Atomic Habits: The Life Changing

By James Clear

This post summarize the book Atomic Habits by James Clear which talk about how to set powerful habits in order to change your life.


Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.

The backbone of this book is my four-step model of habits—cue, craving, response, and reward—and the four laws of behavior change that evolve out of these steps.

The Fundamentals

1- The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.

Magical Compound Effect of Habit - Being 1% Better Everyday
FIGURE 1: The effects of small habits compound over time. For example, if you can get just 1 percent better each day, you’ll end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year.

Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.

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.

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”

Good to Know on Twitter: "We often expect progress to be linear. At the very  least, we hope it will come quickly. In reality, the results of our efforts  are often delayed.
FIGURE 2: We often expect progress to be linear. At the very least, we hope it will come quickly. In reality, the results of our efforts are often delayed. It is not until months or years later that we realize the true value of the previous work we have done. This can result in a “valley of disappointment” where people feel discouraged after putting in weeks or months of hard work without experiencing any results. However, this work was not wasted. It was simply being stored. It is not until much later that the full value of previous efforts is revealed.

Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.

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.

Chapter Summary

  1. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.
  2. Habits are a double-edged sword. They can work for you or against you, which is why understanding the details is essential.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
  6. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

2- How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Book: Atomic Habits, 2. How your Habits Shape Your Identity | Beto's Blog
FIGURE 3: There are three layers of behavior change: a change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, or a change in your identity.

Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.

Atomic Habits By James Clear — Review and Summary | by Mikael Haji | Medium
FIGURE 4: With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become.

Imagine two people resisting a cigarette. When offered a smoke, the first person says, “No thanks. I’m trying to quit.” It sounds like a reasonable response, but this person still believes they are a smoker who is trying to be something else. They are hoping their behavior will change while carrying around the same beliefs.
The second person declines by saying, “No thanks. I’m not a smoker.” It’s a small difference, but this statement signals a shift in identity. Smoking was part of their former life, not their current one. They no longer identify as someone who smokes.

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. The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.

The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.

It is a simple two-step process:

  • Decide the type of person you want to be.
  • Prove it to yourself with small wins.

Chapter Summary

  1. There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change.
  2. 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.
  3. Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
  4. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
  5. 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.

3- How To Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. Breaking it down into these fundamental parts can help us understand what a habit is, how it works, and how to improve it.

How to Create a Good Habit
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.

We can invert these laws to learn how to break a bad habit.

How to Break a Bad Habit
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.

Chapter Summary

  1. A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.
  2. The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.
  3. Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
  4. The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.

The 1St Law – Make It Obvious

4- The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

For example, military analysts can identify which blip on a radar screen is an enemy missile and which one is a plane from their own fleet even though they are traveling at the same speed, flying at the same altitude, and look identical on radar in nearly every respect.

You fall into old patterns before you realize what’s happening. Unless someone points it out, you may not notice that you cover your mouth with your hand whenever you laugh, that you apologize before asking a question, or that you have a habit of finishing other people’s sentences. And the more you repeat these patterns, the less likely you become to question what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Pointing-and-Calling is so effective because it raises the level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level. Because the train operators must use their eyes, hands, mouth, and ears, they are more likely to notice problems before something goes wrong.

Rating your habits

  • Wake up =
  • Turn off alarm =
  • Check my phone –
  • Go to the bathroom =
  • Weigh myself +
  • Take a shower +
  • Brush my teeth +
  • Floss my teeth +
  • Put on deodorant +

If you’re still having trouble determining how to rate a particular habit, here is a question I like to use: “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be?

Hearing your bad habits spoken aloud makes the consequences seem more real.

“Tomorrow, I need to go to the post office after lunch,” increases the odds that you’ll actually do it.

Chapter Summary

  1. With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it.
  2. Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing.
  3. The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
  4. Pointing-and-Calling raises your level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level by verbalizing your actions.
  5. The Habits Scorecard is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior.

5- The Best Way to Start a New Habit

Broadly speaking, the format for creating an implementation intention is: “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

Researchers have even found that voter turnout increases when people are forced to create implementation intentions by answering questions like: “What route are you taking to the polling station?At what time are you planning to go? What bus will get you there?”

I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].


Like falling dominoes, one purchase led to the next. Diderot’s behavior is not uncommon. In fact, the tendency for one purchase to lead to another one has a name: the Diderot Effect.
The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption that leads to additional purchases.

When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage.
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. This is called habit stacking.

The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

“When I close my laptop for lunch, I will do ten push-ups next to my desk.” Ambiguity gone. Habits like “read more” or “eat better” are worthy causes, but these goals do not provide instruction on how and when to act. Be specific and clear: After I close the door. After I brush my teeth. After I sit down at the table. The specificity is important. The more tightly bound your new habit is to a specific cue, the better the odds are that you will notice when the time comes to act.

