Atomic Habits By James Clear: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results
Book Score: 7.5 / 10
To get the most out of this book, I would recommend going into it with a clear idea of what behaviors you would like to either add or remove from your life.
This will enable you to directly apply the context of the book to your life and you will be well on your way to achieving remarkable results.
Below are some of my favourite highlights from the book, along with screen shots from Ali Abdaal's book review. This is the best review I have seen so far. If you are interested in learning more about James' method of building habits, I highly recommend giving it 10 minutes of your time.
The 4 Principles of Atomic Habits
- The 1% rule
- Screw goals, build systems
- Identity based habits
- The four laws of behavioral change
The 1% rule: why does improving by 1% even matter?
Tiny changes compound over time to deliver huge results. Habits are the compound interest of self improvement. Compounding is powerful stuff... if we get 1% better everyday for 1 year we improve x 37 times.
"Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it, he who doesn't, pays it." - Albert Einstein
- Good habits make time your ally
- Bad habits make time your enemy
Screw Goals Build Systems
This part of the book really resonated with me. James proposes an alternative method of achieving goals by focusing on our processes rather than our desired outcomes. It sounds obvious after you read it.
Here is a simple example how I have put this into practice.
In preparation for surfing I wanted to improve my upper body strength by performing press ups each morning.
Old Mindset: I would like to do 100 press ups.
Old Outcome: I feel highly motivated to get started. I then realise I can only do 22. I have a long way to go. After a week I have only got to 34 and my target feels unobtainable. I feel demotivated and stop attempting to achieve my goal.
New Mindset: I will do press ups each morning before I go in the shower. I will do as many as I can. The number is irrelevant as long as I give my best each morning.
New Mindset: There is no pressure to improve each day. My only focus is to perform as many press ups as I can each morning. Whether I do or not doesn't matter. My own goal is to do morning press ups. In a week I have broken my record several times and I feel motivated to continue.
James lays out an elegant example of this in action...
"The winner of a football games is determined by the final score.... but it would be no use in watching the scoreboard all game...focus on the process and the score takes care of itself"
Why is this new mindset also sustains motivation?
When we set about a new behavior, move through the plateau of latent potential. This is a fancy way of saying that our improvements are marginal over time but accelerate exponentially as we continue to practice them.
Traditionally, we think that results are linear to the time we put in. This difference between this perception and the reality is crucial in understanding why focusing on the process is better for achieving our goals...
The valley of disappointment...
Have you ever gone to the gym, highly motivated to get beach body ready. You hit the cardio and the weights ferociously all week . After two weeks of pumping iron you lift up your shirt to admire your result and to your complete dismay, there is no signs of that 6 pack you are aiming towards...
Demotivated and disheartened you decide to skip the gym and catch up on Netflix with a bar of Cadburys whole nut.
That is the valley of disappointment in action... Focus on the systems and the outcomes will take care of themselves. Trust that over time your systems will compound and your results will grow exponentially!
Identity Based Habits
Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identify based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.
The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of our 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.
This elegant change in mindset has the ability to transform your life Here is how I recently put this into practice.
One month ago I decided I wanted to make the switch from being a carnivore to a veggie. I made the decision instantly and in that moment I also switched my identity.
At first it felt strange saying 'I am a vegetarian'. I even felt like a phony saying it to life long friends who had seem me chomping on some BBQ ribs only 24 hours ago. I persisted and eventually it has become an authentic part of my of my mindset. A simple change in identity has changed a lifelong eating habit.
The four laws of behavioral change
4 simple rules for changing your behavior...
1) Make it obvious - |Put your desired beahviour in your path and you'll be reminded to build that behaviour. I have the words 'meditate' written on my bathroom mirror. Create an environment which makes success inevitable.
2) Make it attractive - Dopamine drives our behaviour. Negotiate with yourself and attach dopamine filled activities to your desired behaviour. You can surf youtube after you do this...
3) Make it Easy - Break down your goals into very simplistic behaviours. Make it easy on yourself and you will be motivated to continue. I wanted to lose a bit of weight and switching to small plates was all it took to reduce my calorie intake.
4) Make it satisfying - We are more likely to repeat a behaviour when the experience is satisfying. Pleasure teaches the brain that a behaviour is worth remembering and repeating. Attach immediate satisfaction to your habits to build behaviour. I have a wash bag filled with my favourite toiletries. I can only use them after a workout. Simple but an effective reward.
Finally, two additional golden nuggets I loved from this book:
1) Commit to making the first decision of the day a positive decision... the rest will follow
2) Never skip twice. It is okay to fail once but never fail twice. make this commitment to yourself.
All in all, this is a great book. Study its principles and I have no doubt you will transform your life.
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