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 is always changing 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 habits that 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, why we aren’t able to quit or build habits easily and empower readers with simple doable steps to create the best habits for the best life.

James after discussing the fundamentals of our existing habits and how we got them, focuses on 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 satisfy.

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 difficult.
  • Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying.

Here are excerpts from Fundamentals and the Four Laws –

Fundamentals – Why Tiny Changes Makes a Difference

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

1) Plateau of Latent Potential

  • If you find yourself struggling to build a good habit or break a bad one, 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 appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. You need to be 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 systems are best for making progress.
  • When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. To improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.
  • Winners and Losers both have same goals, however winning goes to team/people with better systems.

3) Three Layers of Behavioral Change

  • Changing Outcome – Is changing results. Goals are outcome change.
  • Changing Process– Is changing systems, trying new methods, tactics. Most habits are associated with this level of change.
  • Changing Identity – This is about changing beliefs, our worldview, self-image. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases we hold 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, the goal is to become a reader.

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

III) The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is 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 habit is firmly rooted in your life, it is mostly unconscious and automatic.

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

  • When you write it down, you leave nothing to chances and feel more committed and it is way easy to implement habit when is written in details.

3) Habit Stacking

  • It is simple plan to overhaul your habits and linking them with existing one like attaching new habits to some existing habit. Example – After tea in morning, I will sit for meditation.
  • Making it obvious increases the chances of developing and sticking to any habit we want to inculcate, as there is not ambiguity of time, place, and sequence.

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

  • Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues 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, our church or school, our local community, and society at large.

  • Imitating the Close – Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. 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 if a behavior can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.

3rd Law – Make It Easy

1) Planning Trap

  • We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action.
  • When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.
  • If you want 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 as with as little effort as possible. And James claims that’s good thing and we can use to build habit.
  • 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 punished for doing) in the past.
  • First three law emphasis on habits being performed this time, the 4th law makes sure it gets repeated by making it satisfying.
  • The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.

2) Habits Trackers

  • As it is said, whatever gets tracked gets accomplished and habits are no different. You keep a track of any habits for how many times you do a day, week, month, and you will have good habits developed.
  • Keep a track of tiny changes you make, how often you perform, do a tick mark on 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 that are 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. Once the beginner gains have been made and we learn what to expect, our interest starts to fade.
  • The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You must fall in love with boredom.


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

You may download Atomic Habits Free E-book here. 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 comment. I would love to hear from you.

Wish you a life of great habits.


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