Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

A book by James Clear “Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.”

Summary

The big idea

When you hear about the big successes in the world, what you don’t see is the years of effort that went into them. Because it’s not one big transformational moment that leads to success.  But a series of consistent, small improvements.

The power of habits

In the early 2000s, the British cycling team had won just a single gold medal at the Olympic games.  It was so bad that a bike manufacturer refused to sell bikes to the team because it would reflect negatively on their brand!

All that changed by hiring a manager who believed in 1% improvements.  For example, he hired a surgeon to teach the cyclists how to wash their hands so they’d get sick less.  Hundreds of tiny improvements later, the British cycling team won 178 world championships and 5 Tour de France events over a 10 year period.

That’s the power of habits: small improvements accumulate into remarkable results.

The problem with habits

Sounds easy but therein lies the problem.  You make small changes, fail to see tangible results, and give up.

It’s similar to what happens when you heat an ice cube: its temperature rises from 25 degrees to 26, 27, and so on.  Up until you reach 32 degrees, you see no difference.  And you may give up because your efforts seemingly have no impact.  When in fact you’re building latent potential

The problem is that we expect linear results, when in fact we have to invest in future impact. The key to get there is to persist through the Valley of Disappointment.

Focus on SYSTEMS instead of GOALS

Luckily, there IS a way.  By avoiding the biggest mistake everyone makes: focusing on goals.

Success has little to do with goals.  Sure, they give us direction, but what determines success is “systems” the HOW we get to the destination.

Without systems, staring at your goals, you WILL get disappointed and give up Instead, you want to break down a goal into small, well-defined habits. And eventually, you’ll hit your goals.

Here’s how it works… Start with a goal.  Let’s say you want to become stronger.

Next, break it down into small steps to get there.  Let’s say one of them is: do 10 pushups a day.

And then turn those steps into habits.  These are called “atomic” habits because they can’t be broken down any further: they are very clear and super specific. Perhaps you commit to do 10 pushups right next to your desk, when you close your laptop for lunch.

TIP: try habit-stacking

To make adherence even easier, try habit stacking.  Find a habit already ingrained in your daily routine, and attach a new habit to it.  If you want to meditate, say “I will meditate for 3 minutes as soon as I turn on my coffee-maker every morning”.

Key takeaway

Success is the compounded product of small daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.  Break down your goals into atomic habits in order to persist through the Valley of Disappointment and become one of those so-called “overnight” successes we all hear about!

Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones

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James Clear author

James Clear

Book Author

James Clear is an author and speaker focused on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Time, and on CBS This Morning. His website receives millions of visitors each month and hundreds of thousands subscribe to his popular email newsletter at jamesclear.com.

More about the author at JamesClear.com