Chapter Summary

  1. The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious.
  2. The two most common cues are time and location.
  3. Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location.
  4. The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
  5. Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit.
  6. The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

6- Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are.

Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment, or B = f (P,E).

Some experts estimate that half of the brain’s resources are used on vision.

Whenever possible, avoid mixing the context of one habit with another. When you start mixing contexts, you’ll start mixing habits—and the easier ones will usually win out.

Chapter Summary

  1. Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time.
  2. Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
  3. Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
  4. Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. The context becomes the cue.
  5. It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.

7- The Secret to Self-Control

This finding contradicted the prevailing view at the time, which considered heroin addiction to be a permanent and irreversible condition. Instead, Robins revealed that addictions could spontaneously dissolve if there was a radical change in the environment.

Recent research, however, shows something different. When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “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.

The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least. It’s easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it very often. So, yes, perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.

You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it.

I have never seen someone consistently stick to positive habits in a negative environment.

Chapter Summary

  1. The inversion of the 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it invisible.
  2. Once a habit is formed, it is unlikely to be forgotten.
  3. People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.
  4. One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
  5. Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.

The 2Nd Law – Make It Attractive

8- How to Make a Habit Irresistible

It’s like the brain of each animal is preloaded with certain rules for behavior, and when it comes across an exaggerated version of that rule, it lights up like a Christmas tree. Scientists refer to these exaggerated cues as supernormal stimuli.

Look around. Society is filled with highly engineered versions of reality that are more attractive than the world our ancestors evolved in. Stores feature mannequins with exaggerated hips and breasts to sell clothes. Social media delivers more “likes” and praise in a few minutes than we could ever get in the office or at home. Online porn splices together stimulating scenes at a rate that would be impossible to replicate in real life. Advertisements are created with a combination of ideal lighting, professional makeup, and Photoshopped edits—even the model doesn’t look like the person in the final image. These are the supernormal stimuli of our modern world. They exaggerate features that are naturally attractive to us, and our instincts go wild as a result, driving us into excessive shopping habits, social media habits, porn habits, eating habits, and many others.

In follow-up studies, other scientists also inhibited the dopamine-releasing parts of the brain, but this time, they squirted little droplets of sugar into the mouths of the dopamine-depleted rats. Their little rat faces lit up with pleasurable grins from the tasty substance. Even though dopamine was blocked, they liked the sugar just as much as before; they just didn’t want it anymore. The ability to experience pleasure remained, but without dopamine, desire died. And without desire, action stopped.

When other researchers reversed this process and flooded the reward system of the brain with dopamine, animals performed habits at breakneck speed. In one study, mice received a powerful hit of dopamine each time they poked their nose in a box. Within minutes, the mice developed a craving so strong they began poking their nose into the box eight hundred times per hour.12 (Humans are not so different: the average slot machine player will spin the wheel six hundred times per hour.)

When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it. Gambling addicts have a dopamine spike right before they place a bet, not after they win.

FIGURE 9: Before a habit is learned (A), dopamine is released when the reward is experienced for the first time. The next time around (B), dopamine rises before taking action, immediately after a cue is recognized. This spike leads to a feeling of desire and a craving to take action whenever the cue is spotted. Once a habit is learned, dopamine will not rise when a reward is experienced because you already expect the reward. However, if you see a cue and expect a reward, but do not get one, then dopamine will drop in disappointment (C). The sensitivity of the dopamine response can clearly be seen when a reward is provided late (D). First, the cue is identified and dopamine rises as a craving builds. Next, a response is taken but the reward does not come as quickly as expected and dopamine begins to drop. Finally, when the reward comes a little later than you had hoped, dopamine spikes again. It is as if the brain is saying, “See! I knew I was right. Don’t forget to repeat this action next time.”

Your brain has far more neural circuitry allocated for wanting rewards than for liking them.

Temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle. Named after the work of professor David Premack, the principle states that “more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.” In other words, even if you don’t really want to process overdue work emails, you’ll become conditioned to do it if it means you get to do something you really want to do along the way.

The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED]. After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].

Chapter Summary

  1. The 2nd Law of Behavior Change is make it attractive.
  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.
  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.
  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.

9- The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

Laszlo was a firm believer in hard work. In fact, it was all he believed in: he completely rejected the idea of innate talent. He claimed that with deliberate practice and the development of good habits, a child could become a genius in any field. His mantra was “A genius is not born, but is educated and trained.”

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful.

1- Imitating the Close

As a general rule, the closer we are to someone, the more likely we are to imitate some of their habits. One groundbreaking study tracked twelve thousand people for thirty-two years and found that “a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if he or she had a friend who became obese.”

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.

New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day.

2- Imitating the Many

When changing your habits means challenging the tribe, change is unattractive. When changing your habits means fitting in with the tribe, change is very attractive.

