Atomic Habits is best for those looking to learn more about effective and long-lasting habit change. It’s also best for those who are interested in psychology, long-term success, and environmental influences on behavior.
Difficulty to digest:
Atomic Habits is fairly easy to digest. Everyone should be able to get the core concepts from a single read-through.
Key Insights of Atomic Habits:
Atomic Habits by James Clear is a focused, straightforward, and knowledgeable exploration of habits. While the primary thrust is habit change, Clear also touches on related concepts like identity, success, skill mastery, and accountability. He focuses more on beginners but includes concepts the vast majority of individuals are likely to find useful, regardless of their baseline. As a bonus, each section contains nice summaries.
Atomic Habits starts by making a case for habit development. In essence, the idea is that the benefits or detriments of habits follow a compounding scale. Simply improving a small amount each day, slightly altering habits with 1% improvements yields massive returns over time. We may not see results right away, or even quickly, but the end result will be completely altered by our daily trajectory.
To start this, however, we must become aware of our habits. Habits are, by their very definition, parts of our life generally on autopilot. Clear advocates doing an audit of your daily life to see what actions you’re taking and how effective they are. Then you can decide which ones to keep and which ones to remote.
Habit Change & Identity
The book also covers how habit change works in tandem with identity. Each action is essentially a vote for the type of person you’d like to become. When you set an identity and take action, you create evidence proving you’re that type of person. This can become self-fulfilling as both the habits and the identity reinforce one another.
Afterward, the majority of the book focuses on habit change. Clear outlines the process which builds habits; cue, craving, response, reward. In essence, certain stimuli create desire – when acting on these desires provides a reward of some sort, habits form. Frequency is more important than duration here. By acting on each piece of this formula, we can control the habit change process and shape our behaviors more closely to our desires.
Atomic Habits then outlines parallel actions we can take; make it obvious, make it easy, make it attractive, make it satisfying. By taking these actions (or their opposites) we can reinforce particular behaviors. Through the book, Clear touches on specific ways we can take these actions such as shaping our environment, putting ourselves in (or creating) the right culture, and working with our genetic predispositions.
A number of other examples and tactics are shared as well. For example, temptation bundling or combining a more desirable activity with a less desirable one. This way you can get the satisfaction of the pleasurable activity while ensuring you complete the other one as well.
Final Opinion on Atomic Habits:
Atomic Habits is a powerful guide for understanding habit change. Clear approaches habit change from a number of different angles and holistically as well. Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, you’re likely to find some useful information. It is a recommended read.
The very end of the book is something of a departure from the rest of the book. It feels far less polished and like a place where every other idea that didn’t fit the book ended up. While Atomic Habits as a whole feels really polished, you may want to skip the end where there’s a bunch of very loosely related bullet points.
- What habit are you working on developing right now?
- What identity or value does that habit feed?
- How can you make it more obvious, easier, more attractive, or more satisfying?