Atomic Habits📒

  • Atomic Habits📒 (Clear, James)
    • Read from December 25th, 2019 to December 30th, 2019
    • Clippings:
      • A habit is a routine or behavior that is performed regularly—and, in many cases, automatically. (p. 13)
      • To be honest, there was nothing legendary or historic about my athletic career. I never ended up playing professionally. However, looking back on those years, I believe I accomplished something just as rare: I fulfilled my potential. (p. 14)
      • changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years. (p. 14)
      • wht is new compared to duhigg? (p. 18)
      • 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. Readers with a psychology background may recognize some of these terms from operant conditioning, which was first proposed as “stimulus, response, reward” by B. F. Skinner in the 1930s and has been popularized more recently as “cue, routine, reward” in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. (p. 18) #toRead
      • Behavioral scientists like Skinner realized that if you offered the right reward or punishment, you could get people to act in a certain way. But while Skinner’s model did an excellent job of explaining how external stimuli influenced our habits, it lacked a good explanation for how our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs impact our behavior. Internal states—our moods and emotions—matter, too. (p. 18)
      • the framework I offer is an integrated model of the cognitive and behavioral sciences. I believe it is one of the first models of human behavior to accurately account for both the influence of external stimuli and internal emotions on our habits. (p. 18)
      • “the aggregation of marginal gains,” which was the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. (p. 20)
      • They tested different types of massage gels to see which one led to the fastest muscle recovery. They hired a surgeon to teach each rider the best way to wash their hands to reduce the chances of catching a cold. They determined the type of pillow and mattress that led to the best night’s sleep for each rider. They even painted the inside of the team truck white, which helped them spot little bits of dust that would normally slip by unnoticed but could degrade the performance of the finely tuned bikes. (p. 21)
      • Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. (p. 24)
      • You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results. (p. 26)
      • Your 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. 26)
      • Bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks. Similarly, habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance. (p. 30)
      • In the early and middle stages of any quest, there is often a Valley of Disappointment. You expect to make progress in a linear fashion and it’s frustrating how ineffective changes can seem during the first days, weeks, and even months. It doesn’t feel like you are going anywhere. It’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed. (p. 30)
      • in order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau—what I call the Plateau of Latent Potential. (p. 31)
      • FORGET ABOUT GOALS, FOCUS ON SYSTEMS INSTEAD (p. 33)
      • Eventually, I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed. What’s the difference between systems and goals? It’s a distinction I first learned from Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind the Dilbert comic. Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results. (p. 33)
      • “The score takes care of itself.” The same is true for other areas of life. If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead. (p. 35)
      • Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals. Goal setting suffers from a serious case of survivorship bias. We concentrate on the people who end up winning—the survivors—and mistakenly assume that ambitious goals led to their success while overlooking all of the people who had the same objective but didn’t succeed. (p. 35)
      • Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves. (p. 36)
      • The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” (p. 37)
      • Furthermore, goals create an “either-or” conflict: either you achieve your goal and are successful or you fail and you are a disappointment. You mentally box yourself into a narrow version of happiness. This is misguided. It is unlikely that your actual path through life will match the exact journey you had in mind when you set out. It makes no sense to restrict your satisfaction to one scenario when there are many paths to success. A systems-first mentality provides the antidote. When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running (p. 37)
      • Finally, a goal-oriented mind-set can create a “yo-yo” effect. Many runners work hard for months, but as soon as they cross the finish line, they stop training. The race is no longer there to motivate them. (p. 37)
      • an atomic habit refers to a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1 percent improvement. (p. 38)
      • atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results. (p. 38)
      • Changing our habits is challenging for two reasons: (1) we try to change the wrong thing and (2) we try to change our habits in the wrong way. (p. 40)
      • There are three layers of behavior change: a change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, or a change in your identity. (p. 41)
      • Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe. (p. 41)
      • 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. (p. 43)
      • 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.” (p. 44)
      • The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with (p. 46)
      • The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician. (p. 46)
      • On any given day, you may struggle with your habits because you’re too busy or too tired or too overwhelmed or hundreds of other reasons. Over the long run, however, the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way. (p. 48)
      • This brings us to an important question: If your beliefs and worldview play such an important role in your behavior, where do they come from in the first place? How, exactly, is your identity formed? And how can you emphasize new aspects of your identity that serve you and gradually erase the pieces that hinder you? (p. 49)
      • Every belief, including those about yourself, is learned and conditioned through experience. (p. 49)
      • Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it. If you go to church every Sunday for twenty years, you have evidence that you are religious. If you study biology for one hour every night, you have evidence that you are studious (p. 49)
      • Each habit is like a suggestion: “Hey, maybe this is who I am.” If you finish a book, then perhaps you are the type of person who likes reading. (p. 51)
      • It is a simple two-step process: Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins. (p. 53)
      • Start there and work backward from the results you want to the type of person who could get those results. Ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?” Who is the type of person that could lose forty pounds? Who is the type of person that could learn a new language? Who is the type of person that could run a successful start-up? (p. 53)
