Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Big Idea: Forget about goals. Focus on systems, good habits, and continuous improvement.


Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years .

PART 1: THE FUNDAMENTALS – Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

Ch 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.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference.

Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions.

Eg. bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks.

Poster in the San Antonio Spurs locker room: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it — but all that had gone before.”


Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh says, “The score takes care of itself.”

Winners and losers have the same goals.

Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.

Goals restrict your happiness.

Goals are at odds with long-term progress.

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

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.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

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.

Ch 2: How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Once your habits are established, they seem to stick around forever.

Three layers of behavior change

  1. Changing your outcomes
  2. Changing your process
  3. Changing your identity

Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.

Behind every system of actions are a system of beliefs.

The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.

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 person who incorporates exercise into their identity doesn’t have to convince themselves to train.

Once you have adopted a negative identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change for the better.

Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it.

The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.

The process of building habits is actually the process of changing yourself.

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

Decide who you want to be. This holds at any level — as an individual, as a team, as a community, as a nation.

Identity change is the North Star of habit change.

Your habits matter because they shape you into the type of person you wish to be.

There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change.

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.

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

Ch 3: How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Habits are mental shortcuts learned from experience.

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

Four Laws of Behavior Change

  1. Cue: Make it obvious.
  2. Craving: Make it attractive.
  3. Response: Make it easy.
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying.

The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.

Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

PART 2: THE 1ST LAW – Make It Obvious

Ch 4: The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

Eg. Pointing-and-Calling, is a safety system designed to reduce mistakes by making an unconscious habit a more conscious action.

Make a list of your daily habits.

The process of behavior change always starts with awareness.

Ch 5: The Best Way to Start a New Habit

An implementation intention is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act.

Eg. “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.

Eg. Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7a.m. in my kitchen.

Eg. Exercise. I will exercise for one hour at 5p.m. in my local gym.

Make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time.

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 (BJ Fogg).

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

Eg. Meditation. After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.

Eg. Exercise. After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes.

Eg. Gratitude. After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.

The secret to creating a successful habit stack is selecting the right cue to kick things off; a very strong habit to build from.

Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it obvious. Strategies like implementation intentions and habit stacking are among the most practical ways to create obvious cues for your habits and design a clear plan for when and where to take action.

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious.

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 [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with an existing habit. The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT ].

Ch 6: Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

Eg. People often choose food not because of what they are, but because of where they are (convenience matters.) Items at eye level tend to be purchased more. End caps are moneymaking machines.

The most powerful of all human sensory abilities is vision.

Eg. Homes with meters located in the main hallway use less electricity.

Creating obvious visual cues can draw your attention toward a desired habit.

Eg. If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationery on your desk.

Eg. If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.

The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues.

You can train yourself to link a particular habit with a particular context/environment.

Teach your brain that sleeping — not browsing on phones, not watching television, not staring at the clock — is the only action that happens in the bedroom.

Want to think more creatively? Move to a bigger room, a rooftop patio, or a building with expansive architecture.

Trying to eat healthier? Try a new grocery store.

Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking. The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.”

When you can use your phone to do nearly anything, it becomes hard to associate it with one task.

Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.

Ch 7: The Secret to Self-Control

Typically, 90 percent of heroin users become re-addicted once they return home from rehab.

“Disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.

Yes, perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.

Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “cue-induced wanting”: an external trigger causes a compulsive craving to repeat a bad habit.

You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it.

And that means that simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy.

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.

A more reliable approach is to cut bad habits off at the source.

Reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

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.

I’m often surprised by how effective simple changes like these can be. Remove a single cue and the entire habit often fades away.

Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.

One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.

PART 3: THE 2ND LAW – Make It Attractive

Ch 8: How to Make a Habit Irresistible

Junk food, for example, drives our reward systems into a frenzy.

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.

We begin by examining a biological signature that all habits share — the dopamine spike.

Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop.

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.

It is the anticipation of a reward — not the fulfillment of it — that gets us to take action.

This is one reason the anticipation of an experience can often feel better than the attainment of it.

As an adult, daydreaming about an upcoming vacation can be more enjoyable than actually being on vacation.

We need to make our habits attractive because it is the expectation of a rewarding experience that motivates us to act in the first place.

Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

Temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle.

The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is : After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED]. After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].

After I get my morning coffee, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened yesterday (need). After I say one thing I’m grateful for, I will read the news (want).

