Let’s face it — everyone wishes they had better habits but don’t want to put in the work to make them a reality. It’s evident that the defining characteristic between greatness and mediocrity isn’t so much genetic as it is mental.
“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years”
Rather than trying to reorient the entire book, I’ve aggregated a series of quotes that resonated with me at the time of reading.
If you find them intriguing, the book is well worth reading. With a number of case-studies to drive these concepts home, it’s safe to say “Atomic Habits” can set a foundation for a prosperous future.
Let’s dive in!
The Power of Habits
“Seek to find tiny margins of improvement in everything you do.”
- Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action
- Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement
- The most powerful outcomes are delayed
- Mastery requires patience
“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.”
How Habits Shape Your Identity
“Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
- If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
- 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
- The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game
- The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes a part of your identity
- True behavior change is identity change
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.
- Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
- Identity = Repeated Beingness. Habits are the path to changing your identity
- The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do
Building Better Habits
“Habit stacking — Identify a habit you already do every day and then build a new one on top of it”
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]
“I will read at 11PM on my couch.”
After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]
“After I turn off my alarm, I will get out of bed”
“After I meditate, I will do 25 pushups”
Make it Obvious
“Those with the best self-control are those who need to use it the least“
- People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptations than resist it
- Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible
Make it Attractive
- 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.
— — —
- The culture we live in determines which behaviors are attractive to us.
- 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 your desired behavior is normal behavior.
“A genius is not born, but is educated and trained.”
— — —
- Our behavior is heavily dependent on how we interpret the events that happen to us, not necessarily the objective reality of the events themselves.
- Desire is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be in the future.
Make it Easy
“The best is the enemy of the good.”
- If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection
- Just get your reps in.
- Repetition is a form of change
- Habits form based on frequency, not time
- Make it as easy as possible in the moment to do things that pay off in the long run.
Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.
— — —
“Master the habit of showing up”
- 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 what doesn’t exist.
— — —
“The last mile is often the least crowded”
- The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.
- The more immediate pleasure you get from an action, the more strongly you should question whether it aligns with your long-term goals.
- What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
- Create a personal loyalty program — Select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity rather than ones that conflict with it.
Incentives can start a habit. Identity sustains a habit.
Make it Satisfying
“Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful”
- Life happens. Learn to never miss twice.
- Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.
- The first rule of compounding: Never interrupt it unnecessarily.
- It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it
“We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done. We care more about getting ten thousand steps than we do about being healthy. We teach for standardized tests instead of emphasizing learning, curiosity, and critical thinking. In short, we optimize 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.
— — —
“If a failure is painful, it gets fixed. If a failure is relatively painless, it gets ignored.”
- Create a habit contract — 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
- To make bad habits unsatisfying, your best option is to make them painful in the moment
Every time I check social media unnecessarily, I will do 10 pullups.
From Good to Great
“The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition to play a game where the odds are in your favor.”
- Direct your effort toward areas that both excite you and match your natural skills, to align your ambition with your ability.
- 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
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?
“Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.”
“By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out.”
Pick behaviors that align with your personality and skills. Work hard on the things that come easy.
— — —
“Boredom is perhaps the greatest villain on the quest for self-improvement.”
- Work on tasks of “just manageable difficulty.”
- Maximum motivation occurs when facing a challenge of just manageable difficulty.
- Yerkes–Dodson Law — The optimal level of arousal as the midpoint between boredom and anxiety.
- Find a way to show up despite being bored
Fall in love with boredom.
- 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.
— — —
“Habits create the foundation for mastery”
- Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
- The process of mastery requires that you progressively layer improvements on top of one another, each habit-building upon the last until a new level of performance has been reached and a higher range of skills has been internalized.
— — —
“Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.”
- Behaviors should be obvious, easy, attractive and satisfying
- The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements.
Tiny changes lead to remarkable results
— — —
“Happiness is the absence of desire”
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost anyhow”
“Being curious is better than being smart”
“Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more.”
— — —
If you’re still here, hopefully these quotes have inspired you to consider how a suite of new habits might positively affect your life.
For me, the power of this book doesn’t come as much from the quotes as it does performing the exercises that are presented throughout.
As we continue to explore a world that constantly fights for our attention, be conscious of instilling a strong foundation that allows for future growth.
Got a suggestion for my next read? Drop me a line on Twitter!
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