By reading this summary I will assure you that you don’t need to read a book. Because in this post I have covered all chapter lessons
favorite parts of this book (stories, examples, etc)
What action do you need to take…etc?
For just 1 page summary you can click here.
Why do you have to read this atomic habits summary?
Human behavior is always changing: situation to situation, moment to moment, second to second. But this book summary is about what doesn’t change. It’s about the fundamentals of human behavior.
The lasting principles you can rely on year after year. The ideas you can build a business around, build a family around, build a life around.
There is no one right way to create better habits, but this book summary describes the best way author knows—an approach that will be effective regardless of where you start or what you’re trying to change.
I am confident that the details—and the applications of the Four Laws of Behavior Change—will offer a new way to think about your habits.
The strategies the author cover will be relevant to anyone looking for a step-by-step system for improvement, whether your goals center on health, money, productivity, relationships, or all of the above.
As long as human behavior is involved, this book summary will be your guide.
Want to know how?
“When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy.”
Let’s get started.
Chapter 1: The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits
It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.
Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.
Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.
The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: 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. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero.
What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.
1% BETTER EVERY DAY
1% worse every day for one year. 0.99 365 = 00.03
1% better every day for one year. 1.01 365 = 37.78
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
In the same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.
Chapter 2: How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)
THREE LAYERS OF BEHAVIOR CHANGE
The first layer is changing your outcomes. This level is concerned with changing your results: losing weight, publishing a book, winning a championship. Most of the goals you set are associated with this level of change.
The second layer is changing your process. This level is concerned with changing your habits and systems: implementing a new routine at the gym, decluttering your desk for better workflow, and developing a meditation practice. Most of the habits you build are associated with this level.
The third and deepest 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. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level.
Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.
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.
The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
Each time you write a page, you are a writer.
Each time you practice the violin, you are a musician.
Each time you start a workout, you are an athlete.
Each time you encourage your employees, you are a leader.
Each habit not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start to believe you can actually accomplish these things.
Chapter 3: How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps
The process of building a habit can be divided into
four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
This four-step pattern is the backbone of every habit, and your brain runs through these steps in the same order each time.
First, there is the cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward.
Today, we spend most of our time learning cues that predict secondary rewards like money and fame, power and status, praise and approval, love and friendship, or a sense of personal satisfaction.
(Of course, these pursuits also indirectly improve our odds of survival and reproduction, which is the deeper motive behind everything we do.)
Cravings are the second step, and they are the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation or desire—without craving a change— we have no reason to act.
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 third step is the response. 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 behavior.
If a particular action requires more physical or mental effort than you are willing to expend, then you won’t do it. Your response also depends on your ability.
It sounds simple, but a habit can occur only if you are capable of doing it. If you want to dunk a basketball but can’t jump high enough to reach the hoop, well, you’re out of luck.
Finally, the response delivers a reward. 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:
- they satisfy us and (2) they teach us.
The first purpose of rewards is to satisfy your craving. Yes, rewards provide benefits on their own. Food and water deliver the energy you need to survive. Getting a promotion brings more money and respect.
Second, rewards teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. Your brain is a reward detector.
As you go about your life, your sensory nervous system is continuously monitoring which actions satisfy your desires and deliver pleasure.
The habit loops.
1. Cue 2. Craving
3. Response 4. Reward
1. Cue: Your phone buzzes with a new text message.
2. Craving: You want to learn the contents of the message.
3. Response: You grab your phone and read the text.
4. Reward: You satisfy your craving to read the message. Grabbing your phone becomes associated with your phone buzzing.
THE FOUR LAWS OF BEHAVIOR CHANGE
How to Create a Good Habit
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.
We can invert these laws to learn how to break bad habits.
How 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 behavior,
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?
Chapter 4: THE 1ST LAW Make It Obvious ( The Man Who Didn’t Look Right)
1st law includes 4 chapters (chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 6, chapter 7)
One of our greatest challenges in changing habits is maintaining awareness of what we are actually doing.
This helps explain why the consequences of bad habits can sneak up on us. We need a “point-and-call” system for our personal lives.
That’s the origin of the Habits Scorecard, which is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior.
To create your own, make a list of your daily habits.
