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Atomic Habits Cheat Sheet

Atomic Habits Cheat Sheet

Chapter 1: The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

Key Tips:

  1. Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
  2. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.
  3. “Outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.” (p. 21)
  4. “Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” (p. 22)
  5. “Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.” (p. 23)
  6. “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.” (p. 26)
  7. To predict where you’ll end up in life, all one has to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how those daily choices will add up ten or twenty years down the line.
  8. When one finds themselves struggling to build a good habit or break a bad one, it is not because they are incapable of improving. Rather, it is because they often have not yet crossed what James calls, the “Plateau of Latent Potential.” And when you do break through this plateau of latent potential, most people will call it an overnight success.The plateau of latent potential
  9. “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. 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.” (p. 28)
  10. Ultimately, it is one’s commitment to the process that will determine their progress. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement, and Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.
  11. “Habits are a double-edged sword. They can work for you or against you, which is why understanding the details is essential.” (p. 29)
  12. “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.” (p. 29)
  13. “An atomic habit is a little habit that is part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.” (p. 29)
  14. If you want better results, forget about setting goals and focus on your system instead.
  15. “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” (p. 30)

One percent better every day

Chapter 2: How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Key Tips:

  1. Changing our habits is challenging for two reasons
    1. We try to change the wrong thing
    2. We try to change our habits in the wrong way
  2. There are three layers of behavior change
    1. A change in your outcomes – focuses on what you get or achieve
    2. A change in your processes – focuses on what you do (ie: habits and systems)
    3. A change in your identity – focuses on changing beliefs and world views
  1. Outcome-based habits – the focus is on what you want to achieve
  2. Identity-based habits – the focus is on who you wish to become.
  3. The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.
  4. Simple two-step process:
    1. Decide the type of person you want to be
    2. Prove it to yourself with small wins
  5. “Ask yourself, ‘Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?’” (p. 39)
  6. “The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” (p. 41)
  7. “Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” (p. 41)
  8. Becoming the best version of ourselves requires one to continuously adapt our beliefs, and upgrade and expand our identity.
  9. “The real reason habits matter is not because they can get you better results (although they can do that), but because they can change your beliefs about yourself.” (p. 41)

Three layers of behavior change

Chapter 3: How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Key Tips:

  1. Whenever you want to change your behavior, ask yourself:
    1. How can I make it obvious?
    2. How can I make it attractive?
    3. How can I make it easy?
    4. How can I make it satisfying?
  2. “A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.”(p.43)
  3. “The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible” (p. 52)
  4. Any habit can be broken down into four steps:
    1. Cue – triggers your brain to initiate a behavior
    2. Craving – the motivational force behind every habit
    3. Response – the actual habit you perform
    4. Reward – the end goal of every habit

Cue craving response reward cycle

The Four Laws of Behavior Change

How to Make a Good Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

Make it obvious Make it invisible
Make it attractive Make it unattractive
Make it easy Make it difficult
Make it satisfying Make it unsatisfying

Chapter 4: The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

Key Tips:

  1. If you’re having trouble deciding how to rate a habit, ask yourself the following:
    1. “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be?” (p. 59)
    2. “Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” (p. 59)
  2. “With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it.” (p. 60)
  3. We stop paying attention to what we’re doing once habits become automatic.
  4. “The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them” (p. 61)
  5. Pointing-and-Calling
    1. Is a safety system designed to reduce mistakes
    2. “Raises your level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level by verbalizing your actions.” (p. 61)
  6. The Habits Scorecard – a simple exercise one can use to become more aware of their behavior.
    1. Just make a list of your daily activities/habits.
    2. Once you have a full list, look at the habits and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or a neutral habit?”
      1. If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it.
      2. If it is a bad habit, write “–”.
      3. If it is a neutral habit, write “=”

Chapter 5: The Best Way to Start a New Habit

Key Tips

  1. “The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious.” (p. 70)
  2. “Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.” (p. 63)
  3. The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption that leads to additional purchases
  4. Habit Stacking
    1. One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.
    2. You can use this to pair a current habit with a new habit
    3. “The habit stacking formula is: ‘After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]” (p. 66)
    4. The two most common cues are time and locationHabit stacking
  5. Implementation Intention
    1. Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location.
    2. “The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]” (p. 71)

Chapter 6: Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

Key Tips:

  1. “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” (p. 73)
  2. “Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time.” (p. 80)
  3. Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out
  4. Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
  5. “Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. The context becomes the cue.”(p. 80)
  6. It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues
  7. If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment.

Chapter 7: The Secret to Self-Control

Key Tips:

  1. “The inversion of the 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it invisible.” (p. 84)
  2. It is unlikely that one will forget a habit once it has been formed.
  3. “People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.”  (p. 84)
  4. Reducing exposure to a cue that causes a bad habit is one of the most practical ways to eliminate it.
  5. “Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.”  (p. 84)

How to Make a Good Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

Make it obvious:
  1. Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them.
  2. Use implementation intentions:
“I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”
  1. Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
  2. Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible
Make it invisible:Reduce exposure. Remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment
Make it attractive Make it unattractive
Make it easy Make it difficult
Make it satisfying Make it unsatisfying

Chapter 8: How to Make a Habit Irresistible

Key Tips:

  1. “The 2nd Law of Behavior Change is make it attractive.” (p. 96)
  2. The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.
  3. “Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. When dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act.” (p.96)
  4. “It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.” (p.96)
  5. “Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.” (p.95)
  6. The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula 
    1. “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED].” (p.95)
    2. “After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT]” (p.95)

