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Sunday, December 25, 2022


I recently read Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.

This book is chock full of guidance for those who want to engage in a continual process of betterment, for themselves or for their organization.

My top takeaways were:

·       Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.

·       Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

·       4 Laws of Behavior Change: 1) make it obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, 4) make it satisfying.

·       The two most common habit cues are time and location.

·       Environment matters more than motivation in habit formation.

·       The context is the fundamental habit cue, more than a specific trigger. 

·       It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.

·       Regarding bad habits…it’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.

·       Dopamine = desire. Dopamine is released when you experience pleasure AND when you anticipate it.

·       Our habits imitate those of three social groups: 1) the close (family and friends), 2) the many (the tribe), and 3) the powerful (those with status and prestige).

·       The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual.

·       Walk slowly, but never backward.

·       When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.  

·       That which is rewarded is repeated. That which is punished is avoided.

·       Charles Goodhart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

·       Knowing that someone else is watching you is a powerful motivator.

·       From psych research, The Big 5 Personality Traits: 1) Openness to experience, 2) Conscientiousness, 3) Extroversion, 4) Agreeableness, and 5) Neuroticism.

·       Peak motivation occurs when working on tasks that are right on the edge of our current abilities.

·       Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

My favorite quotes:

“Now for the interesting question: If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still succeed?” (p. 24)

“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. 28)

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” (p.28)

“There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change…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)

"The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.” (p. 147)

“Researchers estimate that 40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.” (p. 160)

“Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.” (p. 204)

“Boiling water will soften a potato but harden an egg…Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances…Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities.” (p. 227)

“Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.” (p. 249)

“The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.” (p. 250)

I read quite a lot of books. This one is in the top quartile of those I’ve read over the last 10 years.

Well worth your (or your team’s) time in the reading. And implementation.

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