Here’s a sample of where your list might start:
- Wake up
- Turn off alarm
- Check my phone
- Go to the bathroom
- Weigh me
- Take a shower
- Brush my teeth
- Floss my teeth
- Put on deodorant
- Hang up the towel to dry
- Get dressed
- Make a cup of tea
. . . and so on
Once you have a full list, look at each behavior, and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or a neutral habit?”
If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it.
If it is a bad habit, write “–”. If it is a neutral habit, write “=”.
For example, the list above might look like this:
- Wake up =
- Turn off alarm =
- Check my phone –
- Go to the bathroom =
- Weigh myself +
- Take a shower +
- Brush my teeth +
- Floss my teeth +
- Put on deodorant +
- Hang up a towel to dry =
- Get dressed =
- Make a cup of tea +
The marks you give to a particular habit will depend on your situation and your goals.
Chapter 5: The Best Way to Start a New Habit
Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.
It is not always obvious when and where to take action.
Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.
Once an implementation intention has been set, you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike.
Do I write a chapter today or not? Do I meditate this morning or at lunch?
When the moment of action occurs, there is no need to make a decision. Simply follow your predetermined plan.
The simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
Studying. I will study Spanish for twenty minutes at 6 p.m. in my bedroom.
Exercise. I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym.
Marriage. I will make my partner a cup of tea at 8 a.m. in the kitchen.
If you aren’t sure when to start your habit, try the first day of the week, month, or year. People are more likely to take action at those times because hope is usually higher.
If we have hope, we have a reason to take action. A fresh start feels motivating.
When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage.
One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.
This is called habit stacking.
Habit stacking is a special form of implementation intention.
Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.
This method, which was created by BJ Fogg as part of his Tiny Habits program, can be used to design an obvious cue for nearly any habit.
The habit stacking formula is:
“After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
Meditation. After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.
Exercise. After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes.
Gratitude. After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.
Marriage. After I get into bed at night, I will give my partner a kiss. Safety. After I put on my running shoes, I will text a friend or family member where I am running and how long it will take.
The key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together.
This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next.
Chapter 6: Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More
The most powerful of all human sensory abilities, however, is vision.
The human body has about eleven million sensory receptors. Approximately ten million of those are dedicated to sight.
Some experts estimate that half of the brain’s resources are used for vision.
Given that we are more dependent on vision than on any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior.
For this reason, a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do. As a result, you can imagine how important it is to live and work in environments that are filled with productive cues and devoid of unproductive ones.
Thankfully, there is good news in this respect. You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.
HOW TO DESIGN YOUR ENVIRONMENT FOR SUCCESS
Here are a few ways you can redesign your environment and make the cues for your preferred habits more obvious:
- If you want to remember to take your medication each night, put your pill bottle directly next to the faucet on the bathroom counter.
- If you want to practice guitar more frequently, place your guitar stand in the middle of the living room.
- If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationery on your desk.
- If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.
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 behaviors usually have multiple cues.
Environment design is powerful not only because it influences how we engage with the world but also because we rarely do it.
Most people live in a world others have created for them.
But you can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your 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. Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.
It is easier to associate a new habit with a new context than to build a new habit in the face of competing cues.
It can be difficult to go to bed early if you watch television in your bedroom each night. It can be hard to study in the living room without getting distracted if that’s where you always play video games.
But when you step outside your normal environment, you leave your behavioral biases behind. You aren’t battling old environmental cues, which allows new habits to form without interruption.
Chapter 7: The Secret to Self-Control
Bad habits are autocatalytic: the process feeds itself. They foster the feelings they try to numb.
You feel bad, so you eat junk food. Because you eat junk food, you feel bad. Watching television makes you feel sluggish, so you watch more television because you don’t have the energy to do anything else.
Worrying about your health makes you feel anxious, which causes you to smoke to ease your anxiety, which makes your health even worse, and soon you’re feeling more anxious.
It’s a downward spiral, a runaway train of bad habits.
Here’s the punch line: You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves of habit have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely—even if they go unused for quite a while.
And that means that simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy.
It takes too much energy. In the short run, you can choose to overpower temptation. In the long run, we become a product of the environment that we live in.
To put it bluntly, the author has never seen someone consistently stick to positive habits in a negative environment.