3- 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.

Chapter Summary

  1. The culture we live in determines which behaviors are attractive to us.
  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.
  3. We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).
  4. One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (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.
  6. If a behavior can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.

10- How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

A craving is the sense that something is missing. It is the desire to change your internal state. When the temperature falls, there is a gap between what your body is currently sensing and what it wants to be sensing. This gap between your current state and your desired state provides a reason to act. — location: 1740 ^ref-15073

I once heard a story about a man who uses a wheelchair. When asked if it was difficult being confined, he responded, “I’m not confined to my wheelchair—I am liberated by it.5 If it wasn’t for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and never able to leave my house.” — location: 1763 ^ref-5002

Chapter Summary

  1. The inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change is make it unattractive.
  2. Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.
  3. Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires.
  4. The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling.
  5. Highlight the benefits of avoiding a 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.

The 3Rd Law – Make It Easy


As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.”2 I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same. When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. — location: 1854 ^ref-34015

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. — location: 1871 ^ref-1080

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”4 Repeating a habit leads to clear physical changes in the brain. In musicians, the cerebellum—critical for physical movements like plucking a guitar string or pulling a violin bow—is larger than it is in nonmusicians.5 Mathematicians, meanwhile, have increased gray matter in the inferior parietal lobule, which plays a key role in computation and calculation. — location: 1879 ^ref-34658

Chapter Summary

  1. The 3rd Law of Behavior Change is make it easy.
  2. The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
  3. Focus on taking action, not being in motion.
  4. Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.
  5. The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.


Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do. — location: 2068 ^ref-31723

Chapter Summary

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


Chapter Summary

  1. Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.
  2. 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.
  3. The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
  4. 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.
  5. Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.


Chapter Summary

  1. The inversion of the 3rd Law of Behavior Change is make it difficult.
  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.
  5. Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.


What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided. — location: 2444 ^ref-6318

People who are better at delaying gratification have higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, and superior social skills. — location: 2448 ^ref-19639

The best way to do this is to add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t. — location: 2456 ^ref-44792

Chapter Summary

  1. The 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it satisfying.
  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. The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
  5. To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.
  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.


“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”9 Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system. — location: 2628 ^ref-12989

Chapter Summary

  1. One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.
  2. A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit—like marking an X on a calendar.
  3. Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.
  4. Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.
  5. Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
  6. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.


When the consequences are severe, people learn quickly. — location: 2671 ^ref-59560

To make bad habits unsatisfying, your best option is to make them painful in the moment. Creating a habit contract is a straightforward way to do exactly that. Even if you don’t want to create a full-blown habit contract, simply having an accountability partner is useful. — location: 2721 ^ref-53721

You can even automate this process. Thomas Frank, an entrepreneur in Boulder, Colorado, wakes up at 5:55 each morning.7 And if he doesn’t, he has a tweet automatically scheduled that says, “It’s 6:10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this for $5 via PayPal (limit 5), assuming my alarm didn’t malfunction.” — location: 2728 ^ref-38992

Chapter Summary

  1. The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying.
  2. We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.
  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.
  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.
  5. Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.


You can download a printable version of this habits cheat sheet at: — location: 2782 ^ref-41113

In short: genes do not determine your destiny. They determine your areas of opportunity. As physician Gabor Mate notes, “Genes can predispose, but they don’t predetermine.” — location: 2821 ^ref-63996

Your personality is the set of characteristics that is consistent from situation to situation. The most proven scientific analysis of personality traits is known as the “Big Five,” which breaks them down into five spectrums of behavior. Openness to experience: from curious and inventive on one end to cautious and consistent on the other. Conscientiousness: organized and efficient to easygoing and spontaneous. Extroversion: outgoing and energetic to solitary and reserved (you likely know them as extroverts vs. introverts). Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate to challenging and detached. Neuroticism: anxious and sensitive to confident, calm, and stable. — location: 2837 ^ref-34350

All five characteristics have biological underpinnings. Extroversion, for instance, can be tracked from birth. If scientists play a loud noise in the nursing ward, some babies turn toward it while others turn away. When the researchers tracked these children through life, they found that the babies who turned toward the noise were more likely to grow up to be extroverts. Those who turned away were more likely to become introverts.11 — location: 2843 ^ref-60311

As you explore different options, there are a series of questions you can ask yourself to continually narrow in on the habits and areas that will be most satisfying to you: — location: 2896 ^ref-45804

What feels like fun to me, but work to others? — location: 2897 ^ref-50311

What makes me lose track of time? — location: 2900 ^ref-59629

Where do I get greater returns than the average person? — location: 2903 ^ref-18021

What comes naturally to me? — location: 2907 ^ref-30501

When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out. — location: 2920 ^ref-26373

A good player works hard to win the game everyone else is playing. A great player creates a new game that favors their strengths and avoids their weaknesses. — location: 2922 ^ref-40654

Chapter Summary

  1. The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.
  2. Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.
  3. Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances.
  4. Habits are easier when they align with your 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.
  6. Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.


