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Atomic Habits James Clear Summary

Why is it so hard to build positive habits and get rid of the negative ones? We all want to have a better life, don’t we? But if we look at the things we do every day, they usually send us a different message. Some destructive habits we repeat day after day. It can be as simple as choosing the candy instead of the apple. We say to ourselves what difference this will make by the end of the day. The answer is no difference at all. But if you take that seemingly unimportant behavior and repeat it over and over, it can create the difference between a healthy and unhealthy body. On the other hand, if we build new positive habits and stick to them, over time they can completely transform our lives. Change is not about overnight transformation, it’s ultimately the product of daily habits. But why is it so hard to build new habits? In his book, Atomic Habits, James clear tells us how to build a new habit. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that I learned from the book.

Key Lesson #1: True behavior change starts from within

When we try to change our habits and it looks difficult, it’s usually because we try to change the wrong thing in the wrong way. There are three layers of behavior change. A change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, or a change in your identity. Outcomes are about what we get. Processes are about what we do. Identity is about what we believe. Most people when they want to start a new habit they focus on the outcome they want to get. But this is the wrong approach to behavior change. A new behavior that is not consistent with who we believe ourselves to be, will not last long. The right way to create a new habit is to build a new identity that supports the new habit. With this approach, we focus on who we wish to become rather than what we want to get. I remember when I started paying attention to my diet, all I focused on was that if I eat more vegetables and exercise more often I will look good with my clothes on. This approach worked, for a while, but soon I found myself with my old unhealthy habits. But then through repetition and continuing to watch my role models, I was able to change my beliefs about myself. I started to see myself as a healthy person. Now I had a new identity and it made it much easier to stick to healthy food and exercise routines. Because now I see myself as a person that eats healthy and exercises daily. I don’t do these to achieve anything. I do them because that’s who I am now. That’s the type of change that will last. It’s the change from within. So if you want to get a specific outcome, don’t focus on the outcome, instead ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?”

Key Lesson #2: Forget goals and focus on systems

Goals are the results that you want to get, while the systems are the processes that will lead to those results. Goals are good because they set the direction for us but that’s all they can do. They set the direction. But once you have the direction, you should forget about the goals and focus on the systems instead. These are seemingly small daily steps that you can take that will keep you on the path. The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. The goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to spend the whole game staring at the scoreboard. The only way to actually win is to get better each day. In the words of three-time Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh, “The score takes care of itself.” The same is true for other areas of life. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress. If you have trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. So, aim to focus on the overall system rather than your individual goals. James clear says: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” It’s all about the system, not goals.

Key Lesson #3: 4 steps to build new habits

Let’s say you want to build a new habit. You start changing your beliefs and you focus on the systems. Now there are four things you can do to help with building the new habit. These are, make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy and make it satisfying.

The first step is to make it obvious. Suppose you want to get better at playing the guitar. In this case, you need an obvious cue that acts as a reminder to play the guitar. You could put the guitar in the middle of the living room so that your brain is triggered more often. The second step is to make the craving more attractive. You can do this by joining a group where your desired behavior is the norm there. For example, if you want to read more, you could join a book club. Then you are more likely to enjoy reading with other people. The third step is to make the change easy and don’t rely on motivation alone. We naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. You can use this to your advantage by creating an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. For example, if you want to read before sleep, it’s better to put the book on your bed in the morning after you make the bed. Then when you go to bed at night the book is waiting for you there. And the last step is to make new habits satisfying. Most of the habits will take months until we reap their results and you’ll need to give yourself some reward in the short term otherwise you may not stick to them long enough. One way to do that is to use a habit tracker. Every time that you checkmark an activity, it will give you a sense of satisfaction. The first three steps will make sure that a habit cycle will be completed and the last step will make it more likely to repeat the cycle of habit.

Ultimately, what makes the difference in the quality of people’s lives is the small daily things that they do over a long period. Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, look at the things you do every day. They will compound over time and massively affect your life. A good question you can ask yourself today is, what is one thing that is easy to do, that will help me to move toward my goals, and I am not doing it already? Start doing it from today and that small thing will have a huge impact on the quality of your life ten or twenty years down the line.

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