A more reliable approach is to cut bad habits off at the source. One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
- If you can’t seem to get any work done, leave your phone in another room for a few hours.
- If you’re continually feeling like you’re not enough, stop following social media accounts that trigger jealousy and envy.
- If you’re wasting too much time watching television, move the TV out of the bedroom.
- If you’re spending too much money on electronics, quit reading reviews of the latest tech gear.
- If you’re playing too many video games, unplug the console and put it in a closet after each use.
This practice is an inversion of the 1st Law of Behavior Change. Rather than make it obvious, you can make it invisible.
The author was surprised by how effective simple changes like these can be. Remove a single cue and the entire habit often fades away.
Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.
You may be able to resist temptation once or twice, but it’s unlikely you can muster the willpower to override your desires every time.
Instead of summoning a new dose of willpower whenever you want to do the right thing, your energy would be better spent optimizing your environment.
This is the secret to self-control. Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.
Chapter 8: THE 2ND LAW Make It Attractive (How to Make a Habit Irresistible)
In second law chapters includes (chapter 8, chapter 9, and chapter 10)
Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop.
Every behavior that is highly habit-forming—taking drugs, eating junk food, playing video games, browsing social media—is associated with higher levels of dopamine.
The same can be said for our most basic habitual behaviors like eating food, drinking water, having sex, and interacting socially.
When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it.
Gambling addicts have a dopamine spike right before they place a bet, not after they win.
Cocaine addicts get a surge of dopamine when they see the powder, not after they take it. Whenever you predict that an opportunity will be rewarding, your levels of dopamine spike in anticipation.
And whenever dopamine rises, so does your motivation to act.
You’re more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time. Perhaps you want to hear about the latest celebrity gossip, but you need to get in shape.
Using temptation bundling, you could only read the tabloids and watch reality shows at the gym. Maybe you want to get a pedicure, but you need to clean out your email inbox.
Solution: only get a pedicure while processing overdue work emails.
Temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle.
Named after the work of professor David Premack, the principle states that “more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.”
In other words, even if you don’t really want to process overdue work emails, you’ll become conditioned to do it if it means you get to do something you really want to do along the way.
You can even combine temptation bundling with the habit stacking strategy we discussed in Chapter 5 to create a set of rules to guide your behavior.
The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is:
1. After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED].
2. After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].
If you want to read the news, but you need to express more gratitude:
- After I get my morning coffee, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened yesterday (need).
2. After I say one thing I’m grateful for, I will read the news (want).
If you want to watch sports, but need to make sales calls:
1. After I get back from my lunch break, I will call three potential clients (need).
2. After I call three potential clients, I will check ESPN (want).
Chapter 9: The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits.
We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them.
We follow the script handed down by our friends and family, our church or school, our local community, and society at large.
Each of these cultures and groups comes with its own set of expectations and standards—when and whether to get married, how many children to have, which holidays to celebrate, and how much money to spend on your child’s birthday party.
In many ways, these social norms are the invisible rules that guide your behavior each day. You’re always keeping them in mind, even if they are at the not top of your mind.
Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering.
As the French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne wrote, “The customs and practices of life in society sweep us along.”
Most of the time, going along with the group does not feel like a burden.
Everyone wants to belong. If you grow up in a family that rewards you for your chess skills, playing chess will seem like a very attractive thing to do.
If you work in a job where everyone wears expensive suits, then you’ll be inclined to splurge on one as well.
If all of your friends are sharing an inside joke or using a new phrase, you’ll want to do it, too, so they know that you “get it.”
Behaviors are attractive when they help us fit in.
We imitate the habits of three groups in particular:
1. The close.
2. The many.
3. The powerful.
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.
When your friends smoke pot, you give it a try, too.
When your wife has a habit of double-checking that the door is locked before going to bed, you pick it up as well.
As a general rule, the closer we are to someone, the more likely we are to imitate some of their habits.
2. Imitating the Many: Whenever we are unsure how to act, we look to the group to guide our behavior.
We are constantly scanning our environment and wondering, “What is everyone else doing?” We check reviews on Amazon or Yelp or TripAdvisor because we want to imitate the “best” buying, eating, and travel habits.
