Atomic Habits, Clear | But What For Notes


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
James Clear
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  • James Clear grew up playing baseball – his father had played professionally in the minor leagues – but that was all turned on its head when he suffered a brain injury in a sporting accident
  • Clear’s injury set him back years, but through setting up good habits – things like sleeping early, going to the gym – he was able to get back on track and was ultimately awarded both academic and athletic honors at university
  • Clear took his experience and turned it into an online blog that over time turned into a place visited by millions
  • This book is written for those that would like a multidisciplinary look at the phenomenon of habit formation, with an eye towards making small incremental steps that compound over time into large positive results
  • Quotes
    • A habit is a routine or behavior that is performed regularly—and, in many cases, automatically. As each semester passed, I accumulated small but consistent habits that ultimately led to results that were unimaginable to me when I started. 
      • Page 6
    • Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years. We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.
      • Page 7

The Fundamentals
The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

  • Clear starts with an example of British Cycling, which had an abysmal track record leading into the early 2000
    • However, a newly hired performance director – Dave Brailsford – was set to change that through a focus on continuous small improvements
    • The result of a program focused on small, positive changes over time was one of the best track records of any country
  • This example highlights the meaning behind the book’s title – Atomic Habits
    • Atomic habits are small, easy to do systems of habits that form the building blocks of of significant change over time
    • The compounding of these small habits works both ways – you can compound towards improvement or you can compound towards degeneration
  • The difficult part about keeping atomic habits is that, relative to human expectations, you will feel like you are making no progress because humans expect linear progression, but compounding is not linear – it takes time
    • Studying a language for an hour a day doesn’t make you feel like you are closer to speaking the language; even after a month you’ll feel no closer, but after an hour a day for 2 years, you’ll be surprised in yourself
  • This is why Clear makes the point that systems are more important than goals – goals are good for setting the direction you want to go, but systems are the only way you make progress
    • Many people wish to be professional athletes – the goal is the same – but the goal doesn’t differentiate winners and losers, it is the effectiveness of the system that they follow that determines the outcome
  • Focusing on systems is also important because your ultimate outcomes, which could be compared against your goals, are lagging indicators of the systems you implement
    • You are healthy today because you spent the last year waking up early and running; you are smarter at the end of the year because you make sure to learn something new each day
  • Quotes
    • 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. 
      • Page 15
    • 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.
      • Page 15
    • 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. 
      • Page 16
    • Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.
      • Page 18
    • You expect to make progress in a linear fashion and it’s frustrating how ineffective changes can seem during the first days, weeks, and even months. It doesn’t feel like you are going anywhere. It’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed. 
      • Page 20
    • Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems. 
      • Page 24
    • You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. 
      • Page 27

How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

  • The key to forming good habits is, again, not focusing on the outcome that you want to achieve only, but by focusing on something else.
    • You need to focus on your identity – focus on the kind of person you want to become
    • It’s not enough to focus on wanting to run marathons, you need to be focused on becoming a runner
    • It’s not enough to focus on eating health food, you need to be focused on becoming a health person
  • Behavior will only change permanently is if it is tied to your identity, but don’t forget that habit formation works both for and against you
    • If you let something negative be tied to your identity (“I’m terrible with directions… I’m not a morning person”), then your habits will reflect that also
  • This highlights why it is important to not get attached to one version of your identity – your identity can change over time to be a better version of you
    • When Clear first started writing, he was not a writer, he became a writer by acting like one
  • Clear uses the metaphor of voting for your future self – every time you do something that is inline with your identity you move closer toward it and every time you do something at odds with it, you move further away
    • The votes add up over time. It is not a “snap your fingers” and you are who you want to be – it’s a gradual process where the votes that are in the majority define who you are
  • Your actions are further proof to you of the person that you are – if you write for an hour, you are a writer for an hour – and that creates a flywheel effect
  • Quotes
    • 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. 
      • Page 34
    • Like all aspects of habit formation, this, too, is a double-edged sword. When working for you, identity change can be a powerful force for self-improvement. When working against you, though, identity change can be a curse. Once you have adopted an identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change. 
      • Page 35
    • This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity. 
      • Page 36

