Are you interested in changing your habits? Or perhaps trying to create lasting change by working on yourself? I know I have been. In Atomic Habits, James Clear breaks down the habit cycle and gives you tools to create new systems for building better habits and breaking bad ones in a refreshingly clear and matter of fact manner. Keep reading the below Atomic Habits summary for a quick review of what the book is about!
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“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”Atomic Habits by James Clear
Laws for building good habits and breaking bad ones.
The book is broken up into many easy to read sections, each of which focus on a “law” of habits. These laws inform how easily you will be able to build or break your habits. Within those sections, there are chapters. Each chapter ends with a summary of all the main points so this book is super easy to read! Here are the four laws for building a good habit:
- Make it obvious.
- Make it attractive.
- Make it easy.
- Make it satisfying.
If you want to break a bad habit, you just do the opposite:
- Make it invisible.
- Make it unattractive.
- Make it difficult.
- Make it unsatisfying.
But TK, what does that mean? How do I do that? I’m glad you asked because James Clear writes about this, too, and I’m here to give it to you in a nice little Atomic Habits summary.
What is a habit?
Per James Clear, “A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.” If we are trying to build habits, we need to repeat the action enough times to make it automatic. We can do this by addressing the habit loop.
The Habit Loop
Habits have loops.
“the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. Together, these four steps form a neurological feedback loop … that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. This cycle is known as the habit loop.”Atomic Habits by James Clear
Basically, your habits are automated solutions to problems in your life. For example, if your body needs more nutrients, you feel hungry. If you are hungry, you go to eat something. Afterwards, you feel full and the initial problem has been solved.
Therefore, if we want to succeed, we need to follow the four good laws for building habits when addressing the loop.
Make it obvious
To build a habit, you need to have a system in place to address it.
“Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”Atomic Habits by James Clear
It should be obvious so you can see the habit or else you will never do it. If my bike is hidden in the garage, I will never ride it. This is where you manipulate your environment to set yourself up for success. Conversely, if you want to break a bad habit, reduce your exposure to the cue. For example, if I am looking at my phone too often, I could put it in another room while I’m working.
Another thing to do would be habit stacking, where you pair a new habit with a habit that you already do. For example, many people stack their dental hygiene habits. First they floss, then they brush their teeth. Simple as that.
Make it attractive
You should want to do the habit your are working on, or create an environment/setting where it is attractive to perform the habit. This can be done through temptation bundling, which is where to pair the action that you want to do with an action that you need to do. For example, you could pair the habit of scrolling on TikTok (want to do) with going on a walk or exercising (need to do).
Another method is surround yourself with people who do what you’re wanting to do. If you want to learn to speak a new language, join a club for the language, find a partner to practice with, etc. This way you are surrounding yourself with people to encourage you, but you can also imitate them.
Lastly, Clear recommends doing something you enjoy right before you do your “difficult” habit in order to pump yourself up for it.
If you’re trying to break your bad habits, you make them unattractive by reminding yourself of the benefits of avoiding your bad habits. For example: if I stay up late on my phone or binging a TV show, it feels good in the moment, but I am exhausted and irritable the next day. If I go to sleep on time, I know I will be well rested, and feel more prepared to start my day tomorrow.
Make it easy
Make your habits easy to do. Whether it’s minimizing the effort needed for the action, setting yourself up for success, decreasing the time needed for completion, or using automation, make your habits easy to complete. If you want to eat healthy meals, you could meal prep so when you’re busy you still have a good option other than convenience food or delivery. If you want to start a skincare routine, begin with a simple and effective one and not a 10 step routine immediately. Repeating the simple building blocks can help you build confidence and then you can layer on afterwards.
Make it satisfying
This part is my favorite. Give yourself some positive reinforcement! You get a reward when you complete the habit. Conversely, you can make bad habits unsatisfying by getting an accountability partner and having an agreed upon cost to your bad habits.
Another method is using a habit tracker. I can speak from personal experience — I love how satisfying using a habit tracker is. Not only are you keeping track and holding yourself accountable, but it give you some great visual data and inspires you to keep going.
Lastly, give yourself some grace. You will mess up and thats totally okay! But try not to miss twice or it can become the start of a new habit. Give yourself some grace and get back up!
I hope you enjoyed the Atomic Habits summary above. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be implementing changes to my life after reading it. There were a lot of exercises to do from the book that I’m in the process of doing now. In evaluating my habits, I’ve been thinking more critically about the person I want to be, getting to thriving, and specific actions I’m going to implement to arrive there.
Again, Clear’s tone and delivery were well executed. The book was easy to read and inspiring, which are two very necessary ingredients in a self help book.
I thought this book was a great tool to help identify ways to build and break habits. Hopefully this atomic habits summary and review helped you get the push to read this book! If you’re looking to make some changes in your life, build better habits, follow through on your goals, or just make tiny changes until they result in a transformation, then this book is most definitely for you! Please check it out!