Atomic Habits Book Summary I Great Change with Baby Steps

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Book – Atomic Habits (Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results)

Author – James Clear

Genre – Self-Help

Published in – 2018

Have you heard the term “we make habits, and then habits make us”? How often do you check your habits and try to change them, make good ones, or break a bad one?

Human behavior changes from situation to situation, moment to moment, second to second. But this book is about what doesn’t change. It’s about the fundamentals of human behavior.

About The Book

Atomic Habits is one of the best books I have read on building or breaking habits. The book leaves you with no more excuses to establish practices you admire in others and break the ones that hold you back from living your best life.

The best thing about the book is its explanation of how we adopt habits and why we can’t quit or build habits quickly. It empowers readers with simple, doable steps to create the best practices for the best life.

After discussing the fundamentals of our existing habits and how we got them, James focuses on the four laws of Habit Building and Inversion of those laws of breaking the bad ones.

Four laws of behavior change – How to create good habits.

  • 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.

How to break bad habits by reversing these laws

  • Inversion of the 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible.
  • Inversion of the 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive.
  • Inversion of the 3rd law (Response): Make it challenging.
  • Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying.

Here are excerpts from Fundamentals and the Four Laws –

Fundamentals – Why Tiny Changes Make a Difference

James explores how we often ignore the small stuff and claims that the tiny changes make a substantial positive impact in the long term. He shared a couple of good concepts here.

1) Plateau of Latent Potential

  • If you struggle to build a good or break a bad habit, it is not because you have lost your ability to improve. It is often because you have not yet crossed the Plateau of Latent Potential.
  • Small changes often make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. It would be best if you were patient.

2) Goals V/s Systems

  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results. Goals are good for setting a direction, but plans are best for making progress.
  • When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. You need to solve problems at the systems level to improve for good. Fix the inputs, and the outputs will fix themselves.
  • Winners and Losers have identical goals; however, winning goes to teams/people with better systems.

3) Three Layers of Behavioral Change

  • Changing Outcome – This is changing results. Goals are outcome change.
  • Changing Process– This is changing systems and trying new methods and tactics. Most habits are associated with this level of change.
  • Changing Identity – This is about changing beliefs, worldviews, and self-image. Most of our thoughts, assumptions, and biases are associated with this level.
  • Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe. The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.
  • Example of Identity shift for inculcating habit for good.

I) The goal is not to read a book but to become a reader.

II) The goal is not to run a marathon but to become a runner.

III) The goal is not to learn an instrument but to become a musician.

1st Law – Make it Obvious

1) Take Stock of Current Habits –

  • Before we can effectively build new habits, we need to get a handle on our current ones. This can be more challenging than it sounds because once a pattern is firmly rooted in your life, it is primarily unconscious and automatic.

2) Implementation intention – Write down the time, date, and place when you will implement the activity.

  • When you write it down, you leave nothing to chance and feel more committed, and it is way easier to implement habit when it is written in detail.

3) Habit Stacking

  • It is a simple plan to overhaul and link your habits with existing ones, like attaching new habits to some existing pattern. Example – After tea in the morning, I will sit for meditation.
  • Making it obvious increases the chances of developing and sticking to any habit we want to teach, as there is no ambiguity of time, place, or sequence.

4) Inversion of 1st Law – Make it Invisible –

  • A cue initiates every habit, and we are likelier to notice lines that stand out.
  • One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

2nd Law – Make it Attractive

1) We imitate the habits of three – 1. Close, 2. Many, 3. Powerful.

We don’t choose our earliest habits; we imitate them. We follow the script handed down by our friends and family, church or school, local community, and society.

  • Imitating the Close – Surround yourself with people with the habits you want to have. You’ll rise together.
  • Imitating the Many – Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.
  • Imitating the Powerful – High-status people enjoy the approval, respect, and praise of others. And that means we find it attractive if a behavior can get us support, respect, and honor.

3rd Law – Make It Easy

1) Planning Trap

  • We are so focused on finding the best approach that we never take action.
  • When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to be planning merely. You want to be practicing.
  • To master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.

2) The Law of the Least Effort

  • We are wired to attain as much with as little effort as possible. And James claims that’s a good thing, and we can use it to build habits.
  • When we remove the points of friction that sap our time and energy, we can achieve more with less effort.

The 4th Law – Make it Satisfying

1) Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

  • What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided. You learn what to do in the future based on what you were rewarded for doing (or penalized for doing) in the past.
  • The first three laws emphasize habits being performed this time, and the 4th law ensures it gets repeated by satisfying it.
  • The costs of your good habits are in the present. The prices of your bad habits are in the future.

2) Habits Trackers

  • As said, whatever gets tracked gets accomplished, and habits are no different. You will develop good habits if you follow any conventions for how many times you do a day, week, or month.
  • Keep track of tiny changes you make and how often you perform, and do a tick mark on the calendar; it will inspire you to be more consistent with your process. 

3) The Goldilocks Rule

  • It states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.
  • The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. Our interest starts to fade once the beginner gains have been made and we learn what to expect.
  • The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing repeatedly. You must fall in love with boredom.


Atomic habits will make you aware of current practices and help you build good and let go of bad ones with only tiny changes, which won’t be overwhelming and straightforward to apply. I highly recommend this book. Read this one and make better habits and live a better life.

If you like this book, you may also like Changes Your Habits, Change Your Life.

Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

I wish you a life of great habits.


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5 thoughts on “Atomic Habits Book Summary I Great Change with Baby Steps”

  1. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that will make the most important changes. Thanks for sharing!

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