How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

  • Habit forming is the same as learning anything else – your brain encounters a problem and looks for the most efficient solution to that problem, remembering and refining that solution over time 
    • Your brain encounters a situation, has a desired result and takes steps to get the result given the situation
    • You come home and you are tired, you would like to be comfortable, you change clothes
  • Thus, a habit is just a learned behavior that has been repeated enough to become automatic
    • Your brain does this to reduce cognitive load – if you can automate responses in the background of your brain, your cognitive functions can work on solving new situations
    • This means habits are a way to create the freedom to do other things – and not having habits can often result in not having freedom
  • Clear outlines this process in 4 steps – 1) cue, 2) craving, 3) response and 4) reward
    • Cue – something triggers you to initiate behavior… the cue predicts that a reward might be near
    • Craving – this is the motivational force behind the habit, a craving to have the reward
    • Response – this is the actual habit that you perform, the learned and tried-and-true way to access the reward that you are craving
    • Reward – the end goal of your brain’s habit loop
    • These 4 steps form a feedback loop – a habit loop. By the time we are adults, a good portion of our lives are governed by the habit loops we have lived through
  • Knowing these four steps exist, we can use them to form good habits and break bad habits. We need to make the good habits easily fall into the habit loop while preventing the bad habits from doing the same
    • For Good / Bad Habits
    • Cue – make it obvious / invisible
    • Craving – make it attractive / unattractive
    • Response – make it easy / difficult
    • Reward – make it satisfying / unsatisfying
  • Habit forming centers around asking yourself how you can make the above 4 steps true
  • Quotes
    • A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. The process of habit formation begins with trial and error. Whenever you encounter a new situation in life, your brain has to make a decision. How do I respond to this?
      • Page 44
    • As behavioral scientist Jason Hreha writes, “Habits are, simply, reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment.” 
      • Page 45

The 1st Law – Make it Obvious
The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

  • Your brain is constantly looking for cues and going through the habit loop process
    • Examples include everything from a paramedic learning the pattern of blood flow on a person face being indicative of a disease to museum curators being able to tell fakes from real
  • Your conscious brain is not always aware of the cues, and this can become dangerous
    • The more something becomes a habit, the more it is automatic and happening before you realize it
  • In order to build new habits, it is important to first take stock of your current habits
    • Clear suggests the idea of a Habit Scorecard
    • The Habit Scorecard finds inspiration from the “point-and-call” system of Japan’s subway operators – the idea being that for tasks that are easily automated (checking speed on approach, checking light color) you should point and say out loud the cue (“Light is green”)
    • This takes the likelihood of something remaining unconscious and makes it conscious
  • The Habit Scorecard then is taking stock of what you do every day – wake up, turn off the alarm, this check phone, eat food, and so on
    • You can rate them as “Does this help me become the type of person I want to be” or does it do the opposite
    • It is not necessarily important to try to make changes while doing this – the importance is noticing what you do – as if you were watching someone in a movie and evaluating their actions
  • Quotes:
    • As habits form, your actions come under the direction of your automatic and nonconscious mind. You fall into old patterns before you realize what’s happening. 
      • Page 61
    • Before we can effectively build new habits, we need to get a handle on our current ones. This can be more challenging than it sounds because once a habit is firmly rooted in your life, it is mostly nonconscious and automatic. If a habit remains mindless, you can’t expect to improve it. As the psychologist Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” 
      • Page 62
    • We’re so used to doing what we’ve always done that we don’t stop to question whether it’s the right thing to do at all. Many of our failures in performance are largely attributable to a lack of self-awareness. 
      • Page 64

The Best Way to Start a New Habit

  • The best way to start a new habit is to take advantage of understanding two things 1) that time and location are the two most common cues and 2) making a specific plan to form a habit, called implementation intentions, that leverages these cues is most likely to succeed
    • “I will meditate in the morning” is not a good implementation intention – it’s too vague
    • “I will meditate for 1 minute at 7am in my kitchen” is better
  • Habits often happen in a chain of habits, and you can take advantage of what Clear calls Habit Stacking – the observation being that what we are doing right now is often the result of what we were doing just before
    • You wash your hands, so you realize you should wash the towels, which reminds you to write down that you need to buy detergent, which prompts you to write a list for the grocery store
    • You can strengthen your implementation intentions by taking advantage of a habit you already have
    • “After I pour my cup of coffee in the morning, I will meditate for 1 minute in my kitchen”
  • The overall goal is to make the cue so obvious and specific that the odds are your brain will notice and take the action you want 
  • Quotes
    • 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. Too many people try to change their habits without these basic details figured out. 
      • Page 70
    • Consider when you are most likely to be successful. Don’t ask yourself to do a habit when you’re likely to be occupied with something else.
      • Page 77

Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

  • The environment often plays the role of a cue
    • If you want to practice guitar, an environment where the guitar is easier to see is more likely to cue you to practice
    • The environment itself can be the cue – people tend to whisper in churches because they are in a church
  • You can change your environment to improve the likelihood of forming the new habit – remember that the goal is to keep the cue obvious
    • Put your medicine next to your toothbrush so you remember to take it
    • Put a book on your chair so you remember to read it when you go in that room
  • Because the environment is unconsciously driving your habitual actions, forming new habits can often be better done in a new environment
    • Go to a new coffee shop, rearrange your room or get a new piece of furniture to sit on
  • Because we want to make the cues obvious, it is helpful if the items in your environment have “one use for one habit”
    • The office in your house is only used for work, the bed is only used for sleeping (not looking at your phone) and the iPad is for reading (not YouTube)
    • The last example highlights that newer technology like phones and tablets can make it difficult for cues to be obvious – is a phone for work, personal communication, internet, games, reading?
  • Quotes:
    • Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. Despite our unique personalities, certain behaviors tend to arise again and again under certain environmental conditions. 
      • Page 82
    • The power of context also reveals an important strategy: habits can be easier to change in a new environment. It helps to escape the subtle triggers and cues that nudge you toward your current habits. Go to a new place—a different coffee shop, a bench in the park, a corner of your room you seldom use—and create a new routine there.
      • Page 88

The Secret to Self-Control

  • Breaking bad habits is the reverse – make the cue in the environment invisible
    • Example of Vietnamese soldiers that were addicted to heroin when deployed – the environment of stress and death was associated with heroin – that when they returned home, stopped using heroin
  • Habits are incredible long lasting – often breaking a bad habit is synonymous with changing your environment
    • Example of a woman who smoked whenever she rode horses – she didn’t ride horses for ten years and thus didn’t smoke, but when she rode a horse again she suddenly had an urge to smoke
  • Those that seem to have good habits and higher levels of self control tend to be better at controlling their environment to promote less of a need for self control
    • Self-control is a short term solution, but in order to succeed in the long term you need to improve your environment
  • Quote:
    • Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.
      • Page 92
    • Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. 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. 
      • Page 95

The 2nd Law – Make it Attractive
How to Make a Habit Irresistible

  • Humans have been programmed by evolution to pursue certain things – for example, the need to consume sugar, fats and salt in large quantities when found because, thousands of years ago, these were difficult to find consistently
    • These things that are attractive can be used to our benefit (and detriment) as the more attractive the reward, the more habit-forming it is
  • Dopamine governs the motivations and desire to do an action
    • And interesting study blocked dopamine from being released in the brains of rats, and the rats quickly died because they had no motivation to even drink water
    • Another study did the opposite – it flooded the rats with dopamine, and the rats performed their habits at quicker speeds
    • This highlights that dopamine is not just a reward for achieving something, but it is also released when you anticipate a reward, which prompts action
  • During the habit loop, the first time you receive a reward, you get a dopamine spike, teaching you that you want to get that reward again
    • However, as you learn how to receive the reward, the dopamine spike starts to happen before the reward, not after receiving it
    • This spike in anticipation prompts action, and if you receive the reward, dopamine levels return to normal
    • If you do not receive the reward, the levels tank
  • The brain has more infrastructure for wanting rewards than liking the rewards it receives
    • Humans need to pursue things to feel pleasure, often obtaining a goal is not in any way comparable
  • This brings back the idea that you need to make the craving attractive, and Clear suggests the idea of temptation bundling
    • Temptation bundling is the strategy of associating the desired habit with an outcome you already enjoy
    • You can check the news, but only after you do ten pushups
    • You can check your emails on your phone, but only after you read a page of a book
  • Quotes:
    • When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it. Gambling addicts have a dopamine spike right before they place a bet, not after they win. Cocaine addicts get a surge of dopamine when they see the powder, not after they take it. 
      • Page 106
    • Your brain has far more neural circuitry allocated for wanting rewards than for liking them. The wanting centers in the brain are large: the brain stem, the nucleus accumbens, the ventral tegmental area, the dorsal striatum, the amygdala, and portions of the prefrontal cortex. By comparison, the liking centers of the brain are much smaller. 
      • Page 108