The human brain loves a challenge, but only if it is within an optimal zone of difficulty. If you love tennis and try to play a serious match against a four-year-old, you will quickly become bored. It’s too easy. You’ll win every point. In contrast, if you play a professional tennis player like Roger Federer or Serena Williams, you will quickly lose motivation because the match is too difficult. Now consider playing tennis against someone who is your equal. — location: 2981 ^ref-38629

The sweet spot of desire occurs at a 50/50 split between success and failure. Half of the time you get what you want. Half of the time you don’t. You need just enough “winning” to experience satisfaction and just enough “wanting” to experience desire. — location: 3038 ^ref-53602

But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur. Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work toward it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life. — location: 3051 ^ref-57795

Chapter Summary

  1. The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.
  2. The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
  3. As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored.
  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.


Some research has shown that once a skill has been mastered there is usually a slight decline in performance over time.1 — location: 3080 ^ref-8975

“Sustaining an effort is the most important thing for any enterprise.5 The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, then do them the same way every time.” — location: 3139 ^ref-15707

The CBE program is a prime example of the power of reflection and review. The Lakers were already talented. CBE helped them get the most out of what they had, and made sure their habits improved rather than declined. — location: 3141 ^ref-31075

If you have spent every waking moment working on your business, how will you feel after you sell the company? The key to mitigating these losses of identity is to redefine yourself such that you get to keep important aspects of your identity even if your particular role changes. ■ “I’m an athlete” becomes “I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge.” ■ “I’m a great soldier” transforms into “I’m the type of person who is disciplined, reliable, and great on a team.” ■ “I’m the CEO” translates to “I’m the type of person who builds and creates things.” — location: 3200 ^ref-25253

Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail. —LAO TZU — location: 3211 ^ref-4945

Chapter Summary

  1. The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.
  2. Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
  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.


Conclusion — location: 3228 ^ref-9537

Behaviors are effortless here. Behaviors are difficult here. Obvious ————————— Invisible Attractive ——————– Unattractive Easy ———————————– Hard Satisfying ——————– Unsatisfying You want to push your good habits toward the left side of the spectrum by making them obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. Meanwhile, you want to cluster your bad habits toward the right side by making them invisible, unattractive, hard, and unsatisfying. — location: 3255 ^ref-25974

Being curious is better than being smart. Being motivated and curious counts for more than being smart because it leads to action. Being smart will never deliver results on its own because it doesn’t get you to act. It is desire, not intelligence, that prompts behavior. As Naval Ravikant says, “The trick to doing anything is first cultivating a desire for it.” — location: 3304 ^ref-52962

This is the wisdom behind Seneca’s famous quote, “Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more.” — location: 3340 ^ref-14090

As Aristotle noted, “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.”


How to Apply These Ideas to Business

THE 1ST LAW – Make It Obvious

Businesses can utilize the 1st Law of Behavior Change in many ways. Put your most profitable product in the front of the store or in the most visible locations. Ask employees to remove distracting applications from the homescreen on their phone so they are less likely to see them and click mindlessly. Design the office workflow so the most import- ant tasks are in the most obvious locations. Include instructions with each product that prompt users to display your product in a prominent place in their home or on the home screen of their device.

The most obvious cue is often the one that captures your attention. And the cue that gets your attention is the one that can initiate a habit.

THE 2ND LAW – Make It Attractive

The customer does not buy your product; they buy the prediction it creates in their mind.

For many products, “making it attractive” comes down to explaining the benefits in a clear and compelling way.

  1. In many cases, personalizing the message can be an effective way to implement the 2nd Law of Behavior Change because products are often more attractive when they seem relevant to the customer’s life.
  2. Another strategy that can increase the attractiveness of a product (and which I discuss in detail in Chapter 10) is highlighting social norms or identification to people they admire.

THE 3RD LAW – Make It Easy

From a business standpoint, perhaps the most effective way to employ the 3rd Law of Behavior Change is to map out the chain of behaviors that a customer must perform to purchase your product or use your service, and then search for any possible area where you can reduce the friction associated with the task.

THE 4TH LAW – Make It Satisfying

The speed of the reward is a crucial factor in the 4th Law of Behavior Change. Cus- tomers need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s just in some small way—each time they use a product or service. At a minimum, the product should solve the problem (i.e. resolve the craving they experienced in Law 2) and, if possible, it should do so with some surprise or delight as well.

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How to Apply These Ideas to Parenting

THE 1ST LAW – Make It Obvious

THE 2ND LAW – Make It Attractive

THE 3RD LAW – Make It Easy

THE 4TH LAW – Make It Satisfying

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