Notes & Quotes: Atomic Habits by James Clear

The following are my favorites quotes from James Clear's Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.
  1. A habit is a routine or behavior that is performed regularly -- and, in many cases, automatically.
  2. Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you're willing to stick with them for years.
  3. The quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.
  4. The backbone of this book is my four-step model of habits -- cute, craving, response, and reward.
  5. Brailsford had been hired to put British Cycling on a new trajectory. What made him different from previous coaches was his relentless commitment to a strategy that he referred to as "the aggregation of marginal gains," which was the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. Brailsford said, "The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together."
  6. If you can get 1 percent better each day for a year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you're done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you'll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.
  7. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
  8. Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be. Success is the product of daily habits -- not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
  9. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.
  10. Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.
  11. Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.
  12. Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
  13. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.
  14. Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals. Problem #2: Achieving a goal is only a momentary change. Problem #3: Goals restrict your happiness. Problem #4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress.
  15. 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. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.
  16. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
  17. The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It's one thing to say I'm the type of person who wants this. It's something very different to say I'm the type of person who is this.
  18. True behavior change is identity change.
  19. Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.
  20. Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
  21. The true question is: "Are you becoming the type of person you want to become?"
  22. The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. Together, these four steps form a neurological feedback loop -- cue, craving, response, reward; cue, craving, response, reward -- that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. This cycle is known as the habit loop.
  23. Whenever you want to change your behavior, you can simply ask yourself: How can I make it obvious? How can I make it attractive? How can I make it easy? How can I make it satisfying?
  24. There are no good habits or bad habits. There are only effective habits.
  25. The process of behavior change always starts with awareness.
  26. Broadly speaking, the format for creating an implementation intention is: "When situation X arises, I will perform response Y."
  27. No behavior happens in isolation. Each action becomes a cue that triggers the next behavior.
  28. When the cues that spark a habit are subtle or hidden, they are easy to ignore. By comparison, creating obvious visual cues can draw your attention toward a desired habit.
  29. Here are a few ways you can redesign your environment and make the cues for your preferred habits more obvious: If you want to remember to take your medication each night, put your pill bottle directly next to the faucet on the bathroom counter. If you want to practice guitar more frequently, place your guitar stand in the middle of the living room. If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationary on your desk. If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.
  30. Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.
  31. A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose is an environment where habits can easily form.
  32. "Disciplined" people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.
  33. Reframing your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks is a fast and lightweight way to reprogram your mind and make a habit seem more attractive.
  34. Whether we are approaching behavior change as an individual, a parent, a coach, or a leader, we should ask ourselves the same question: "How can we design a world where it's easy to do what's right?" Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.
  35. Researchers estimate that 40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit. This is already a substantial percentage, but the true influence of your habits is even greater than these numbers suggest. Habits are automatic choices that influence the conscious decisions that follow. Yes, a habit can be completed in just a few seconds, but it can also shape the actions that you take for minutes or hours afterward.
  36. When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon. The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use the Two-Minute Rule, which states, "When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do." You'll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version: "Read before bed each night" becomes "Read one page." "Do thirty minutes of yoga" becomes "Take out my yoga mat." "Study for class" becomes "Open my notes." "Fold the laundry" becomes "Fold one pair of socks." "Run three miles" becomes "Tie my running shoes." The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start.
  37. Master the habit of showing up.
  38. The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.
  39. Every habit produces multiple outcomes across time. Unfortunately, these outcomes are often misaligned. With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, it is the reverse: the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good.
  40. As a general rule, the more immediate pleasure you get from an action, the more strongly you should question whether it aligns with your long-term goals.
  41. Our preference for instant gratification reveals an important truth about success: because of how we are wired, most people will spend all day chasing quick hits of satisfaction. The road less traveled is the road of delayed gratification. If you're willing to wait for the rewards, you'll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded.
  42. Habit tracking (1) creates a visual cue that can remind you to act, (2) is inherently motivating because you see the progress you are making and don't want to lose it, and (3) feels satisfying whenever you record another successful instance of your habit. Furthermore, habit tracking provides visual proof that you are casting votes for the type of person you wish to become, which is a delightful form of immediate and intrinsic gratification.
  43. The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.
  44. Genes do not determine your destiny. They determine your areas of opportunity.
  45. In the beginning of a new activity, there should be a period of exploration. In relationships, it's called dating. In college, it's called the liberal arts. In business, it's called split testing. The goal is to try out many possibilities, research a broad range of ideas, and cast a wide net. After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you've found -- but keep experimenting occasionally. The proper balance depends on whether you're winning or losing. If you are currently wining, you exploit, exploit, exploit. If you are currently losing, you continue to explore, explore, explore.
  46. Boiling water will soften a potato but harden an egg. You can't control whether you're a potato or an egg, but you can decide to play a game where it's better to be hard or soft. If you can find a more favorable environment, you can transform the situation from one where the odds are against you to one where they are in your favor.
  47. The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
  48. Mastery is the process of narrowing your focus to a tiny element of success, repeating it until you have internalized the skill, and then using this new habit as the foundation to advance to the next frontier of your development.
  49. The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.
  50. The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them. It's a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.