Atomic habits

‘Atomic habits’ was introduced to me as a life-changing book by a YouTuber named Ali Abdaal. Thus the bar of expectation was set flying high.

Nevertheless, I picked this book up because of embarrassing reasons like, it had a nice book cover and an interesting book title.

Did the book fool me with its fancy book cover?

Not really. As it turns out, it is a nice book after all. Lucky me!

Let me tell you all about this book.

Let’s look at the post contents first. (Just click it to open the magic back door!)

Let’s get going then.

🎨 Book Details

  • Title: Atomic Habits
  • Author: James Clear
  • Genre: Self-help book
  • Original language: English
  • Originally published: 16 October 2018

🚀 Book wrap-up

  1. Through Atomic habits, James Clear discusses effective ways to build good habits and break bad ones. Instead of having to summon all your willpower, this book provides systematic steps which help to form habits in smart ways.
  2. Atomic means the smallest building block. Atomic habits talk about building slight changes that have compounding effects. Just 1% improvement a day can produce astonishing results likewise 1% deterioration a day can bring you down when cumulated over the long run.
  3. Importance of forming an identity than taking action. It is about becoming who you want to be rather than doing what you want.

🎖 Should you read it?

This will be very insightful and a good read if you struggle with building good habits or breaking bad ones. If you have wondered, is there any way to make you do the things you dreamt of doing? This will provide some answers.

Since we all struggle with habit building, I guess this book is for all of us.

Reminding you that any self-help will only be useful if you take action from it, not if you just drift through the words.

📒 My Book Notes

Chapter 1: The surprising power of Atomic habits.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Focus on getting 1% improvement each day because they add up to a lot in the long run. A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination. Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant at the moment, but for moments that make up a lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be. Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.

Habits are a double-edged sword. Bad habits can cut you down just as easily as good habits can build you up, which is why understanding the details is crucial. You need to know how habits work and how to design them to your liking, so you can avoid the dangerous half of the blade.

Habits growth is exponential contrary to our common perception that it is linear. So yes, you need to wait a lot to see any improvement and once it is above a threshold, the changes will be substantial.

Focus on your system, not your goals. This is how you can achieve excellent results. Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.

  • Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals.
  • Problem #2: Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
  • Problem #3: Goals restrict your happiness.
  • Problem #4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress.

Atomic habits are a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.

Chapter 2: Habits shape your Identity and vice versa

This chapter talks about how habit-forming is not about what you want to do, but who you want to become.

Don’t change your action, change yourself. Forming habits based on who you want to become is more effective.

You will struggle to form habits if your action isn’t in line with your identity.

Chapter 3: Build better habits in 4 steps

A habit is a behavior that is repeated enough to make it automatic so that we can do it with no effort.

We can break a habit down into feedback loops with 4 steps:

Cue, craving, response, and reward.

The habit loop: Cue → craving → response → reward

This loop is constantly scanning the environment and looking to identify which are pleasurable therefore worth remembering and which are painful therefore worth avoiding.


Building a habit is into four simple steps:

Cue: Cue triggers our brain to start a response. We all crave reward, so our brain is on a constant lookout for cues that generate rewards.

Craving: Craving gives you the motivation to take action. You are not craving the habit; you are craving the change of state it delivers.

Response: Response is the action we take or thoughts we had.

Reward: The end goal is the reward. A reward is a deciding factor that determines whether to remember this action in the future.

How to make a good habit?

  • Cue: Make it obvious
  • Craving: Make it attractive
  • Response: Make it easy
  • Reward: Make it satisfying

How to break bad habits?

  • Cue: Make it invisible
  • Craving: Make it unattractive
  • Response: Make it difficult
  • Reward: Make it unsatisfying

THE 1ST LAW: Make it obvious

Chapter 4: The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

Our brain is a very sophisticated system that can do more than we credit it for. Your brain can tell if something is wrong without you having to actively think about it. Our brain does lots of tasks in the background, most of which we are unaware of.

Habits are formed when the cue is so engrained that they are invisible to us, and we felt like it was done automatically.

So the first step towards behavior change starts with our awareness.

Habit scorecard

When you do something repeatedly, it becomes an automated task and you can do it without thinking about it. We know what might happen and what to do. The problem is when a new situation arises, you won’t be prepared for it and end up making mistakes.

So the first thing for any behavior change is having awareness. To know what you are doing in your autopilot mode.

A habit scorecard is a method is to build awareness and here is how it works.

  1. List all your habits in a paper.
  2. Now mark the good ones with + and bad ones with -.
  3. Now start observing these habits as you go on in your daily life.

If you point and call that, this is a nasty habit. You will start noticing these habits and will have more control over them.

