Atomic Habits - Notes

Habits are the compound interest of self improvement.

Small changes add up to big differences if repeated consistently, its like changing the course of an aeroplanes flight path, over a short distance it makes little difference over thousands of miles the difference is huge.

Success = the product of daily habits.

Habits compound both for and against you.

Habits often appear to make no or little difference but often reach some breakthrough moment built on this accumulation. Like any compounding process the outcomes are delayed.

Systems not goals. Systems are about the processes that lead to results.

Problems with goals. Winners and losers have the same goal, achieving a goal is only a momentary change. Goals restrict your happiness, goals are at odds with long term progress.

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game, the purpose of systems is to continue playing the game. Commitment to process determines progress.

Behaviour can be changed at 3 levels, a change in outcome, process or identity. Process is about what you get, process is about what you do and identity is about what you believe. Direction is key here work from the inside out.

True change is rooted in identity – the goal is not to read more books it is to become a reader. Not to run a marathon but to become a runner.

The story we tell about ourselves – I’m terrible with directions, I cant remember peoples names I’m bad with numbers etc. Biggest barrier to positive change is when there is an identity conflict.

But beliefs are learned your identity is the sum of your experiences and how you ascribe meaning to this.

The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do. New identities require new evidence. Decide the type of person you want to be, prove it to yourself with small wins.

Fundamentally habits are not about having something they are about becoming someone.

A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. Building a habit can be divided into 4 steps:

Cue, craving response and reward.

4 Laws for Behaviour change:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

All of these laws can also be inverted

Make it obvious

Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’ Carl Jung

Pointing and calling is a safety system which reduces errors by up to 85%

Behaviour change starts with awareness we have to notice what are habits are now before we can change them.

Starting a new habit. Implementation intention – a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act.

Eg I will (Behaviour) at (time) in (location)

I will study Spanish for 10 mins at 7am in the kitchen

Habit stacking. This connects new habits to old habits which is powerful because of the existing connectedness of the old habit.

Eg After (current habit) I will (new habit)

After I make my coffee in the morning I will meditate for 1 min

Time and location are the most common cues for making habit obvious

Motivation is often overrated, environment matters more.

In shopping people often choose products not because of what they are but because of where they are. The environment can be designed to help improve habits. Urinal stickers of lies at Schiphol airport cut cleaning costs by 8% a year – as men aimed for the bug.

The cue for the habit needs to be a part of the environment – if you want to drink more water put the water bottle on the desk.

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

Cutting bad habits – really helps to cut or reduce the cue.

Making it Attractive

Importance of dopamine. Dopamine drives desire without which action stops. Habits are basically dopamine driven feedback loops. Dopamine is released not when you experience pleasure or a reward but when you anticipate it. The brain has far more neural circuitry for wanting rewards than for liking them.

Temptation bundling – Premack’s principle named after psychologist David Premack ‘ more probable behaviours will reinforce less probably behaviours.

After (current habit) I will (habit I need)

After (habit I need) I will (habit I want)

If you want to check social media but you need to exercise more

After I pull out my phone I will do 10 press ups (need)

After I do 10 press ups I will check social media (want)

The importance of social norms. You don’t choose your earliest habits you imitate them. In particular we imitate the habits of the the close, the many and the powerful.

One of the most effective things you can do for better habits is to join a culture where your desired behaviour is the norm and you already have something in common with the group. Usually we would rather be wrong with the crowd than right by ourselves.

Your habits are modern day solutions to ancient desires.

Every behaviour has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.

Make it easy

‘The best is the enemy of the good’ Voltaire have to stop planning and get acting. Being in motion and being in action are not the same thing.

How many repetitions are required to form a new habit? Frequency is the thing that makes the difference. To practice something frequently it really helps if is easy.

Human behaviour tends to follow the law of least effort

Build the environment so the right thing is the easy thing

Cut out friction around good behaviours and add friction to bad behaviours

40-50 per cent of actions on any given day are out of habit

2-Minute rule. Any new habit should be practiced at or under this duration. The point is to master the habit of showing up. Standardize before you optimize, you cant improve a habit that does not exist.

Victor Hugo locked away all his clothes apart from a large shawl which forced him to sit down and write the Hunchback of Notre Dame

1 time actions to lock in good habits

Get a dog, enrol in an automatic savings plan, buy a standing desk.

Make it Satisfying – this aims to increase the odds of a behaviour being repeated.

More likely to repeat what is satisfying

Our brains prioritize immediate over delayed rewards

What is immediately rewarded is repeated what is immediately punished is avoided.

Making habits stick. The paper clip strategy – Trent Dyrmsmid 23 yr old stock Broker in Canada. Each day he had 2 jars on his desk ine empy one with 120 paper clips. Each paper clip represented a sales call.

Progress is very satisfying so keeping score helps

Habit tracking – ‘The first rule of compounding: Never interrupt is unnecessarily.’ Charlie Munger.

Don’t break the chain

Don’t put up a zero

Never miss twice

Be accountable having an accountability partner makes failure or a bad habit painful or unsatisfying. Use this to create social and public costs to our commitments.

Competence is highly dependent on context, genes don’t determine your destiny but they do determine areas of opportunity.

Play to your strengths. Genes / talent don’t eliminate the need for hard work, they clarify it.

Human brain loves challenge but has to be in a Goldilocks zone between boredom and failure.

Handling boredom is a necessary part of the journey repetition over time will sometimes be boring. The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing. Have to love the process

Habits + Deliberate practice =Mastery

Reflection and review allows you to be conscious of performance

The tighter we cling to an identity the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.