It’s usually a smart strategy. There is evidence in numbers.
But there can be a downside.
The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual.
For example, one study found that when a chimpanzee learns an effective way to crack nuts open as a member of one group and then switches to a new group that uses a less effective strategy, it will avoid using the superior nut cracking method just to blend in with the rest of the chimps.
Humans are similar. There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group.
The reward of being accepted is often greater than the reward of winning an argument, looking smart, or finding the truth. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.
3. Imitating the Powerful: Humans everywhere pursue power, prestige, and status.
We want pins and medallions on our jackets. We want President or Partner in our titles. We want to be acknowledged, recognized, and praised.
This tendency can seem vain, but overall, it’s a smart move.
Historically, a person with greater power and status has access to more resources, worries less about survival, and proves to be a more attractive mate.
Read more (if you want to change your mindset click here)
Chapter 10: How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits
WHERE CRAVINGS COME FROM
Every behavior has a surface-level craving and a deeper, underlying motive.
I often have a craving that goes something like this:
“I want to eat tacos.” If you were to ask me why I want to eat tacos, I wouldn’t say, “Because I need food to survive.” But the truth is, somewhere deep down, I am motivated to eat tacos because I have to eat to survive.
The underlying motive is to obtain food and water even if my specific craving is for a taco. Some of our underlying motives include:
- Conserve energy
- Obtain food and water
- Find love and reproduce
- Connect and bond with others
- Win social acceptance and approval
- Reduce uncertainty
- Achieve status and prestige
A craving is just a specific manifestation of a deeper underlying motive.
Your brain did not evolve with a desire to smoke cigarettes or check Instagram or play video games.
At a deep level, you simply want to reduce uncertainty and relieve anxiety, win social acceptance and approval, or achieve status.
Look at nearly any product that is habit-forming and you’ll see that it does not create a new motivation, but rather latches onto the underlying motives of human nature.
- Find love and reproduce = using Tinder
- Connect and bond with others = browsing Facebook
- Win social acceptance and approval = posting on Instagram
- Reduce uncertainty = by searching on Google
- Achieve status and prestige = playing video games
Here’s the powerful part: there are many different ways to address the same underlying motive. One person might learn to reduce stress by smoking a cigarette.
Another person learns to ease their anxiety by going for a run. Your current habits are not necessarily the best way to solve the problems you face; they are just the methods you learned to use.
Once you associate a solution with the problem you need to solve, you keep coming back to it.
Chapter: 11 THE 3RD LAW Make It Easy (Walk Slowly, but Never Backward)
In the third law, chapters include (chapter 11, chapter 12, chapter 13, and chapter 14)
I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action.
The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same.
When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing, and learning.
Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.
Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.
If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action.
If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.
Sometimes motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself.
It doesn’t matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape.
Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.
Chapter 12: The Law of Least Effort
Energy is precious, and the brain is wired to conserve it whenever possible.
It is human nature to follow the Law of Least Effort, which states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
For example, expanding your farm to the east where you can grow the same crops rather than heading north where the climate is different.
Out of all the possible actions we could take, the one that is realized is the one that delivers the most value for the least effort. We are motivated to do what is easy.
Every action requires a certain amount of energy. The more energy required, the less likely it is to occur.
If your goal is to do a hundred push-ups per day, that’s a lot of energy!
In the beginning, when you’re motivated and excited, you can muster the strength to get started. But after a few days, such a massive effort feels exhausting.
Meanwhile, sticking to the habit of doing one push-up per day requires almost no energy to get started.
And the less energy a habit requires, the more likely it is to occur.
Look at any behavior that fills up much of your life and you’ll see that it can be performed with very low levels of motivation.
Habits like scrolling on our phones, checking email, and watching television steal so much of our time because they can be performed almost without effort.
They are remarkably convenient.
Certainly, you are capable of doing very hard things.
The problem is that some days you feel like doing the hard work and some days you feel like giving in.
On tough days, it’s crucial to have as many things working in your favor as possible so that you can overcome the challenges life naturally throws your way.
The less friction you face, the easier it is for your stronger self to emerge.
The idea behind making it easy is not to only do easy things.
The idea is to make it as easy as possible at the moment to do things that pay off in the long run.