If you want to check Facebook, but you need to exercise more: After I pull out my phone, I will do ten burpees (need). After I do ten burpees, I will check Facebook (want).

The hope is that eventually you’ll look forward to calling three clients or doing ten burpees because it means you get to read the latest sports news or check Facebook.

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.

Ch 9: The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

“A genius is not born, but is educated and trained.”

Eg. The Polgar sisters grew up in a culture that prioritized chess above all else — praised them for it, rewarded them for it. In their world, an obsession with chess was normal. And as we are about to see, whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you’ll find.

Humans are herd animals.

We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them.

Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering.

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close, the many, the powerful.

  1. Imitating the Close

We pick up habits from the people around us.

Another study found that if one person in a relationship lost weight, the other partner would also slim down about one third of the time.

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.

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

Join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe.

  1. Imitating the Many

We are constantly scanning our environment and wondering, “What is everyone else doing?”

There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group.

Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.

Running against the grain of your culture requires extra effort.

  1. Imitating the Powerful

We want pins and medallions on our jackets.

We try to copy the behavior of successful people because we desire success ourselves.

We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).

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.

Ch 10: How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

It is an inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change: make it unattractive.

Some of the underlying motives of human nature 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

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.

You can make hard habits more attractive if you can learn to associate them with a positive experience.

Now, imagine changing just one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.

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.

Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. However, you can associate it with freedom rather than limitation if you realize one simple truth: living below your current means increases your future means.

These little mind-set shifts aren’t magic, but they can help change the feelings you associate with a particular habit or situation.

If you want to take it a step further, you can create a motivation ritual. You simply practice associating your habits with something you enjoy, then you can use that cue whenever you need a bit of motivation. For instance, if you always play the same song before having sex, then you’ll begin to link the music with the act.

Say you want to feel happier in general. Find something that makes you truly happy — like petting your dog or taking a bubble bath — and then create a short routine that you perform every time before you do the thing you love. Maybe you take three deep breaths and smile. Three deep breaths. Smile. Pet the dog. Repeat.

Once established, you can break it out anytime you need to change your emotional state. Stressed at work? Take three deep breaths and smile. Sad about life? Three deep breaths and smile.

Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.

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.

PART 4: THE 3RD LAW – Make It Easy

Ch 11: Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change.

As Voltaire once wrote, “ The best is the enemy of the good.”

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting 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 practicing.

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it.

This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in.

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Repeating a habit leads to clear physical changes in the brain.

Each time you repeat an action, you are activating a particular neural circuit associated with that habit. This means that simply putting in your reps is one of the most critical steps you can take to encoding a new habit.

One of the most common questions I hear is, “How long does it take to build a new habit?” But what people really should be asking is, “How many reps does it take to form a new habit?”

To build a habit, you need to practice it.

Focus on taking action, not being in motion.

Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.

Ch 12: The Law of Least Effort

The Law of Least Effort states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.

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 good habits more convenient, you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.

Trying to pump up your motivation to stick with a hard habit is like trying to force water through a bent hose. You can do it, but it requires a lot of effort and increases the tension in your life. Meanwhile, making your habits simple and easy is like removing the bend in the hose. Rather than trying to overcome the friction in your life, you reduce it.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practice environment design.

Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life. You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle.

The Japanese companies looked for every point of friction in the manufacturing process and eliminated it. As they subtracted wasted effort, they added customers and revenue.

If you look at the most habit-forming products, you’ll notice that one of the things these goods and services do best is remove little bits of friction from your life.

Meal delivery services reduce the friction of shopping for groceries. Dating apps reduce the friction of making social introductions. Ride-sharing services reduce the friction of getting across town. Text messaging reduces the friction of sending a letter in the mail.

Business is a never-ending quest to deliver the same result in an easier fashion.

Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy. For instance, my wife keeps a box of greeting cards that are presorted by occasion — birthday, sympathy, wedding, graduation, and more.

There are many ways to prime your environment so it’s ready for immediate use. If you want to cook a healthy breakfast, place the skillet on the stove, set the cooking spray on the counter, and lay out any plates and utensils you’ll need the night before. When you wake up, making breakfast will be easy.

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.

You can also invert this principle and prime the environment to make bad behaviors difficult.

Unplug the television and take the batteries out of the remote after each use, so it takes an extra ten seconds to turn it back on.

When I hide beer in the back of the fridge where I can’t see it, I drink less.

When I delete social media apps from my phone, it can be weeks before I download them again and log in.

Design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right.

Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible .

Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.

Prime your environment to make future actions easier.

Ch 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

Doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that you would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in your arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.

Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. I refer to these little choices as decisive moments. The moment you decide between ordering takeout or cooking dinner. The moment you choose between driving your car or riding your bike.

The Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

Eg. “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.”

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.

The point is to master the habit of showing up.

Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you can optimize.

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.

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.

Ch 14: How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

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.

If you’re feeling motivated to get in shape, schedule a yoga session and pay ahead of time.

Commitment devices increase the odds that you’ll do the right thing in the future by making bad habits difficult in the present.

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.



  1. Buy a water filter to clean your drinking water.
  2. Use smaller plates to reduce caloric intake .


  1. Buy a good mattress.
  2. Get blackout curtains.
  3. Remove your television from your bedroom .


  1. Unsubscribe from emails.
  2. Turn off notifications and mute group chats.
  3. Set your phone to silent.
  4. Use email filters to clear up your inbox.
  5. Delete games and social media apps on your phone.


  1. Get a dog.
  2. Move to a friendly, social neighborhood.


  1. Enroll in an automatic savings plan.
  2. Set up automatic bill pay.
  3. Cut cable service.
  4. Ask service providers to lower your bills.

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.

Medicine: Prescriptions can be automatically refilled.

Personal finance: Employees can save for retirement with an automatic wage deduction.

Cooking: Meal-delivery services can do your grocery shopping.

Productivity: Social media browsing can be cut off with a website blocker.

When you automate as much of your life as possible, you can spend your effort on the tasks machines cannot do yet.

The power of technology can work against us as well.

Instead of pressing a button to advance to the next episode, Netflix or YouTube will autoplay it for you. All you have to do is keep your eyes open.

The downside of automation is that we can find ourselves jumping from easy task to easy task without making time for more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding work.

Every Monday, my assistant would reset the passwords on all my social media accounts, which logged me out on each device. All week I worked without distraction. On Friday, she would send me the new passwords.

When working in your favor, automation can make your good habits inevitable and your bad habits impossible.

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behavior in the future.

The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits.

Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.


The 1st Law: Make It Obvious
1.1: Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them.
1.2: Use implementation intentions: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”
1.3: Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
1.4: Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive
2.1: Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
2.2: Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
2.3: Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy
3.1: Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
3.2: Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.
3.3: Master the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that deliver outsized impact.
3.4: Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.
3.5: Automate your habits. Invest in technology and onetime purchases that lock in future behavior.

PART 5: THE 4TH LAW – Make It Satisfying

Ch 15: The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.

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.

We are looking for immediate satisfaction.

Our bias toward instant gratification causes problems. Eg. lung cancer, obesity, STD’s.

Put another way, the costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.

What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.

If you’re willing to wait for the rewards, you’ll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded.

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 bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.

You want the ending of your habit to be satisfying. The best approach is to use reinforcement, which refers to the process of using an immediate reward to increase the rate of a behavior.

Eg. Open a savings account and label it for something you want — maybe “Leather Jacket.” Whenever you pass on a purchase, put the same amount of money in the account. Skip your morning latte => transfer $5. Pass on another month of Netflix => Move $10 over. It’s like creating a loyalty program for yourself. The immediate reward of seeing yourself save money toward the leather jacket feels a lot better than being deprived.

It is worth noting that it is important to select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity rather than ones that conflict with it.

Eventually, as intrinsic rewards like a better mood, more energy, and reduced stress kick in, you’ll become less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. The identity itself becomes the reinforcer.

Immediate reinforcement helps maintain motivation in the short term while you’re waiting for the long-term rewards to arrive.

The 4th Law of Behavior Change is “make it satisfying.”

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.

Ch 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.

Visual measurement comes in many forms: food journals, workout logs, loyalty punch cards, the progress bar on a software download, 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.

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.

“Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra.

Benefit #1: Habit tracking is obvious.

Habit tracking also keeps you honest.

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 addictive effect on motivation. Each small win feeds your desire.

Benefit #3: Habit tracking is satisfying.

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 to mark an X on the calendar.

Habit tracking also helps keep your eye on the ball: you’re focused on the process rather than the result.

You’re not fixated on getting six-pack abs, you’re just trying to keep the streak alive and become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.

Furthermore, habit tracking provides visual proof that you are casting votes for the type of person you wish to become, which is a delightful form of immediate and intrinsic gratification.

First, whenever possible, measurement should be automated.

Second, manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits.

