Ben Williams with a coffee cup in front of his face

Ben I Williams

biwills.com

Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear

Introduction: My Story

changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years
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Naval Ravikant has said, “To write a great book, you must first become the book
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The backbone of this book is my four-step model of habits—cue, craving, response, and reward—and the four laws of behavior change that evolve out of these steps.
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THE FUNDAMENTALS: Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

the aggregation of marginal gains
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if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.
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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. Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.
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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
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We make a few changes, but the results never seem to come quickly and so we slide back into our previous routines.
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But when we repeat 1 percent errors, day after day, by replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes, and rationalizing little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results.
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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.
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If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line. Are you spending less than you earn each month? Are you making it into the gym each week? Are you reading books and learning something new each day? Tiny battles like these are the ones that will define your future self.
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Habits are a double-edged sword. Bad habits can cut you down just as easily as good habits can build you up, which is why understanding the details is crucial. You need to know how habits work and how to design them to your liking, so you can avoid the dangerous half of the blade.
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Once you fall into the habit of seeing people as angry, unjust, or selfish, you see those kind of people everywhere.
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Riots, protests, and mass movements are rarely the result of a single event
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It’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed.
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But in order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau—what I call the Plateau of Latent Potential.
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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.
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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.”
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FORGET ABOUT GOALS, FOCUS ON SYSTEMS INSTEAD
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The only way to actually win is to get better each day. I
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If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
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Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.
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Winners and losers have the same goals.
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Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
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Imagine you have a messy room and you set a goal to clean it. If you summon the energy to tidy up, then you will have a clean room—for now. But if you maintain the same sloppy, pack-rat habits that led to a messy room in the first place, soon you’ll be looking at a new pile of clutter and hoping for another burst of motivation. You’re left chasing the same outcome because you never changed the system behind it. You treated a symptom without addressing the cause.
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Goals restrict your happiness.
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4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress.
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When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?
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The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game
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Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.
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You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
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atomic habit refers to a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1 percent improvement
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Changing our habits is challenging for two reasons: (1) we try to change the wrong thing and (2) we try to change our habits in the wrong way.
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Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe
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Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become
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They never shift the way they look at themselves, and they don’t realize that their old identity can sabotage their new plans for change.
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A similar pattern exists whether we are discussing individuals, organizations, or societies. There are a set of beliefs and assumptions that shape the system, an identity behind the habits.
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You may want more money, but if your identity is someone who consumes rather than creates, then you’ll continue to be pulled toward spending rather than earning
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You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven’t changed who you are.
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asked my wife to schedule my first-ever manicure,” he said. “My thought was that if I started paying to maintain my nails, I wouldn’t chew them. And it worked, but not for the monetary reason. What happened was the manicure made my fingers look really nice for the first time. The manicurist even said that—other than the chewing—I had really healthy, attractive nails. Suddenly, I was proud of my fingernails. And even though that’s something I had never aspired to, it made all the difference. I’ve never chewed my nails since; not even a single close call. And it’s because I now take pride in properly caring for them.”
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It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.
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The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it. If
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Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.
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Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.
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The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader. The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.
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Research has shown that once a person believes in a particular aspect of their identity, they are more likely to act in alignment with that belief
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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
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In time, you begin to resist certain actions because “that’s not who I am.”
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You find whatever way you can to avoid contradicting yourself.
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The biggest barrier to positive change at any level—individual, team, society—is identity conflict
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Over the long run, however, the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way. This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity
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More precisely, your habits are how you embody your identity. When you make your bed each day, you embody the identity of an organized person. When you write each day, you embody the identity of a creative person. When you train each day, you embody the identity of an athletic person.
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Your identity is literally your “repeated beingness.”
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The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.
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Of course, your habits are not the only actions that influence your identity, but by virtue of their frequency they are usually the most important ones
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it’s unlikely you would consider yourself a soccer player because you kicked a ball once or an artist because you scribbled a picture. As you repeat these actions, however, the evidence accumulates and your self-image begins to change
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Each habit is like a suggestion: “Hey, maybe this is who I am.
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The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do. Each time you write a page, you are a writer. Each time you practice the violin, you are a musician.
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Each time you encourage your employees, you are a leader.
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You don’t need a unanimous vote to win an election; you just need a majority. It doesn’t matter if you cast a few votes for a bad behavior or an unproductive habit. Your goal is simply to win the majority of the time.
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New identities require new evidence. If you keep casting the same votes you’ve always cast, you’re going to get the same results you’ve always had. If nothing changes, nothing is going to change. It is a simple two-step process: Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins
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nation. What do you want to stand for? What are your principles and values? Who do you wish to become? These are big questions, and many people aren’t sure where to begin—but they do know what kind of results they want: to get six-pack abs or to feel less anxious or to double their salary. That’s fine. Start there and work backward from the results you want to the type of person who could get those results. Ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?” Who is the type of person that could lose forty pounds? Who is the type of person that could learn a new language? Who is the type of person that could run a successful start-up?
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I have a friend who lost over 100 pounds by asking herself, “What would a healthy person do?”
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She figured if she acted like a healthy person long enough, eventually she would become that person. She was right.
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Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits. It’s a two-way street. The formation of all habits is a feedback loop
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The focus should always be on becoming that type of person, not getting a particular outcome
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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.
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Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
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Occasionally, like a cat pressing on a lever, you stumble across a solution. You’re feeling anxious, and you discover that going for a run calms you down. You’re mentally exhausted from a long day of work, and you learn that playing video games relaxes you. You’re exploring, exploring, exploring, and then—BAM—a reward.
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After you stumble upon an unexpected reward, you alter your strategy for next time. Your brain immediately begins to catalog the events that preceded the reward
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As habits are created, the level of activity in the brain decreases
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Habit formation is incredibly useful because the conscious mind is the bottleneck of the brain. It can only pay attention to one problem at a time
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Doesn’t so much routine take away the vibrancy and spontaneity of life?” Hardly. Such questions set up a false dichotomy. They make you think that you have to choose between building habits and attaining freedom. In reality, the two complement each other.
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It’s only by making the fundamentals of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity.
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Building habits in the present allows you to do more of what you want in the future.
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The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward
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You are not motivated by brushing your teeth but rather by the feeling of a clean mouth
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Your response also depends on your ability. It sounds simple, but a habit can occur only if you are capable of doing it. If you want to dunk a basketball but can’t jump high enough to reach the hoop, well, you’re out of luck.
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Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward.
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Second, rewards teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. Your brain is a reward detector. As you go about your life, your sensory nervous system is continuously monitoring which actions satisfy your desires and deliver pleasure. Feelings of pleasure and disappointment are part of the feedback mechanism that helps your brain distinguish useful actions from useless ones. Rewards close the feedback loop and complete the habit cycle. If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit.
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1. Cue: You are answering emails. 2. Craving: You begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed by work. You want to feel in control. Solution phase 3. Response: You bite your nails. 4. Reward: You satisfy your craving to reduce stress. Biting your nails becomes associated with answering email.
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the four stages of cue, craving, response, and reward influence nearly everything we do each day
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the Four Laws of Behavior Change
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The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious. The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive. The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy. The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
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THE 1ST LAW: Make It Obvious

the more you repeat these patterns, the less likely you become to question what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
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