For example, if you are constantly checking out social media, then if you say ‘checking out social media’ every time you take out your phone to do it. You will notice how much you are doing it and give you the ability to not do it if you want to.

Chapter 5: The best way to start a new habit

How to apply the first law of behavior change, make it obvious!

Time and location are the biggest cues.

Two effective techniques to start a new habit are:

  1. Implementation intention:

When starting a new habit, be specific about it.

I will [Behavior] at [Time] in [Location]

Now you have clarity on when and where to do it. Another additional benefit is that the fact that you said ‘I will’ increases the likelihood of you doing it.

  1. Habit stacking

This means that you will attach the new habit to your already routine habits. The formula is,

After [Current habit], I will [New habit].

This is helpful as you are leveraging the automated cue of the first one to start the new one.

Chapter 6: Motivation is overrated; Environment matters more.

We need to engineer the environment rather than waiting for the motivation to kick in.

If you want to drink more water, rather than waiting to get motivated to drink water you can put a water bottle near your seat and hurray! you are now drinking more water.

How to design your environment?

The idea is to keep it visible.

Rearrange so that your cue for the habit is very visible and easily accessible. Like putting your water bottle on top of your desk, than inside your cupboard.

The context is the cue.

We have different associations with different objects.

For you, the couch is where you read, for some couch is where they watch TV, for others, it might be a hangout place. Your relationship with the object defines your habits.

If you have trouble sleeping at night, then try changing your relationship with the bed. A bed is a place which you will only use for sleeping when you are sleepy. Changing to this behavior will signal your brain to go to sleep when you are in bed.

One thing to note here is that, if you change your environment, all your cues will be lost. This means that you need to assign new cues to your habits.

If you regularly buy unhealthy food from your supermarket, then try a new one, then you won’t know where to find all your favorite unhealthy foods, so you can focus on grabbing healthy ones instead.

Chapter 7: Secret to self-control

The secret to self-control is not to have massive willpower, but to be in positions where you don’t need to use your willpower.

Once a habit has been formed in your brain, it is unlikely to be forgotten. If you come across those similar cues again, even after years of inexperience, you will probably be tempted to revert to your old habits.

The smart thing to do here that rather than trying to use willpower to overcome bad habits, change your environment to avoid all your cues so that you won’t spend too much time in temptation. Self-control is only a short-term strategy, not a long-term one, and not a reliable one too.

THE 2ND LAW: Make it attractive

Chapter 8: How to make a habit irresistible

Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. If you don’t know what dopamine is, it is the chemical that gives you pleasure and a feeling of reward. Without dopamine, you won’t feel motivated, you won’t feel any sort of pleasure. Your life will be very miserable without it for sure.

Every action we take is in anticipation of a reward. If we think this action will reward us in the end, then we will feel a craving that leads to a response.

Therefore, it is important to make your habit more attractive, because it is the expectation of a rewarding experience that will motivate us to take action.

Temptation bundling:

Some activities are rewarding to us, like watching movies or sports, spending time on social media. If you pair this activity with the action that you want to do, then you will make it more attractive. This is temptation bundling.

For example, if I say I will watch Netflix after finishing a chapter of a book, you will make book reading very attractive.

So the template binding is saying. I will [action I love to do] after [action I need to do]

Chapter 9: Role of family and friends in Shaping your habits

The society that we live in has an enormous influence on our habits. We will be attracted to the behavior which society promotes.

If you live in a society were exercising and eating healthy was normal and valued. You will try to exercise and eat healthy food so you can fit in with everyone.

We follow habits that are praised and approved in the culture because of our desire to fit in and belong in the tribe.

There is a category of groups whose habits we imitate. They are,

the close(our friends and family), the many(the tribe or society), and the powerful(those whom you look upon).

The best way to take advantage of this phenomenon is to join a tribe where the habit you want to create is normal and valued. But you already need to have something in common with the group to have that feeling of belonging.

This means that even if you don’t find a behavior attractive, the tribe’s behavior will overpower your individual desired ones.

So if the behavior can get praises or respect then it is attractive.

Chapter 10: How to find and fix the causes of your bad habits

There are some fundamental needs that we evolved to have that are necessary for our survival. If you take any behavior then you can trace it back to these primal needs as listed below.

  • Conserve energy
  • Get food and water
  • Find love and reproduce
  • Connect and bond with others
  • Win social acceptance and approval
  • Reduce uncertainty
  • Achieve status and prestige

The specific cravings you feel and habits you perform are an attempt to address your fundamental underlying motives. Whenever a habit successfully addresses a motive, you develop a craving to do it again. In time, you learn to predict that checking social media will help you feel loved or that watching YouTube will allow you to forget your fears. Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings, and we can use this insight to our advantage rather than to our detriment.

Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires.

