Atomic Habits - James Clear

Atomic Habits - James Clear

 Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes


"If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you.  The problem is your system.  bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change."

"You do not rise to the level of your goals.  You fall to the level of your systems."

"Focusing on the overall system, rather than a single goal, is one of the core themes of this book.  It is also one of the deeper meanings behind the word atomic.  By now, you've probably realized that an atomic habit refers to a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1 percent improvement.  But atomic habits are not just any old habits, however small.  They are little habits that are part of a larger system.  Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results."

"Habits are like the atoms of our lives.  Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement.  At first, these tiny routines seem insignificant, but soon they build on each other and fuel bigger wins that multiply to a degree that far outweighs the cost of their initial investment.  They are both small and might.  This is the meaning of the phrase atomic habits"

"A regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth."

*This book is packed with big ideas..  It's so good that it's definitely worth buying and having as a reference guide!

Tiny Changes - Remarkable Results

Overestimating Effort

“It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about."

So often we fail to change our behaviors because we convince ourselves that we have to make a drastic change..   

  • Where have you failed at something because you attempted to make a massive change?
  • Where are you currently putting off changing something because you are overestimating what it might take?

Tiny Changes

"Meanwhile, improving 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable— but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: 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. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more."

One percent improvement is the fundamental teaching of atomic habits

Choosing to make a small change instead of a large change can feel scary at first..  Often because we've built up the pain of the current habit we're doing in our mind!  Then we're willing to almost do everything towards changing..

Tony Robbins says in order to make a change we need to associate massive pain with our current behavior and massive pleasure to our potential..  I believe most people are already very good at this!  But because we're constantly doing that exercise in our head we automatically want to take massive action.. 

"Massive Action" is hard to keep up..  Plus the power of compounding is a force much much more powerful than any action we can take in a moment.

Not paying attention to small slides is something far more insidious..  When you let certain cornerstone habits slip you slowly but surely get to a pretty dark place..  That's why it's so important to not only set a positive vision for the future but also set a negative vision..

Remarkable Results

"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.”

One Percent Improvement Numbers

  • 1 year = 37x
  • 2 Years = 1400x
  • 5 Years = 76,240,507x
  • 10 Years = Too Big a Number For This Mindmap
  • Graph 

Potential is UNKOWABLE

  • It's literally impossible to know what we are capable of until we let go of limits. 

Plateau of Latent Potential

“If you find yourself struggling to build a good habit or break a bad one, it is not because you have lost your ability to improve. It is often because you have not yet crossed the Plateau of Latent Potential."

"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. Your work was not wasted; it is just being stored. All the action happens at thirty-two degrees. When you finally break through the Plateau of Latent Potential, people will call it an overnight success."

"Mastery requires patience. The San Antonio Spurs, one of the most successful teams in NBA history, have a quote from social reformer Jacob Riis hanging in their locker room: ‘When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.’”

Little things add up to big things..  It's just not always visible!

Too often we set goals like I want to lose X weight by Y time..  Setting goals like this is a recipe for failure!

When we set goals like this if the results don't show up by that day and time we stop doing the little things that would have led to success

Power of Compounding

"It's a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed"

Be The Stonecutter

Have you ever bailed during the plateau of latent potential?

How can you remind yourself to be the stone cutter? 


“Identity change is the North Star of habit change. The remainder of this book will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to build better habits for yourself, your family, your team, your company, and anywhere else you wish. But the true question is: ‘Are you becoming the type of person you want to become?’ The first step is not what or how, but who. You need to know who you want to be. Otherwise, your quest for change is like a boat without a rudder. And that’s why we’re starting here."

"You have the power to change your beliefs about yourself. Your identity is not set in stone. You have a choice in every moment. You can choose the identity you want to reinforce today with habits you choose today. And this brings us to the deeper purpose of this book and the real reason habits matter."

"Building better habits isn’t about littering your day with life hacks. It’s not about flossing one tooth each night or taking a cold shower each morning or wearing the same outfit each day. It’s not about achieving external measures of success like earning more money, losing weight, or reducing stress. Habits can help you achieve all of these things, but fundamentally they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone."

"Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. Quite literally, you become your habits.”

