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Book Notes: Atomic Habits

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

I chose to read this book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, because I want to be accountable for my actions. I need to build better eating habits in general, from eating to exercising, so that I can be more productive and successful. I've changed certain habits, like drinking pop and eating pork, but I need to gain control of tougher habits that will make me more responsible. I want to fulfill your my potential with this "operating manual".

The quality of our lives depends on the quality of our habits.

How & Why James Clear wrote this book.

In November 2012, James began posting articles to his own website twice a week. He was keeping notes about his personal experience with habits. This is similar to what I am doing here. Taking notes on my creative journey. What I am learning along the way. This is also something that is recommended in one of my favorite books, Real Artist's Don't Starve by Jeff Goins. Jeff calls this "practicing in public". It is something that modern artist should do if they wan't to thrive. People love to see it. When I come across similarities like this, it lets me know that I am headed in the right direction. Gives me the courage to keep going. Back to James, within a few months of being consistent, he was able to grow his email list to thousands. At first he felt like an impostor bc he didn't feel he like a master on the topic. He was experimenting. As his audience grew, so did his business opportunities. That's basically how he got started.

I enjoy Jame's writing style because he is very well researched. The book is based on human behavior. I feel like behavioral nature is one pattern you can count on. I especially believe that after reading Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene, then applying the knowledge when I analyze people around me. The fact that Atomic Habits is also written bases on facts and certainties about human behavior makes me have faith that I can trust the info I am reading. I don't prefer a bunch of theories. I want facts, personal experience, and the experiences of many to back it up. Another thing I really appreciate about an author, is when they use stories throughout history to illustrate the lessons they are teaching. It makes the book more interesting to me. Robert Greene is also great at this. I love hearing about real world case studies and interesting stories.

Why small habits matter most.

  • It's better over time.

  • habits like compound interest, both good and bad.

  • Success is in your daily habits

  • Be more concerned with your trajectory, than your current moment

  • "Good habits make time your ally, Bad habits make time you enemy"

  • Knowledge builds up like compound interest. Warren Buffet

  • Everything compounds. Outrage, knowledge, stress, thought

  • What progress is really like.

The most powerful outcomes are delayed so don't quit. Habits need to persist long enough to breakthrough the plateau of latent potential. All big things come from small decisions.

Forget about goals, focus on systems instead. Goals are bout the destination, systems are about the journey. Focus on the journey, like Russ said in It's All in Your Head.

  • Winners and losers have the same goals. The goals cannot be what separates them. The difference is the system used to reach the goal.

  • Goals restrict your happiness. You're always putting happiness off until you reach a goal. They make you think in an "either or way". There are many ways to achieve goals.

  • What happens after you reach your goal? Do you get unmotivated and stop achieving? Do you set more

"You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems."

Prefer "I'm trying to quit smoking" or "I'm not a smoker". The habit needs to be part of your identity. If you're proud of the work you do, you'll find ways to paint. If you take pride in how you look, you work out. The goal is not to learn to paint, it's to be an artist. The goal is be healthy. The goal is to be calm and chill and wise ( I already am).

Progress requires unlearning

Change your Identity: The first step is the WHO? Choose who you are.

Every belief is learned. Habits are how you embody your identity. Each time I paint. I am an artist.

  1. Decide who you want to be. What do you stand for? Who is the type of person that can run a business? What would an organized person do? What would an organized person do?

  2. Take steps to prove it to yourself.

Exploring Exploring Exploring, then boom a reward. Habits are reliable solutions to normal problems we encounter in life. Skips the process of trial and error and creates a rule. If this, then that. Mental short cut created from experience.

The conscious mind is the bottleneck of the brain. You can only focus on one thing at a time. Habits create freedom. Good habits will free me up to do more of what I want in the future, like create.

Build better habits is 4 steps: Habits create freedom it doesn't restrict it. It creates the mental space needed to be creative. We need all 4 to create a reoccurring habit. The habit loop. It's endless

  1. Cue: triggers the brain to initiate a behavior. Something that catches your attention. Noticing the reward.

  2. Craving: the motivation behind every habit. We don't crave smoking a blunt, you like the feeling that comes after. We want to change our internal state. Wanting the reward.