- Want to draw more? Put your pencils, pens, notebooks, and drawing tools on top of your desk, within easy reach.
- Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time.
- Want to improve your diet? Chop up a ton of fruits and vegetables on weekends and pack them in containers, so you have easy access to healthy, ready-to-eat options during the week.
Chapter 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two Minute Rule
Researchers estimate that 40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.
This is already a substantial percentage, but the true influence of your habits is even greater than these numbers suggest.
Habits are automatic choices that influence the conscious decisions that follow.
Yes, a habit can be completed in just a few seconds, but it can also shape the actions that you take for minutes or hours afterward.
THE TWO-MINUTE RULE
Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big.
When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon.
The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use the Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
You’ll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version:
- “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
- “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”
- “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
- “Fold the laundry” becomes “Fold one pair of socks.”
- “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”
The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start.
Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. And, as we have just discussed, this is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.
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 a more productive path.
EXAMPLES OF HABIT SHAPING
Becoming an Early Riser
Phase 1: Be home by 10 p.m. every night.
Phase 2: Have all devices (TV, phone, etc.) turned off by 10 p.m. every night.
Phase 3: Be in bed by 10 p.m. every night (reading a book, talking with your partner).
Phase 4: Lights off by 10 p.m. every night.
Phase 5: Wake up at 6 a.m. every day.
Chapter 14: How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible
Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard.
This is an inversion of the 3rd Law of Behavior Change: make it difficult. If you find yourself continually struggling to follow through on your plans, then you can take a page from Victor Hugo and make your bad habits more difficult by creating what psychologists call a commitment device.
A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It is a way to lock in future behavior, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones.
When Victor Hugo shut his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating a commitment device.
The key is to change the task such that it requires more work to get out of the good habit than to get started on it.
If you’re feeling motivated to get in shape, schedule a yoga session and pay ahead of time. If you’re excited about the business you want to start, email an entrepreneur you respect and set up a consulting call.
When the time comes to act, the only way to bail is to cancel the meeting, which requires effort and may cost money.
The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do. Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act.
The brilliance of the cash register was that it automated ethical behavior by making stealing practically impossible.
Rather than trying to change the employees, it made the preferred behavior automatic.
ONETIME ACTIONS THAT LOCK IN GOOD HABITS
Buy a water filter to clean your drinking water.
Use smaller plates to reduce caloric intake.
Buy a good mattress.
Get blackout curtains.
Remove your television from your bedroom.
Unsubscribe from emails.
Turn off notifications and mute group chats.
Set your phone to silent.
Use email filters to clear up your inbox.
Delete games and social media apps on your phone
Get a dog.
Move to a friendly, social neighborhood.
Buy good shoes to avoid back pain.
Buy a supportive chair or standing desk.
Finance Enroll in an automatic savings plan.
Set up automatic bill pay.
Cut cable service. Ask service providers to lower your bills.
Of course, there are many ways to automate good habits and eliminate bad ones. Typically, they involve putting technology to work for you.
Technology can transform actions that were once hard, annoying, and complicated into behaviors that are easy, painless, and simple.
It is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.
Chapter 15: THE 4TH LAW Make It Satisfying (The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change)
In the 4th law, the chapters include (chapter 15, chapter 16, and chapter 17)
The first three laws of behavior change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time.
The fourth law of behavior change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time.
It completes the habit loop.
But there is a trick. We are not looking for just any type of satisfaction.
We are looking for immediate satisfaction.
Behavioral economists refer to this tendency as time inconsistency. That is, the way your brain evaluates rewards is inconsistent across time.
You value the present more than the future.
Usually, this tendency serves us well.
A reward that is certain right now is typically worth more than one that is merely possible in the future.
But occasionally, our bias toward instant gratification causes problems.
Why would someone smoke if they know it increases the risk of lung cancer?
Why would someone overeat when they know it increases their risk of obesity?
Why would someone have unsafe sex if they know it can result in sexually transmitted diseases? Once you understand how the brain prioritizes rewards, the answers become clear: the consequences of bad habits are delayed while the rewards are immediate.
Smoking might kill you in ten years, but it reduces stress and eases your nicotine cravings now. Overeating is harmful in the long run but appetizing at the moment.
