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Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Read in January 2019

"If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you're done."

Introduction: Story of James

Tells about baseball bat accident that happened to him in high school and had to taken to a hospital with a helicopter and stayed in coma for a few days and serious injuries including one of his eyeball popping up because of the stuffed nose thing. However, he bounced back from this and made great success at university.

British cycling team’s success after Dave Brailsford

The performance of British riders had been so underwhelming that one of the top bike manufacturers in Europe refused to sell bikes to the team because they were afraid that it would hurt sales if other professionals saw the Brits using their gear.

Why small habits make big differences

If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.

The impact created by a change in your habits is similar to the effect of shifting the route of an airplane by just a few degrees. Imagine you are flying from Los Angeles to New York City. If a pilot leaving from LAX adjusts the heading just 3.5 degrees south, you will land in Washington, D.C., instead of New York.

What progress is really like

Complaining about not achieving success despite working hard is like complaining about an ice cube not melting when you heated it from twenty-five to thirty-one degrees.

When you finally break through the Plateau of Latent Potential, people will call it an overnight success.

Goals vs Systems

  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
  • In the words of three-time Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh, “The score takes care of itself.”
  • Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals
  • Problem #2: Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
  • Problem #3: Goals restrict your happiness.
  • Problem #4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress.
  • 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. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.

How Habits Shape the Identity

  • The third and deepest layer is changing your identity.
  • This level is concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, your self-image, your judgments about yourself and others. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level.
  • You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven’t changed who you are.
  • The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.

Two step process of changing your identity:

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

The 1st Law: Make it Obvious

  • Habits scorecard: the goal is to simply notice what is actually going on.
  • Observe your thoughts and actions without judgment or internal criticism. Don’t blame yourself for your faults. Don’t praise yourself for your successes.
  • The first step to changing bad habits is to be on the lookout for them. If you feel like you need extra help, then you can try Pointing-and-Calling in your own life.
  • Say out loud the action that you are thinking of taking and what the outcome will be. If you want to cut back on your junk food habit but notice yourself grabbing another cookie, say out loud, “I’m about to eat this cookie, but I don’t need it. Eating it will cause me to gain weight and hurt my health.”

Best Way to Start a New Habbit

Implementation Intention

  • “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”
  • The punch line is clear: people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.

Habit Stacking

  • Diderot’s daughter was about to married but he didn’t have money. He sold his personal library to a Russian princess and earned a lot of money. He afforded the wedding and bought a new robe with himself. But that robe was so beautiful so he had to change his whole belongings to match with that robe :D His behavior is not uncommon. In fact, the tendency for one purchase to lead to another one has a name: the Diderot Effect.
  • The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]

Motivation is Overrated, Environment Often Matters More

It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.

The Secret to Self-Control

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.

Bad habits are autocatalytic: the process feeds itself. They foster the feelings they try to numb. You feel bad, so you eat junk food. Because you eat junk food, you feel bad. Watching television makes you feel sluggish, so you watch more television because you don’t have the energy to do anything else. Worrying about your health makes you feel anxious, which causes you to smoke to ease your anxiety, which makes your health even worse and soon you’re feeling more anxious. It’s a downward spiral, a runaway train of bad habits.

The 2nd Law: Make it Attractive

  • After spending hundreds of thousands of years hunting and foraging for food in the wild, the human brain has evolved to place a high value on salt, sugar, and fat. Such foods are often calorie-dense and they were quite rare when our ancient ancestors were roaming the savannah. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, eating as much as possible is an excellent strategy for survival.
  • Researchers have found that 100 percent of the nucleus accumbens is activated during wanting.19 Meanwhile, only 10 percent of the structure is activated during liking.
  • Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

Role of Family and Friends

Laszlo Polgar and his chess master daughters :D

Once, Laszlo reportedly found Sofia playing chess in the bathroom in the middle of the night. Encouraging her to go back to sleep, he said, “Sofia, leave the pieces alone!” To which she replied, “Daddy, they won’t leave me alone!”

Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.

To make your habits even more attractive, you can take this strategy one step further. Join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

  • Your current habits are not necessarily the best way to solve the problems you face; they are just the methods you learned to use. Once you associate a solution with the problem you need to solve, you keep coming back to it.
  • Desire is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Even the tiniest action is tinged with the motivation to feel differently than you do in the moment.

The 3rd Law: Make it Easy -- The Law of Least Effort

Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.

How to Stop Procascinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

  • A women calls cab before going to gym every morning, from that point there’s no going back :)
  • Habits are the entry point, not the end point. They are the cab, not the gym.
  • 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.
  • “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
  • Ernest Hemingway believed in similar advice for any kind of writing. “The best way is to always stop when you are going good,” he said.

How to Make Good Habits Inevitable / Bad Habits Impossible

  • Onetime choices—like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan—are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time.
  • Increase friction. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits.
  • Within the first week of locking myself out of social media, I realized that I didn’t need to check it nearly as often as I had been, and I certainly didn’t need it each day. It had simply been so easy that it had become the default.

The 4th Law: Make it Satisfying

Better foamy soap story in Africa.

Once you understand how the brain prioritizes rewards, the answers become clear: the consequences of bad habits are delayed while the rewards are immediate.

  • Smoking might kill you in ten years, but it reduces stress and eases your nicotine cravings now.
  • Overeating is harmful in the long run but appetizing in the moment.
  • Sex—safe or not—provides pleasure right away. Disease and infection won’t show up for days or weeks, even years

How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures—like moving paper clips or hairpins or marbles—provide clear evidence of your progress. As a result, they reinforce your behavior and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity. Visual measurement comes in many forms: food journals, workout logs, loyalty punch cards, the progress bar on a software download, even the page numbers in a book. But perhaps the best way to measure your progress is with a habit tracker

Habit tracking also helps keep your eye on the ball: you’re focused on the process rather than the result.

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows.

  • Missing once is an accident.
  • Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

To make bad habits unsatisfying, your best option is to make them painful in the moment.

You can even automate this process. Thomas Frank, an entrepreneur in Boulder, Colorado, wakes up at 5:55 each morning.7 And if he doesn’t, he has a tweet automatically scheduled that says, “It’s 6:10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this for $5 via PayPal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.”

Advanced Tactics, The Truth About Talent

  • After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you’ve found—but keep experimenting occasionally. The proper balance depends on whether you’re winning or losing. If you are currently winning, you exploit, exploit, exploit. If you are currently losing, you continue to explore, explore, explore.
  • In the long-run it is probably most effective to work on the strategy that seems to deliver the best results about 80 to 90 percent of the time and keep exploring with the remaining 10 to 20 percent.
  • When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out.

The Goldilocks Rule

  • The human brain loves a challenge, but only if it is within an optimal zone of difficulty.
  • Humans 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.

The Downside of Creating Habits

When you can do it “good enough” on autopilot, you stop thinking about how to do it better. The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside of habits is that you get used to doing things a certain way and stop paying attention to little errors. You assume you’re getting better because you’re gaining experience. In reality, you are merely reinforcing your current habits—not improving them. In fact, some research has shown that once a skill has been mastered there is usually a slight decline in performance over time.