The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

  • Humans evolved as tribal animals – the lone wolf dies but the pack survives
    • Because of this, humans evolved to operate within social norms and take social cues from the group
    • This ties back to the idea of culture and tradition (not commented on here) may at times provide a protective barrier (though traditions must also change over time as times change)
  • We often look to three groups of people to imitate their habits – 1) those close to us, 2) the crowd and 3) the powerful
  • The most powerful way to sustain a habit is to be part of a group where that habit is the norm
    • Even after reaching a goal, you need to stay in that group to keep the shared identity part of your personal identity
  • Quotes
    • As Charles Darwin noted, “In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” As a result, one of the deepest human desires is to belong. And this ancient preference exerts a powerful influence on our modern behavior
      • Page 115
    • Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe. It transforms a personal quest into a shared one. 
      • Page 118
    • The shared identity begins to reinforce your personal identity. This is why remaining part of a group after achieving a goal is crucial to maintaining your habits.
      • Page 118

How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

  • Every habit you have is addressing a craving that is deeper than the actual action you are doing
    • You don’t check Facebook because you want to check Facebook, you check because you want to feel like part of a social group
    • You don’t smoke because you like smoking, you smoke because it reduces anxiety
    • You learn these bad habits because they are associated with solving the problem (I feel anxious, I feel lonely)
  • You need to invert the 2nd Law and make the habit unattractive in order to effectively break it
    • It is hard to quit smoking just by saying you want to quit, but instead you need to reframe your way of thinking about what smoking is at a deep level
  • Habits can be difficult to break, so a strategy is to create a simple action that you perform during an emotion that you want to be able to use to break the habit
    • If you like your dog, breathe three times before you pet it – eventually breathing three times becomes associated with being relaxed
    • Now, when you have feel stressed, instead of smoking a cigarette, take three breaths
  • Quotes
    • You think you are quitting something, but you’re not quitting anything because cigarettes do nothing for you. 
      • Page 126
    • A craving is the sense that something is missing. It is the desire to change your internal state. When the temperature falls, there is a gap between what your body is currently sensing and what it wants to be sensing. This gap between your current state and your desired state provides a reason to act.
      • Page 129
    • To summarize, the specific cravings you feel and habits you perform are really an attempt to address your fundamental underlying motives. Whenever a habit successfully addresses a motive, you develop a craving to do it again.
      • Page 130

The 3rd Law – Make it Easy
Walk Slowly, but Never Backwards

  • Many people spend so much time preparing to start a habit in a perfect way that they never start at all
    • You do this because when you are preparing, there is no chance of failing
  • What is actually required is repetition, and you can make things approach perfect along the way, but until you start, you are making no progress
    • This can be seen in language learning – when you first try to learn a language you stumble through multiple failures until you are competent
  • Quotes
    • We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.” 
      • Page 142
    • If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it.
      • Page 143

The Law of Least Effort

  • Humans are motivated to be lazy because it requires less energy, so it is important to make the habits you are trying to form as frictionless as possible
    • Bad habits are just easy ways to solve problems in the short term – scrolling on your phone through social media is an energy efficient way to feel like part of a group
    • You don’t want the habit or the action required to get the reward, you want the reward – this means the easiest way to get the reward is path you will take
  • Your environment, as mentioned before, can help you lazily form good habits and kill bad ones
    • Want to remember to read every morning – put a book on your chair where you have to sit
    • Want to stop watching TV just to pass time – put it in the closet every time you turn it off so that you have to bring it back out to turn it on
  • Quotes
    • You don’t actually want the habit itself. What you really want is the outcome the habit delivers. The greater the obstacle—that is, the more difficult the habit—the more friction there is between you and your desired end state. This is why it is crucial to make your habits so easy that you’ll do them even when you don’t feel like it. 
      • Page 152
    • The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with our bad ones.
      • Page 155