Sex—safe or not—provides pleasure right away.
Disease and infection won’t show up for days or weeks, even years.
Every habit produces multiple outcomes across time. Unfortunately, these outcomes are often misaligned.
With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad.
With good habits, it is the reverse: the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good.
Put another way, the costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.
Chapter 16: How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day.
Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures—like moving paper clips or hairpins, or marbles—provide clear evidence of your progress.
As a result, they reinforce your behavior and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity.
Visual measurement comes in many forms: food journals, workout logs, loyalty punch cards, the progress bar on a software download, and even the page numbers in a book.
But perhaps the best way to measure your progress is with a habit tracker.
A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit. The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine.
For example, Jerry Seinfeld reportedly uses a habit tracker to stick with his streak of writing jokes.
In the documentary Comedian, he explains that his goal is simply to “never break the chain” of writing jokes every day.
In other words, he is not focused on how good or bad a particular joke is or how inspired he feels.
He is simply focused on showing up and adding to his streak. “Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra.
Don’t break the chain of sales calls and you’ll build a successful book of business. Don’t break the chain of workouts and you’ll get fit faster than you’d expect.
Don’t break the chain of creating every day and you will end up with an impressive portfolio. Habit tracking is powerful because it leverages multiple Laws of Behavior Change.
It simultaneously makes a behavior obvious, attractive, and satisfying.
Let’s break down each one.
Benefit #1: Habit tracking is obvious.
Recording your last action creates a trigger that can initiate your next one.
Habit tracking naturally builds a series of visual cues like the streak of X’s on your calendar or the list of meals in your food log.
When you look at the calendar and see your streak, you’ll be reminded to act again.
Research has shown that people who track their progress on goals like losing weight, quitting smoking, and lowering blood pressure are all more likely to improve than those who don’t.
Benefit #2: Habit tracking is attractive.
The most effective form of motivation is progress.
When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path. In this way, habit tracking can have an additive effect on motivation.
Each small win feeds your desire.
Benefit #3: Habit tracking is satisfying.
This is the most crucial benefit of all.
Tracking can become its own form of reward. It is satisfying to cross an item off your to-do list, to complete an entry in your workout log, or mark an X on the calendar.
It feels good to watch your results grow—the size of your investment portfolio, the length of your book manuscript—and if it feels good, then you’re more likely to endure.
Chapter 17: How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything
The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying.
Make it immediately unsatisfying.
Just as we are more likely to repeat an experience when the ending is satisfying, we are also more likely to avoid an experience when the ending is painful.
Pain is an effective teacher. If a failure is painful, it gets fixed. If a failure is relatively painless, it gets ignored.
The more immediate and more costly a mistake is, the faster you will learn from it. The threat of a bad review forces a plumber to be good at his job.
The possibility of a customer never returning makes restaurants create good food.
The cost of cutting the wrong blood vessel makes a surgeon master human anatomy and cut carefully.
When the consequences are severe, people learn quickly.
The more immediate the pain, the less likely the behavior. If you want to prevent bad habits and eliminate unhealthy behaviors, then adding an instant cost to the action is a great way to reduce their odds.
An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.
Chapter 18: The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)
Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances.
If you want to dunk a basketball, being seven feet tall is very useful. If you want to perform a gymnastics routine, being seven feet tall is a great hindrance.
Our environment determines the suitability of our genes and the utility of our natural talents. When our environment changes, so do the qualities that determine success.
The people at the top of any competitive field are not only well trained, they are also well suited to the task. And this is why, if you want to be truly great, selecting the right place to focus is crucial. In short: genes do not determine your destiny.
They determine your areas of opportunity. As physician Gabor Mate notes, “Genes can predispose, but they don’t predetermine.” 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 toward areas that both excite you and match your natural skills, to align your ambition with your ability.
HOW TO FIND A GAME WHERE THE ODDS ARE IN YOUR FAVOR
As you explore different options, there are a series of questions you can ask yourself to continually narrow in on the habits and areas that will be most satisfying to you:
What feels like fun to me, but work to others? The mark of whether you are made for a task is not whether you love it but whether you can handle the pain of the task easier than most people.
When are you enjoying yourself while other people are complaining? The work that hurts you less than it hurts others is the work you were made to do.
