Atomic Habits

Tiny Changes Remarkable Results - Over Time

We live in a delayed return environment yet we are hardwired for instant gratification



Atomic Habits - Overview

Atomic habits are:

  1. The single irreducible component that when practiced regularly yield incredible results through the power of compound growth.
  2. Comprised of small and seemingly insignificant changes that will compound into remarkable results if you persist with them consistently over many years.
  3. The result of having the right system in place. Bad habits are the result of you having the wrong system in place.



The 5 Core Themes

James Clear's best selling book "Atomic Habits" is summarised excellently by Samuel Thomas Davis, and he identifies these 5 core themes:

  1. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
  2. Forget about setting goals and focus on your system instead and you will achieve better results
  3. Focus on who you wish to become not on what you want to achieve. This is the most effective way to change your habits. 
  4. "The Four Laws of Behavior Change" are the following simple rules to build better habits: [1] make it obvious [2] make it attractive [3] make it easy, and [4] make it satisfying.
  5. Human behavior  is shaped by the the invisible hand of the environment.





Atomic Habits - Key Take Away

I have read a number of reviews and summaries of James Clear's "Atomic Habits" and they focus on various aspects of the many very strong points in the book. However, my personal key takeaway is this:

In the modern world  we live in a "delayed return environment" where the ability to accept deferred gratification is critical.


We live in a delayed return environment

From an evolutionary perspective, back when we were living on the plains of Africa most of our decisions had an immediate impact and thus our focus was on the present or near future - what Clear refers to as an immediate-return environment.

In life on the Savannah plains of Africa it made sense to place a premium on instant gratification. Our survival often depended on it. So, our brains evolved over time to prefer quick hits of pleasure to the kind of satisfaction one might get from long-term accomplishments.

Whereas, as Clear points out:

"In modern society, many of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately…You live in what scientists call a delayed-return environment because you can work for years before your actions deliver the intended payoff."

But given that are brains are hardwired for instant gratification, they process and evaluate potential rewards by ascribing a higher value to the present and a discount to the future.

This is the problem we face:

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

Therefore we have to align our behavioural changes  - adopting good habits - to this reality or we fail. Clear regards this is the number rule of behavioural change.




    “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken” [Bertrand Russell]






How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

readingraphics


Habits do not restrict freedom, they create it. The people who don’t have their habits handled are often the people with the least amount of freedom.

  • Without good financial habits, you will always be struggling for the next dollar.
  • Without good health habits, you will always seem to be short on energy.
  • Without good learning habits, you will always feel like you are behind the curve.

The 4-Step Process of Building a Habit (The Habit Loop)

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

By the time we become an adult, we rarely notice the habits that are running our lives.

The 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.

Invert these laws to break a bad habit:

  1. Cue: Make it invisible.
  2. Craving: Make it unattractive.
  3. Response: Make it difficult.
  4. Reward: Make it unsatisfying.

Whenever you want to change your behavior, you can 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?











Atomic Habits - Key Quotations by James Clear




    Success


    Success is the product of daily habits - not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”


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


    If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line.









    Results


    You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”

    Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits.

    • Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits.
    • Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits.
    • Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits.
    • Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits.

    You get what you repeat.”


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

    "Habits are the backbone of any pursuit of excellence."









    Breakthroughs


    Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.”        


    "It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis."






    Time


    Time magnifies the margin between success and failure.

    It will multiply whatever you feed it.

    Good habits make time your ally.

    Bad habits make time your enemy.”








    Systems


    “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”


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








Further reading:

The Power of Habits

Delayed Gratification

The Road Less Traveled

Return from "Atomic Habits" to: Mental Models




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