Finally, record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs. The completion of the behavior is the cue to write it down.

I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.

You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad (or busy) days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.

It’s about being the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it.

If your success is measured by quarterly earnings, you will optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings.

The human mind wants to “win” whatever game is being played.

This pitfall is evident in many areas of life. We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done.

In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior. This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s Law.

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

But just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing. And just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean it’s not important at all.

One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit — like marking an X on a calendar.

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.

Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.

Ch 17: How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

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.

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.

A habit contract is 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 contract with you.

To make bad habits unsatisfying, your best option is to make them painful in the moment.

The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying.

We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.

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.

Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.

PART 6: ADVANCED TACTICS – How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

Ch 18: The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)

Habits are easier to perform, and more satisfying to stick with, when they align with your natural inclinations and abilities.

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.”

Our habits are not solely determined by our personalities, but there is no doubt that our genes nudge us in a certain direction.

The takeaway is that you should build habits that work for your personality.

There is a version of every habit that can bring you joy and satisfaction. Find it Habits need to be enjoyable if they are going to stick. This is the core idea behind the 4th Law.

Learning to play a game where the odds are in your favor is critical for maintaining motivation and feeling successful.

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

The goal is to try out many possibilities, research a broad range of ideas, and cast a wide net.

After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you’ve found — but keep experimenting occasionally.

Ask: 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?

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. You can shortcut the need for a genetic advantage (or for years of practice) by rewriting the rules.

Specialization is a powerful way to overcome the “accident” of bad genetics. The more you master a specific skill, the harder it becomes for others to compete with you.

Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

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

Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities. Choose the habits that best suit you.

Play a game that favors your strengths. If you can’t find a game that favors you, create one.

Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

Ch 19: The Goldilocks Rule – How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

And yet Steve Martin faced this fear every week for eighteen years. In his words, “10 years spent learning, 4 years spent refining, and 4 years as a wild success.”

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.

In psychology research this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, which describes the optimal level of arousal as the midpoint between boredom and anxiety.

A flow state is the experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in an activity.

They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.

As a result, many of us get depressed when we lose focus or motivation because we think that successful people have some bottomless reserve of passion.

The difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.

Mastery requires practice. But the more you practice something, the more boring and routine it becomes. Once the beginner gains have been made and we learn what to expect, our interest starts to fade.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us.

In psychology, this is known as a variable reward. Slot machines are the most common real-world example. A gambler hits the jackpot every now and then but not at any predictable interval. The pace of rewards varies. This variance leads to the greatest spike of dopamine, enhances memory recall, and accelerates habit formation.

The sweet spot of desire occurs at a 50/50 split between success and failure. Half of the time you get what you want. Half of the time you don’t. You need just enough “winning” to experience satisfaction and just enough “wanting” to experience desire.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

You have to fall in love with boredom.

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but 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.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

Ch 20: The Downside of Creating Good Habits

The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside of habits is that you get used to doing things a certain way and stop paying attention to little errors.

Habits are necessary, but not sufficient for mastery.

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

Eg. Lakers coach Pat Riley asks each player to “improve their output by at least 1 percent over the course of the season.” Pat Riley also tracked ‘unsung hero’ stats that measured effort and impact outside of points/assists/rebounds.

“Sustaining an effort is the most important thing for any enterprise. The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, then do them the same way every time.”

Reflection and review enables the long-term improvement of all habits because it makes you aware of your mistakes and helps you consider possible paths for improvement.

I know of executives and investors who keep a “decision journal” in which they record the major decisions they make each week, why they made them, and what they expect the outcome to be.

Personally, I employ two primary modes of reflection and review. Each December, I perform an Annual Review. Six months later, when summer rolls around, I conduct an Integrity Report.

Daily habits are powerful because of how they compound, but worrying too much about every daily choice is like looking at yourself in the mirror from an inch away. You can see every imperfection and lose sight of the bigger picture. There is too much feedback.

Periodic reflection and review is like viewing yourself in the mirror from a conversational distance. You can see the important changes you should make without losing sight of the bigger picture.

One solution is to avoid making any single aspect of your identity an overwhelming portion of who you are. In the words of investor Paul Graham, “keep your identity small.”

When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle.

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.

The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

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.

PART 7: Conclusion The Secret to Results That Last

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them.

Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.

With the Four Laws of Behavior Change, you have a set of tools and strategies that you can use to build better systems and shape better habits.

The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements.

That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.

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