. Does one habitually drink coffee every morning? Awakening is your cue, triggering a craving to feel alert. Your response is to tug yourself out of bed and make a cup of joe. Your reward is feeling alert and prepared to face the planet.
But, of course, not all habits are good for us. Now that we understand how patterns work, let’s check out building positive ones that improve our lives.
Building new habits requires hard-to-miss cues and an idea of action.
All folks have cues that trigger certain habits. The excitement of your phone, for instance, maybe a line to see your messages.
And once you understand that certain stimuli can prompt habitual behavior, you’ll use this data to vary your habits. How? Well, a method is to change your surroundings and general environment to encourage better habits.
Just take the work of Boston-based doctor Anne Thorndike. She wanted to enhance her patients’ dietary habits without requiring them to form a conscious decision. How did she pull this off? She had the hospital cafeteria rearranged. Initially, the refrigerators next to the cash registers contained only soda. Thorndike was introduced to water, not only there but at every other drink station. Over three months, soda sales dropped by 11 percent, while water sales shot up by 25 percent. People were making healthier choices simply because the cue to drink water instead of soda was more prominent.
So simple changes to our surroundings can make an enormous difference. Want to practice guitar? Leave the instrument call in the middle of the space. Are you trying to eat healthier snacks? Leave them out on the counter rather than within the salad drawer. Make your cues as evident as possible, and you’ll be more likely to reply to them.
A second promising way to strengthen cues is to use implementation intentions.
Most folks tend to be too vague about our intentions. We say, “I’m getting to eat better,” and quickly hope that we’ll follow through. An implementation intention introduces a transparent plan of action, beginning when and where you’ll perform the habit you’d wish to cultivate. And research shows that it works.
A study of voters within us found that the citizens who were asked “At what time will you vote?” and “How will you get to the voting station?” were more likely to truly end up than those who were just asked if they might vote.
So don’t just say, “I’ll run more often.” Say, “On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when the alarm pops, the primary thing I’ll do is don my running gear and clock two miles.” Then leave your trainers out where you’ll see them. You’ll be giving yourself both a transparent plan and a clear cue, and it’s going to surprise you ways much more accessible this may make it to build a positive running habit truly.
Humans are motivated by the anticipation of reward, so making habits attractive will assist you to stick with them.
In 1954, neuroscientists James Olds and Peter Milner ran an experiment to check the neurology of desire. Using electrodes, they blocked the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in rats. To their surprise, the rats lost the desire to measure. Mere days later, all of them died of thirst.
The human brain releases dopamine, a hormone that creates us feel good once we do pleasurable things like eating or having sex. But we also get successful feel-good dopamine once we anticipate those enjoyable activities. It’s the brain’s way of driving us onward and inspiring us to do things honestly. So, within the brain’s reward system, desiring something is on par with getting something, which matches an extended way toward explaining why kids enjoy the anticipation of Christmas such a lot. It’s also why daydreaming about your upcoming hot date is so pleasurable.
We can also turn this data to our advantage when trying to make habits. If we make a pattern something we glance forward to, we’ll be far more likely to follow through and genuinely roll in the hay.
An excellent technique for this is often temptation bundling. That’s once you take a behavior that you consider as essential but unappealing and link it to a behavior that you’re drawn to – one which will generate that motivating dopamine hit.
Ronan Byrne, an engineering student in Ireland, knew he should exercise more, but he got little enjoyment from understanding. However, he did enjoy watching Netflix. So he hacked an exercycle, connecting it to his laptop and writing code that might only allow Netflix to run if he was cycling at a particular speed. By linking exercise – literally – to behavior that he was naturally drawn to, he transformed a distasteful activity into enjoyable.
You don’t get to be an engineer to use this in your life. If you want to figure out, but you would like to catch abreast of the newest A-list gossip, you’ll only plan to read magazines while at the gym. If you would like to observe sports, but you would like to form sales calls, promise yourself a half-hour of ESPN after asking your tenth prospect. In time, you’ll even find those unattractive tasks enjoyable since you’ll be anticipating a satisfying reward while carrying them out.
If you want to create a replacement habit, make that habit as easy to adopt as possible.
We often spend tons of our time on easy behaviors. Scrolling through social media, for instance, takes zero effort, so it’s easy for it to refill many our time. Doing 100 push-ups or studying Mandarin, in contrast, requires tons of action. Repeating those behaviors daily until they become habitual is hard.
So making behaviors as easy as possible is vital to turning them into habits. Luckily, there are a couple of tricks we will embrace to form anything seem easier. The primary is to specialize in reducing friction.
The author has always been hopeless at sending greeting cards, while his wife never fails to try to do so. Why? Well, she keeps a box of greeting cards reception, presorted by occasion, making it easier to send congratulations or condolences or whatever is named for. Since she doesn’t need to leave and buy a card when someone gets married or has an accident, there’s no friction involved in sending one.