How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

  • Not only do we try to be perfect and never start, we often try to start too big. The effort becomes too much, leading to failure 
  • We can start small because 1) it is most important to at least start as this lets the habit start to form and then you can optimize and 2) habits can form a chain of events that impact more than the habit
    • Concerning 2), you have a habit of picking up your phone when it buzzes – then you find yourself 20 minutes later reading Facebook
    • The habit is a gateway into additional action, and good habits push you toward action that is align with the identity you are targeting
    • Starting small can actually push you into a better chain of actions
  • Clear has a Two Minute Rule, which states that any new habit should take less than two minutes
    • Want to read a book a week? Start by reading a page a day
    • Want to workout for half an hour a day? Start by changing your clothes, putting your shoes on and stepping outside every day. 
    • Eventually, once it is a habit, you can transform it into the actual habit you want
  • Quotes
    • We are limited by where our habits lead us. This is why mastering the decisive moments throughout your day is so important. Each day is made up of many moments, but it is really a few habitual choices that determine the path you take.
      • Page 162
    • It’s better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.
      • Page 165

How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

  • In order to break bad habits – and make time for good habits – you can make your bad habits impossible
    • Clear calls this a commitment device, which is a single decision you make in the present to make a bad habit consistently more difficult to do in the future 
    • You can make your internet turn off at 10pm so that you can’t not sleep
    • You can leave your money at home so you can’t buy fast food
  • You can also automate the good habit in the same way
    • A single decision to make automatic investments in a retirement account from your paycheck is a way to start the habit of saving for the future
  • Quotes
    • Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard.
      • Page 169

The 4th Law – Make it Satisfying
The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

  • Humans evolved in an instant gratification world, not getting eaten or getting out of the storm was something that needed to happen instantly and provide for survival
    • Today we are living in mostly a delayed-return environment, with future problems that require present solutions
    • This means the human brain values the present more than the future, but it is operating in a world where often short term benefit is paid for with long term detriment
  • Because of this, we need to tie instant gratification to the reward part of the habit loop
    • If saving money is hard, call your bank account your vacation fund. Now instead of saving feeling like losing money in the present, it feels like paying for part of the vacation
    • The idea is that eventually the habit forms because saving becomes part of your identity, but the immediate reinforcement has helped get you started
  • Quotes
    • It is a lot easier for people to adopt a product that provides a strong positive sensory signal, for example the mint taste of toothpaste, than it is to adopt a habit that does not provide pleasurable sensory feedback, like flossing one’s teeth. 
      • Page 184
    • You value the present more than the future. Usually, this tendency serves us well. A reward that is certain right now is typically worth more than one that is merely possible in the future. But occasionally, our bias toward instant gratification causes problems.
      • Page 188

How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

  • Tracking or measuring your habits can be a powerful way to continue them
    • For example, get a calendar and put an x on every day that you practice a new language – eventually you have a line of x’s 
  • This tracking is great for multiple reasons
    • 1) It makes your progress obvious and you cannot trick yourself into thinking you are doing better than you think you are
    • 2) Because you can see the progress, you are more likely to feel like you are making progress even when competence is a long way away
    • 3) Tracking can become its own form of reward, focusing you on the process and keeping consistency (no one wants to see a blank day after many days of x’s)
  • However, we are all human after all, and that means we will eventually fail, which is not the end of the world
    • Clear has a simple rule for when you miss a day – never miss twice
    • If you miss twice, you are starting to form a new habit – the first mistake doesn’t break you, it the spiral of repeated mistakes that takes you down
    • If you must, do the habit poorly, but you need to do it the second time – remember, perfection is the enemy of making progress, it can also be the enemy of consistency
  • Quotes
    • Most of us have a distorted view of our own behavior. We think we act better than we do. Measurement offers one way to overcome our blindness to our own behavior and notice what’s really going on each day. 
      • Page 197
    • 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.
      • Page 201
    • Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all. 
      • Page 201

How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

  • The more immediate a consequence of not doing something, the more likely you are to try to avoid the consequence
    • The same works for doing something that you should not – the more immediate the punishment, the more likely you are to avoid it
  • One way to create an immediate consequence, and work in the social aspect, is to have an accountability partner
    • If someone is watching and expecting you to do or not do something, because humans deeply care about what someone else thinks about them, it can be motivating