The cause of your habits is the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling.

Highlight the benefits of avoiding a nasty habit to make it seem unattractive. 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 hard habit.

THE 3RD LAW: Make It Easy

Chapter 11: Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

The best is the enemy of the good


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.


It doesn’t matter how long it takes for a habit to become automatic. What matters is that you take the actions you need to take to make progress. Whether an action is fully automatic is of less importance.

Chapter 12: The Law of Least Effort

The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to reducing the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with our bad ones.


We should ask ourselves the same question: “How can we design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right?” Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.

Increase the friction associated with unacceptable behaviors. When friction is high, habits are hard.

Chapter 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using 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 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.”

The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Strategies like this work for another reason, too: they reinforce the identity you want to build.

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.

Chapter 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.

Commitment devices are useful because they enable you to take advantage of good intentions before you can fall victim to temptation. If you are looking to cut calories, for example, ask the server to split your meal and box half of it to go before they serve the meal. If you waited until the meal came out and told yourself, “I’ll just eat half,” it would never work.


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, and simple. It is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.

THE 4TH LAW: Make It Satisfying

Chapter 15: The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

The first three laws of behavior change make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy to increase the odds that we will perform a behavior this time.

The fourth law of behavior change makes it satisfying increases the odds that we will repeat a behavior 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.


The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.

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


The habit needs to be enjoyable for it to last. Simple bits of reinforcement like soap that smells great or toothpaste that has a refreshing mint flavor or seeing $50 hit your savings account can offer the immediate pleasure you need to enjoy a habit, and change is easy when it is enjoyable.

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 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, 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.

Benefit #1: Habit tracking is obvious. Recording your last action creates a trigger that can start your next one.

Benefit #2: Habit tracking is attractive. The most effective form of motivation is progress.

Benefit #3: Habit tracking is satisfying. Tracking can become its form of reward.


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.


We optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior.

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

Charles Goodhart

Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system.

Chapter 17: How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is making 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.


A habit contract can 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.

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

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

The strength of genetics is also their weakness. We cannot easily change genes, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances.

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.


The “Big Five,” breaks them down into five spectrums of behavior.

Openness to experience: from curious and inventive on one end.

Conscientiousness: organized and efficient to easygoing and spontaneous.

Extroversion: outgoing and energetic to solitary and reserved (you likely know them as extroverts vs. introverts).

Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate to challenging and detached. Neuroticism: anxious and sensitive to confident, calm, and stable.

Neuroticism: anxious and sensitive to confident, calm, and stable.

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.


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?

If you can’t find a game where the odds are stacked in your favor, create one.

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.


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

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 easily.

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

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.

Once a habit has been established, however, it’s important to continue to advance in small ways. These minor improvements and new challenges keep you engaged. And if you hit the Goldilocks Zone just right, you can achieve a flow state.


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 detail our progress to seek novelty.

The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. Fall in love with boredom.

Chapter 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 minor errors.

Equation if you want to maximize your potential and achieve elite levels of performance,

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

Although habits are powerful, what you need is a way to remain conscious of your performance over time, so you can continue to refine and improve. It is precisely when you felt you have mastered a skill—right when things are feeling automatic and you are becoming comfortable—that you must avoid slipping into the trap of complacency. The solution? Establish a system for reflection and review.


Reflection and review enable the long-term improvement of all habits because it makes you aware of your mistakes and helps you consider possible paths for improvement. Without reflection, we can make excuses, create rationalizations, and lie to ourselves. We have no process for determining whether we are performing better or worse compared to yesterday.


In the beginning, repeating a habit is essential to build up evidence of your desired identity. As you latch on to that new identity, however, those same beliefs can hold you back from the next level of growth. When working against you, your identity creates a kind of “pride” that encourages you to deny your weak spots and prevents you from truly growing. This is one of the greatest downsides of building habits.

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.” The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you.

  • “I’m an athlete” becomes “I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge.”
  • “I’m a great soldier” transforms into “I’m the type of person who is disciplined, reliable, and great on a team.”
  • “I’m the CEO” translates to “I’m the type of person who builds and creates things.”

⏳Do I Recommendation this book?

I like how this book breaks down the methods of habit-forming into very effective four steps which are easy to follow and execute.

What I didn’t like is that 80% of the book is just an explanation of the 20%. If you finish the first few chapters, then you read 80% of what this book is about.

I recommend this book as this book does helps provide insights into how our behavior functions and gives clear steps to solutions to what the book aims to solve. So yes, give this book a try.

💯 My Rating

Rating : 🌕🌕🌕🌗 (3.5/5)

Where to find the book?

Here is the amazon link for ‘Atomic Habits’ if you are interested in buying one.

Click here to go to the Amazon page.

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