  3. Response : the actual habit you form. The response leads to the reward. Obtaining the reward.

  4. Reward: Satisfies the craving. Our brain is a reward seeker. They teach us which actions are worth remembering.

The 4 Laws of Behavior Change: Why do I not do what I say I want to do?

Creating Good Habits

  1. cue: How can I make it obvious?

  2. craving: How can I make it attractive?

  3. response: How can I make it easy?

  4. reward: How can I make it satisfying?

Creating Bad Habits

  1. cue: How can I make it invisible?

  2. craving: How can I make it unattractive?

  3. response: How can I make it difficult?

  4. reward: How can I make it unsatisfying?

How can I make it obvious?

Our brain is a prediction machine. We can pick up on cues automatically with practice and repetition. We underestimate how much our unconscious brain can do. we don't breath on purpose. We don't need to be aware to build a habit.

  • Awareness. Make the unconscious conscious so it doesn't control your life. The habit score card. Make a list of my habits. Is this a good habit, bad habit, or neutral. Point and call it out.

The Best way to build a new habit.

  • 2 most commons cues are time and location: I will stretch for 20 mins in my room. This is called an implementation intention. Make a specific plan. You might not lack motivation, you lack clarity.

  • Habit stacking. Pair my new habit with an old habit. After turn my alarm off, I will turn on a video i have saved already and stretch. Selecting the right cue is important. When am I most likely to be successful. Be very specific

Motivation is overrated. Environment is key.

  • How to design my environment for success. Every habit should have a home. Sleep comes quickly when it is the only thing you do in that room.

The Secret to Self Control (For some reason, I had a visceral reaction to hearing this chapter. l needed to hear it so badly. )

  • During the Vietnam War in 1961, 15%of service members were heroine addicts. Lots more had tried it. When the heroine addicted soldiers came home, only 5% of them became re-addicted in 1 year. Only 12% of them relapsed over 3 years. In other words, approx 9/10 eliminated their addiction simply by changing their environment. In Vietnam, they were surrounded by cues triggering heroine use. When the context changed, so did the habit.

  • Black men could benefit from a change of environment.

  • I've told myself all these years that I was undisciplined and beat myself up for it. Called myself lazy. Now I need to change my perspective because that in unproductive and doesn't help me improve. The idea that "a little bit of discipline would solve all my problems" is embedded in our culture, but recent research shows something different.

  • Disciplined people aren't all that different from me. They just structure their lives in a way that doesn't require heroic will power. Essentially, they make it effortless. They spend less time in tempting situations. It's easy to practice self restraint when I don't have to use it very often.

  • Create a more disciplined environment.

  • MAKE IT INVISIBLE. Reduce exposure. Remove cues that rigger the bad habit.

Make a Habit Irresistible

  • We have the brains of our ancestors, but temptations they never had to face.

  • It is the anticipation of the reward, not the fulfill meant of it, that get us to take action.

  • Temptation bundling. Bundle things you want to do, with things you need to do. Is that like pairing weed with nature? hmmm

  • Habit stacking + Temptation bundling.

    • If I want to ______ but need to _________.

    • If I want to check IG but need to stretch. Say, I will stretch for 10 minutes, then check IG .

  • A genius is not born, but taught and trained.

The Role of Family and Friends

  • Join a culture of people who do what you do. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have. Belonging to a tribe is important. From me to we. I also find that one important benefit you get from that is a set of fresh eyes. You are hard on yourself. Get you some people that lift you up.

  • Whenever we are unsure, we look to other examples. Pros and cons. You learn, but you also have to be weary of conforming. Running against the grain of the tribe requires extra work.

  • Imitating the powerful. We imitate who we envy.

  • Our culture determines which behaviors are attractive to us. We adopt habits that are praised and approved of. We imitate the close, the many, and the powerful. Join a culture were your desired behavior is the normal behavior, and you already have something in common with the group. If a habit can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.

How to Find and Fix Your Bad Habits

  • It's deeper than the craving. At a deep level, you want something else. Achieving status and prestige, might be getting better at painting. You don't wan't to smoke, you want to feel better and relieve stress or anxiety.

  • Life feels reactive, but it is actually predictive. We predict all day everyday.

How will I apply this info? My first task will be to build the habit of stretching every morning.



response: Stretching every morning

reward: Being flexible and sexy

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