"Life Hacks"

These are very popular now adays with the media selling them as the salve to cure your ails.. 

Not only do these not lead to any real measurable success!  But they confuse your identity..  Because you're not acting as yourself you are acting as the person who created this "life hack"

Who Do You Want to Become?

This is the question you should be asking BEFORE you decide what habits you want to develop or change..  


  • Healthy and fit athlete?
  • Successful business person?
  • Family Member?


  • Take time to think on this..  Quite time where you listen your thoughts can be extremely helpful here!
  • What is truly you and what is something that was given to you?

Become Who You Are

"The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior.  In fact, the word identity was originally derived from the Latin word essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly.  Your identity is literally your repeated beingness"

"Whatever you identity is now, you only believe it because you have proof"

Changing your identity

  • James talks about how to change your identity by repeating the desired behavior as frequently as possible..  and if you want to repeat your desired behavior?  Live from your new identity..  
  • Self Talk

• Dr. Shad Helmstetter says "you are what you tell yourself"

• Self talk is what you say to yourself all the time

• Listening and modifying your self talk can be extremely powerful when trying to make habit change.. 

• Habits are changed easiest at the identity level and supported by the behavior level

The 4 Laws

“If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start. Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act. Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it. And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future. Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, a behavior will not be repeated."

"In summary, 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—cue, craving, response, reward; cue, craving, response, reward—that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. This cycle is known as the habit loop.”

Four Stages of a Habit

Four Laws

Law 1: Cue

• Create a Habit

• Make it obvious

• Break a Habit

• Make it invisible

Law 2: Craving 

• Create a Habit

• Make it attractive

• Break a Habit

• Make it unattractive

Law 3: Response

• Create a Habit

• Make it easy

• Break a Habit

• Make it difficult

Law 4: Reward

• Create a Habit

• Make it satisfying

• Break a Habit

• Make it unsatisfying


Create a Good habit

Law 1: Make it Obvious

• Implementation Intention: "I will workout first thing in the morning at my home gym"

• Design The Environment: "Put your clothes out the night before; make your gym appealing"

Law 2: Make it Attractive

• Visualization: "Think about how you will feel after and all the benefits of exercise"

• Pairing: "Pair the habit with something you enjoy like drinking coffee or tea"

Law 3: Make it Easy

• Downscale: "How can you downscale your exercise so they can be 'done' in two minutes or less?"  Maybe you could say I will walk on the treadmill for two minutes.

• Think The One Thing: "What one thing can I do that will make everything else easy or unnecessary"

Law 4: Make it Satisfying

• Immediate Reward: "Drinking coffee or tea after your workout or listening to good music"

• Habit Chain: "Track your habits somehow and create a chain..  Growing that chain will have satisfaction and breaking the chain will feel bad"

Break a Bad Habit

Eating Junk Food

Law 1: Make it Invisible

• Out of Sight: "Take out all the junk food or at least put it out of sight"

Law 2: Make it Unattractive

• Reframe: "Highlight the benefits of avoiding the junk food in your mind using visualization"

Law 3: Make it Difficult

• Increase Friction: "More steps between you and the junk food aka at the store"

Law 4: Make it Unsatisfying

• Remember the Reframe: "Keep in mind how much better you feel and your energy levels increasing"

Sorties Paradox

“There is an ancient Greek parable known as the Sorites Paradox, which talks about the effect one small action can have when repeated enough times. One formulation of the paradox goes as follows: Can one coin make a person rich? If you give a person a pile of ten coins, you wouldn’t claim that he or she is rich. But what if you add another? And another? And another? At some point, you will have to admit that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him or her so."

"We can say the same thing about habits. Can one tiny change transform your life? It’s unlikely you would say so. But what if you made another? And another? And another? At some point, you will have to admit that your life was transformed by one small change."

"The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system."

"The secret of getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. ... Small habits don’t add up. They compound. That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.”

Never Stop Making Improvements

Building good habits is a lifelong journey towards becoming who you wish to be..  Remember identity?  

  • Think can you change your identity to the type of person who is constantly improving?
  • What would that persons habits look like after a year?  2 years?  5 years?  10 years?
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