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Book Review: Atomic Habits

10/11/2022, 7:59 PM


What I learned after reading Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic habits cover

This book talks about how to create and maintain habits in your life, but also is about how to remove habits that you don't want.

The base idea of the book is that you can create remarkable improvements in your life by improving 1 percent each day, this is the power of compounding, many books I've read in very different categories talk about this, and it's because it's so difficult for the human brain to wrap their head about how powerful this is:

So for example, by improving 1 percent each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you're done!

Take advantage of the compounding

Compounding effect

The power of identity

The book also talks about how important it is to tight your identity to the habits you want to acquire, and to not think only in goals because as the book says:

Winners and losers have the same goals.

The problems of focusing too much on goals:

  • Achieving a goal is only a momentary change If your objective was only about a goal, once you accomplish it, you will probably lose your motivation and forget this habit. This happened to me a while ago with biking, I wanted to do a 400kms race so bad that I trained like crazy for this, my motivation was on the roof, but once I did it, I've been struggling to find again the motivation to train at the levels before.

  • Goals restrict your happiness If you live your life following a goal, you might never be good enough in your life, and your happiness will usually be postponed until this is done, like "I will finally be happy when I achieve this goal"

The process of creating an identity

Instead of saying to yourself:

I want to go to the gym every day

Say to yourself:

I'm the kind of person that cares about fitness

I'm the kind of person that is always learning something new

And once you have established the identity you want, you need to start collecting votes:

  • Every time you do your action you come a bit closer to internalize your identity, a hack to apply when you don't have motivation to do a habit a certain day is to ask yourself

Is this what an X (Your identity) will do in this case?

Following a plan to make new habits

Make it obvious

Put cues in your environment to trigger your brain into remembering and performing an action

  • Do you want to go to the gym every morning? Put your gym towel and shoes in the living room

  • If you already have good habits, you can bundle them together, this is effective as it creates a cue in your brain

    • "After I [Current habit], I will [new habit]"

Make it attractive

  • Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

    • After I complete [Habit I need to do], I will [habit I want to do]

  • Find people that find your desired behavior desirable too

  • Do something you enjoy doing immediately after a difficult habit

Make it easy

  • Design your environment to make the new habit easier

    • Taking back the previous example, do you want to go to the gym every day? Prepare all gym clothes every morning so when you wake up is only about taking them and go

  • Make your new habit small, start small, maybe following the 2 minutes rule

Make it satisfying

Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete the required action. This is important because your brain tends to prioritize behavior that gives you immediate satisfaction instead of long term satisfaction.

Never miss twice. Don't break the chain

Removing a bad habit

Last but not least, the book talks about how to remove habits that you don't want in your life, these rules are simply an inversion of the process to acquire a good habit:

  • Make it invisible

  • Make it unattractive

  • Make it difficult

  • Make it unsatisfying

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I'm a Senior Software Engineer working in Berlin, primary focused on Frontend Technologies but also interested in Backend with Go, Terminal Apps and Neovim.

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