Advanced Tactics – How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great
The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)

  • Genetics play a not-insignificant role in everything you do, and the same can be said about your habit formation process
    • If you hate the idea that you are genetically predisposed to something, compare the average body types of professional swimmers and runners
    • While it is true a runner body could become a great swimmer, he has a harder road to climb than the swimmer body
  • If they are aligned with your natural inclinations, habits are easier to perform and more enjoyable 
    • If you are extroverted, a habit of running alone may be more difficult than joining a basketball team
  • How do you figure out what is something you are inclined to?
    • Is the effort something that hurts you less than it hurts other people?
    • Do you lose track of time when doing the task?
    • Are you just better than others for some reason (your email list grows quickly, you are not as sore two days later)?
  • Importantly, genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. Genes merely form a backdrop of inclinations that will impact how hard you work.
  • Quotes:
    • Our deeply rooted preferences make certain behaviors easier for some people than for others. You don’t have to apologize for these differences or feel guilty about them, but you do have to work with them. 
      • Page 221
    • You don’t have to build the habits everyone tells you to build. Choose the habit that best suits you, not the one that is most popular. 
      • Page 222
    • When are you enjoying yourself while other people are complaining? The work that hurts you less than it hurts others is the work you were made to do. 
      • Page 224
    • Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.
      • Page 226
    • People get so caught up in the fact that they have limits that they rarely exert the effort required to get close to them. 
      • Page 226

The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

  • Humans need a challenge to stay interested in something – playing a game against a toddler or a professional will both bore you
    • Staying in the area in the middle is called the Goldilocks Rule – doing things that are not too hard and not too easy
  • This ties into the human need for novelty – humans like to get new kinds of reward (new food, new workouts, new diets) 
    • That means it is important to constantly improve the habit so that you are making new progress (different kinds of leg workouts)
  • However, at some point, the habit will get boring because it will be the same actions
    • Those that are successful are those that have learned to show up despite the boredom
    • You will never regret finishing the set, practicing the song, or eating the right food – but in the moment before you do so, you might have to defeat boredom

The Downside of Creating Good Habits

  • The downside of habits is that things become automatic over time with you paying less attention to the action
    • Following mastery of a habit, skill level actually tends to decline as you are no longer focusing on its quality
  • It is important that you incorporate reflection and review into your habits
    • Clear uses a 6 months schedule – every summer and winter he reviews what he has done
    • This enables long term improvement – in the moment it is hard to tell whether you are improving or not. It is also easy to make excuses or trick yourself into thinking you are doing better than you truly are
  • This reflection also helps you redefine the identity you want to approach and you can focus on improving measurable things over time
  • It is also important to not let a single habit define your whole identity; there will always be times that you fail, and it will be devastating if you think that you are defined by it
  • Quotes
    • Without reflection, we can make excuses, create rationalizations, and lie to ourselves. We have no process for determining whether we are performing better or worse compared to yesterday. 
      • Page 244

Conclusion – The Secret to Results That Last

  • Habits compound, a single 1% betterment doesn’t feel like anything at all, but after a few years you are lightyears ahead of where you would have been otherwise
  • Additionally, the road to an identity (or success or a goal) is a race without a finish line you can ever cross – being 1% better is possible no matter where you are in the race
  • Thus, it is important to never stop – the moment you stop, you are no longer compounding and no longer progressing (and the progress you have made to date will feel small relative to what you could have been, reinforcing a feeling a failure)
  • Tiny Habits. Remarkable Results.
  • Quotes
    • Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.
      • Page 252
    • The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. 
      • Page 253


  • Quotes
    • Our thoughts and actions are rooted in what we find attractive, not necessarily in what is logical. Two people can notice the same set of facts and respond very differently because they run those facts through their unique emotional filter. This is one reason why appealing to emotion is typically more powerful than appealing to reason. If a topic makes someone feel emotional, they will rarely be interested in the data. This is why emotions can be such a threat to wise decision making. 
      • Page 261
    • If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it. It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself. Your actions reveal your true motivations. 
      • Page 262