This post is a summary of my thoughts from Atomic Habits.

I decided to read Atomic Habits due to my own interest in habit tracking. A few friends had also recommended it. Self-help framework books are usually not my favorite, but I figured it would be worthwhile to have principles in an area I’m already invested in.

Atomic Habits establishes the idea that a series of small, positive changes can compound into dramatic results over time. Like Stubborn Attachments mentions, exponential growth compounds into hard to believe stats. If you improve 1% every day, you will end up 37 times better in a year.

The main takeaway from the book is that to actually change your habits, you need to have the right systems in place. It cannot be all about in-the-moment willpower. To help people create the right systems, they introduce a simple framework for guidance on creating the right system.

  1. Make it obvious - Create mental cues to bring the habit to your conscious mind
  2. Make it attractive - Identify or create future rewards that make it worth to pursue the habit
  3. Make it easy - Reduce any unnecessary friction to do the action
  4. Make it satisfying - Train your brain to associate this action with a reward to make it desire the action in the future

One of the habits I track is minimizing Instagram time. It’s more of a bad habit to break, so the framework becomes the opposite. I have followed some of it without realizing it. For example, the Instagram app is hidden in a folder and removed from search results (not obvious) and takes more clicks to open (not easy). These have made it impossible for my subconscious to mindlessly open the app.

I am glad I read the book. The framework will be useful for pursuing new habits.

Here are a few excerpts I highlighted:

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

“[It’s] easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.”

“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”

“Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results … to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.”

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

“The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.”

“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.”

“‘Disciplined’ people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.”

“Dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it.”

“Habits form based on frequency, not time … what people really should be asking is, ‘How many does it take to form a new habit?’”

“A habit can be completed in just a few seconds, but it can also shape the actions that you take for minutes or hours afterward.”

“After thousands of generations in an immediate-return environment, our brains evolved to prefer quick payoffs to long-term ones … the way your brain evaluates rewards is inconsistent across time.”

“The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.”

“The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows.”

“Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.”

“Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.”