Chapter 9: The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

Key Tips:

  1. “The culture we live in determines which behaviors are attractive to us.” (p. 105)
  2. “We tend to adopt habits that are praised and approved of by our culture because we have a strong desire to fit in and belong to the tribe.” (p. 105)
  3. We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups
    1. The close – family and friends
    2. The many – the tribe
    3. The powerful – those with status and prestige
  4. An effective way to build better habits is to join a culture where:
    1. Our desired behavior is the normal behavior
    2. You already have something in common with the group.
  5. “The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.” (p.105)
  6. “If a behavior can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.” (p. 105)

Chapter 10: How to Find and Fix The Cause of Your Bad Habits

Key Tips:

  1. “The inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change is make it unattractive.” (p. 113)
  2. Every behavior has a surface-level craving and a deeper underlying motive.
  3. “Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires.” (p. 113)
  4. “The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling.” (p. 113)
  5. Highlight the benefits of avoiding the bad habit to make it seem unattractive.
  6. “Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.” (p. 113)

How to Make a Good Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

Make it obvious Make it invisible
Make it attractive:
  1. Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
  2. Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
  3. Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.
Make it unattractive:Reframe your mind-set. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habit
Make it easy Make it difficult
Make it satisfying Make it unsatisfying

Chapter 11: Walk Slowly, But Never Backward

Key Tips:

  1. “The 3rd Law of Behavior Change is make it easy.” (p. 121)
  2. Practice is the most effective form of learning, not planning.
  3. “Focus on taking action, not being in motion.” (p. 121)
  4. Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition or a process known as automaticity.
  5. Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which occurs when the nonconscious mind takes over
  6. “The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.” (p. 121)

Automaticity repetitions habit line chart

Chapter 12: The Law of Least Effort

Key Tips:

  1. Human behavior follows the Law of Least Effort.
  2. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
  3. Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
  4. Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy.
  5. Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.
  6. Prime your environment to make future actions easier.

Chapter 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

Key Tips:

  1. “Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact.” James refers to these little choices as “decisive moments.” (p. 132)
  2. Decisive moments set the options available to your future self.
  3. A habit must be established before it can be improved.
  4. “Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.” (p. 137)
  5. “Many habits occur at decisive moments—choices that are like a fork in the road—and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.” (p. 138)
  6. The Two-Minute Rule – When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.
    1. “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
    2. “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
    3. “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.Habit difficulty chart
  7. “The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things” (p. 138)
  8. “Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.” (p. 138)

Chapter 14: How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

Key Tips:

  1. “The inversion of the 3rd Law of Behavior Change is make it difficult.” (p. 144)
  2. A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behavior in the future.
  3. The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits.
  4. “Onetime choices—like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan—are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time.” (p 145)
  5. “Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.” (p. 145)

How to Make a Good Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

Make it obvious Make it invisible
Make it attractive Make it unattractive
Make it easy:
  1. Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
  2. Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.
  3. Master the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that deliver outsized impact.
  4. Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.
  5. Automate your habits. Invest in technology and one-time purchases that lock in future behavior.
Make it difficult:
  1. Increase friction. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits.
  2. Use a commitment device. Restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you.
Make it satisfying Make it unsatisfying

Chapter 15: The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

Key Tips:

  1. “The 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it satisfying.” (p. 155)
  2. We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.
  3. The human brain evolved to prioritize immediate rewards over delayed rewards.
  4. Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.” (p. 155)
  5. “To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.” (p. 155)
  6. “The first three laws of behavior change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time.” (p. 155)

Chapter 16: How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

Key Tips:

  1.  Goodhart’s Law
    1. Named after the economist Charles Goodhart
    2. Goodhart’s Law states, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” (p. 162)
  2. “One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.” (p. 163)
  3. Habit Tracker:
    1. A simple way to measure whether you did a habit—like marking an X on a calendar.
    2. “Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.” (p. 163)
  4. “Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.” (p. 163)
  5. “Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.” (p. 163)
  6. “Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing” (p. 164)

Chapter 17: How an Accountability Partner Changes Everything

Key Tips:

  1. “The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying.” (p. 169)
  2. “We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.” (p. 169)
  3. “An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.” (p. 169)
  4. “A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behavior. It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful.” (p. 169)
  5. “Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator” (p. 170)

How to Make a Good Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

Make it obvious Make it invisible
Make it attractive Make it unattractive
Make it easy Make it difficult
Make it satisfying:
  1. Use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit.
  2. Make “doing nothing” enjoyable. When avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits.
  3. Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain.”
  4. Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately.
Make it unsatisfying:
  1. Get an accountability partner. Ask someone to watch your behavior.
  2. Create a habit contract. Make the costs of your bad habits public and painful.

Chapter 18: The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)

Key Tips:

  1. “The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.” (p. 174)
  2. “Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.” (p. 177)
  3. “Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances.” (p. 181)
  4. Habits are easier to form when they align with our own natural abilities. Choose the habits that best suit you.
  5. “Play a game that favors your strengths. If you can’t find a game that favors you, create one.” (p. 181)
  6. “Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.” (p. 181)

Chapter 19: The Goldilocks Rule—How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

Key Tips:

  1. The Goldilocks Rule – states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.The goldilocks rule
  2. “The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.” (p. 186)
  3. “As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored.” (p. 188)
  4. Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
  5. “Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.” (p. 187)

Chapter 20: The Downside of Creating Good Habits

Key Tips:

  1. “The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.” (p. 189)
  2. “Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery” (p. 190)
  3. Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.
  4. “The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.” (p. 196)