What makes me lose track of time? Flow is the mental state you enter when you are so focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away.
This blend of happiness and peak performance is what athletes and performers experience when they are “in the zone.” It is nearly impossible to experience a flow state and not find the task satisfying at least to some degree.
Where do I get greater returns than the average person? We are continually comparing ourselves to those around us, and behavior is more likely to be satisfying when the comparison is in our favor.
What comes naturally to me? For just a moment, ignore what you have been taught. Ignore what society has told you. Ignore what others expect of you.
Look inside yourself and ask, “What feels natural to me?
When have I felt alive?
When have I felt like the real me?”
No internal judgments or people-pleasing. No second-guessing or self-criticism. Just feelings of engagement and enjoyment. Whenever you feel authentic and genuine, you are headed in the right direction.
In summary, one of the best ways to ensure your habits remain satisfying over the long run is to pick behaviors that align with your personality and skills. Work hard on the things that come easy.
Chapter 19: The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work
The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected.
And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty. Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, and one business idea to the next.
As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy —even if the old one was still working.
I can guarantee that if you manage to start a habit and keep sticking to it, there will be days when you feel like quitting.
When you start a business, there will be days when you don’t feel like showing up. When you’re at the gym, there will be sets that you don’t feel like finishing.
When it’s time to write, there will be days that you don’t feel like typing. But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur.
Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.
Professionals know what is important to them and work toward it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life.
The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over.
You have to fall in love with boredom.
Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
Chapter 20: The Downside of Creating Good Habits.
Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
To become great, certain skills do need to become automatic.
Basketball players need to be able to dribble without thinking before they can move on to mastering layups with their non-dominant hands.
Surgeons need to repeat the first incision so many times that they could do it with their eyes closed, so that they can focus on the hundreds of variables that arise during surgery.
But after one habit has been mastered, you have to return to the effortful part of the work and begin building the next habit.
HOW TO REVIEW YOUR HABITS AND MAKE ADJUSTMENTS.
reflect on progress (or lack thereof) by answering three questions:
1. What went well this year?
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
3. What did I learn?
Habits deliver numerous benefits, but the downside is that they can lock us into our previous patterns of thinking and acting—even when the world is shifting around us.
Everything is impermanent. Life is constantly changing, so you need to periodically check in to see if your old habits and beliefs are still serving you.
A lack of self-awareness is poison. Reflection and review are the antidotes.
Favorite parts of this book.
We are always trying to present our best selves to the world. We comb our hair and brush our teeth and dress carefully because we know these habits are likely to get a positive reaction.
We want to get good grades and graduate from top schools to impress potential employers and mates and our friends and family.
We care about the opinions of those around us because it helps if others like us. This is precisely why getting an accountability partner or signing a habit contract can work so well.
Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.
As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored
Your actions reveal how badly you want something. If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it. It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself. Your actions reveal your true motivations.
You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.
“What comes naturally to me? For just a moment, ignore what you have been taught. Ignore what society has told you. Ignore what others expect of you. Look inside yourself and ask, “What feels natural to me? When have I felt alive? When have I felt like the real me?”
No internal judgments or people-pleasing.
No second-guessing or self-criticism.
Just feelings of engagement and enjoyment. Whenever you feel authentic and genuine, you are headed in the right direction.”
Top 10 best lessons from atomic habits book.
- All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.
- When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different.
- Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
- Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.
- If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
- Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.
- Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.
- The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.
- The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.
- Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
Action steps from atomic habits.
If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
Decide the type of person you want to be.
Prove it to yourself with small wins.
The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it.
The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
Pointing-and-Calling raises your level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level by verbalizing your actions.
The Habits Scorecard is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior.
The 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it obvious.
The two most common cues are time and location.
Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit.
The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.
The inversion of the 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it invisible.
One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling.
Highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit to make it seem unattractive.
It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.
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.
One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.
The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.
If a behavior can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.
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.
The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
Focus on taking action, not being in motion.
The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.
Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy.
Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.
Prime your environment to make future actions easier.’
The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.
Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.
The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits.
Onetime choices—like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan—are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time.
Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.
Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.
Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.
Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behavior. It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful.
Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.
The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.
Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.
The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.
Thank you for your time.