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Atomic Habits

The Goldilocks Rule for staying motivated

We 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.


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Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits


Key Ideas

Habits are mental shortcuts

A habit is a routine or behavior that is performed regularly and most of the time automatically.

Whenever you face a problem repeatedly, your brain begins to automate the process of solving it. Your habits are just a series of automatic solutions that solve the problems and stresses you face regularly. 

Focus on systems, not on goals

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

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


The layers of behavior change

  1. Changing your outcomes. This level is concerned with changing your results: losing weight, publishing a book, etc.
  2. Changing your process. This level is concerned with changing your habits and systems: implementing a new routine at the gym, decluttering your desk, developing a meditation practice, etc.
  3. Changing your identity. This level is concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, your self-image, your judgments about yourself and others. 

Building identity-based habits

True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.

To change your identity:

1. Decide the type of person you want to be.

2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

How habits work

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps:

  • Cue: It triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward.
  • Craving: It is the motivational force behind every habit. Without a desire, we have no reason to act
  • Response: This is  is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action.
  • Reward: The end goal of every habit.

How to create good habits

  • Make them obvious.
  • Make them attractive.
  • Make them easy.
  • Make them satisfying.

How to break bad habits

  • Make them invisible.
  • Make them unattractive.
  • Make them difficult.
  • Make them unsatisfying.

Self-control is a short-term strategy

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

You may be able to resist temptation once or twice, but it’s unlikely you can muster the willpower to override your desires every time. Instead of summoning a new dose of willpower whenever you want to do the right thing, your energy would be better spent optimizing your environment.

We imitate habits to fit it

We imitate the habits of three groups:

  • The close. Proximity has a powerful effect on our behavior.
  • The many. There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group. The reward of being accepted is often greater than the reward of winning an argument, looking smart, or finding truth.
  • The powerful. We are drawn to behaviors that earn us respect, approval, admiration, and status.

How to enjoy hard habits

Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. 

The time it takes to form a habit

The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s been twenty-one days or thirty days or three hundred days. What matters is the rate at which you perform the behavior. You could do something twice in thirty days, or two hundred times. It’s the frequency that makes the difference.

The Law of Least Effort

We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.

Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy. Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

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

To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.

Tracking your habits

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. Habit tracking is powerful because it leverages

multiple Laws of Behavior Change. It simultaneously makes a behavior

obvious, attractive, and satisfying.

The Goldilocks Rule for staying motivated

We 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.