You can also use this approach to extend friction for bad habits. If you want to waste less time ahead of the TV, unplug it and take the batteries out of the remote. Doing so will introduce enough friction to make sure you watch once you need to.
The second trick for creating a habit easier within the future is that the two-minute rule, forming any new activity, feels manageable. The principle is that any action is often distilled into a habit that’s doable within two minutes. Want to read more? Don’t plan to read one book hebdomadally – instead, make a habit of reading two pages per night. Want to run a marathon? Plan to put on your running gear a day after work simply.
The two-minute rule may be thanks to building easily achievable habits, and people can lead you on to more incredible things. Once you’ve pulled on your trainers, you’ll probably head out for a run. Once you’ve read two pages, you’ll likely continue. The rule recognizes that getting started is that the first and most vital step toward doing something.
Now let’s take a glance at the ultimate rule for using habits to enhance your life.
Making your habits immediately satisfying is essential to effective behavior change.
In the 1990s, public health researcher Stephen Luby, working within the neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, achieved an enormous 52-percent reduction in diarrhea among the local children. Pneumonia rates dropped by 48 percent, and skin infections by 35 percent. Luby’s secret? Nice soap.
Luby had known that handwashing and basic sanitation were essential to reducing illness. The locals understood this, too; they only weren’t turning their knowledge into a habit. Everything changed when Luby worked with Proctor and Gamble to introduce a premium soap into the neighborhood for free of charge. Overnight, handwashing became a satisfying experience. The new soap lathered quickly and smelled delightful. Suddenly, everyone was washing their hands because it had been now a pleasurable activity.
The final and most vital rule for behavioral change is to form habits satisfying.
It can be challenging for evolutionary reasons. Today, we sleep in what academics call a delayed-return environment. You switch up at the office today, but the return – a paycheck – doesn’t come until the top of the month. You attend the gym within the morning, but you don’t reduce overnight.
However, our brains evolved to deal with the immediate-return environment of earlier humans, who weren’t brooding about long-term returns like saving for retirement or sticking to a diet. They were focused on immediate concerns like finding their next meal, seeking shelter, and staying alert enough to flee any nearby lions.
Immediate returns can encourage bad habits, too. Smoking may offer you carcinoma in 20 years, but, within the moment, it relieves your stress and, therefore the looking for nicotine, which suggests you’ll ignore the long-term effects and enjoys a cigarette.
So once you are pursuing habits with a delayed return, attempt to attach some immediate gratification to them.
For example, a few the author knows wanted to dine out less, cook more, get healthier and economize. To do so, they opened a bank account called “Trip to Europe,” and each time they avoided a meal out, they transferred $50 to it. The short-term satisfaction of seeing $50 land therein bank account provided the immediate gratification they needed to keep them on target for the last word, longer-term reward.
However pleasurable and satisfying we make habits, we should fail to take care of them. So let’s take a glance at how we will stick with our good intentions.
Create a framework to keep your habits on target, using trackers and contracts.
Whether you’re trying to write down your journal or hand over smoking, managing your behaviors is often challenging. Thankfully, there are a couple of simple measures which will help.
Habit tracking may be a simple but effective technique. Many of us have kept a record of our habits; one among the foremost documented is founding father Franklin. From the age of 20, Franklin kept a notebook during which he recorded adherence to 13 personal virtues, including aims like avoiding frivolous conversation and always be doing something worthwhile. He noted his success nightly.
You, too, can develop a habit tracker, employing a simple calendar or diary and crossing off a day that you persist with your chosen behaviors. You’ll find it compelling because habit tracking itself is a beautiful and satisfying habit. The anticipation and action of crossing off every day will feel good and keep you motivated.
A second technique is to develop a habit contract that imposes negative consequences if you fail to remain on target.
Bryan Harris, an entrepreneur from Nashville, took his habit contract very seriously. during an agreement signed by his wife and personal trainer, he committed to urging his burden to 200 pounds. He identified specific habits that might help get him there, including tracking his daily food intake and weighing himself hebdomadally. Then he found out penalties for not doing those things. If he did not follow his food intake, he would need to pay $100 to his trainer; if he did not weigh himself, he would owe $500 to his wife. The strategy worked, driven not just by his fear of losing money but also by losing face ahead of two people who mattered to him. Humans are social animals. We care about the opinions of those around us, so simply knowing that somebody is watching you’ll be a strong motivator for fulfillment.
So why not set yourself a habit contract? Albeit it isn’t as detailed as Harris’s, consider committing to your partner, your ally, or one among your coworkers. If you agree upon a group of consequences for failing to follow through, you’ll be far more likely to stay to your habits. And as we’ve seen, sticking to a positive routine, however small, maybe a surefire thanks to achieving big things in life.