      • The concept of identity-based habits is our first introduction to another key theme in this book: feedback loops. Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits. (p. 55)
      • What are habits? And why does the brain bother building them at all? (p. 62)
      • The process of habit formation begins with trial and error (p. 62)
      • Whenever you encounter a new situation in life, your brain has to make a decision. How do I respond to this? The first time you come across a problem, you’re not sure how to solve (p. 62)
      • Occasionally, like a cat pressing on a lever, you stumble across a solution. You’re feeling anxious, and you discover that going for a run calms you down (p. 62)
      • After you stumble upon an unexpected reward, you alter your strategy for next time. Your brain immediately begins to catalog the events that preceded the reward. Wait a minute—that felt good. What did I do right before that? (p. 62)
      • There is no longer a need to analyze every angle of a situation. Your brain skips the process of trial and error and creates a mental rule: if this, then that (p. 63)
      • Habit formation is incredibly useful because the conscious mind is the bottleneck of the brain. It can only pay attention to one problem at a time. As a result, your brain is always working to preserve your conscious attention for whatever task is most essential. (p. 64)
      • The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. (p. 65)
      • What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers. (p. 66)
      • The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward. (p. 66)
      • For a gambler, the sound of slot machines can be a potent trigger that sparks an intense wave of desire. For someone who rarely gambles, the jingles and chimes of the casino are just background noise. (p. 67)
      • The third step is the response. The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior. If a particular action requires more physical or mental effort than you are willing to expend, then you won’t do it. Your response also depends on your ability. It sounds simple, but a habit can occur only if you are capable of doing it. (p. 69)
      • Finally, the response delivers a reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us and (2) they teach us. (p. 69)
      • The first purpose of rewards is to satisfy your craving. (p. 69)
      • Second, rewards teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. Your brain is a reward detector. As you go about your life, your sensory nervous system is continuously monitoring which actions satisfy your desires and deliver pleasure. (p. 70)
      • If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start. Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act. Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it. And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future. (p. 70)
      • We can split these four steps into two phases: the problem phase and the solution phase. The problem phase includes the cue and the craving, and it is when you realize that something needs to change. The solution phase includes the response and the reward, and it is when you take action and achieve the change you desire. (p. 71)
      • 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. (p. 77)
      • Four Laws of Behavior Change, (p. 77)
      • 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. (p. 78)
      • This is one of the most surprising insights about our habits: you don’t need to be aware of the cue for a habit to begin. You can notice an opportunity and take action without dedicating conscious attention to it. This is what makes habits useful. (p. 85)
      • Over time, the cues that spark our habits become so common that they are essentially invisible: the treats on the kitchen counter, the remote control next to the couch, the phone in our pocket. Our responses to these cues are so deeply encoded that it may feel like the urge to act comes from nowhere. For this reason, we must begin the process of behavior change with awareness. (p. 86)
      • As the psychologist Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” (p. 86)
      • We need a “point-and-call” system for our personal lives. That’s the origin of the Habits Scorecard, which is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior. To create your own, make a list of your daily habits. (p. 88)
      • Once you have a full list, look at each behavior, and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or a neutral habit?” If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it. If it is a bad habit, write “–”. If it is a neutral habit, write “=”. (p. 88)
      • “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” (p. 89)
      • them. If you feel like you need extra help, then you can try Pointing-and-Calling in your own life. Say out loud the action that you are thinking of taking and what the outcome will be. (p. 90)
      • If you want to cut back on your junk food habit but notice yourself grabbing another cookie, say out loud, “I’m about to eat this cookie, but I don’t need it. Eating it will cause me to gain weight and hurt my health.” (p. 90)
      • implementation intention, which is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit. (p. 93)
      • The cues that can trigger a habit come in a wide range of forms—the feel of your phone buzzing in your pocket, the smell of chocolate chip cookies, the sound of ambulance sirens—but the two most common cues are time and location. Implementation intentions leverage both of these cues. (p. 93)
      • Broadly speaking, the format for creating an implementation intention is: “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.” (p. 93)
      • 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?” Other successful government programs have prompted citizens to make a clear plan to send taxes in on time or provided directions on when and where to pay late traffic bills. (p. 93)
      • Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. (p. 94)
      • Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen. (p. 95)
      • Stanford professor BJ Fogg and it is a strategy I refer to as habit stacking. (p. 97)
      • 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. (p. 102)
      • 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. (p. 102)
      • BJ Fogg as part of his Tiny Habits program, (p. 103)
      • The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].” (p. 103)
      • You can also insert new behaviors into the middle of your current routines. (p. 104)
      • Alternatively, you can create a list with two columns. In the first column, write down the habits you do each day without fail. (p. 106)
      • In the second column, write down all of the things that happen to you each day without fail. (p. 106)
      • After a few inconsistent days, I changed my habit stack to: “When I close my laptop for lunch, I will do ten push-ups next to my desk (p. 107)
      • gtd next action (p. 108)
      • make it obvious. (p. 108)
      • Given that we are more dependent on vision than on any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior. (p. 114)
      • If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment. The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues. (p. 116)
      • By sprinkling triggers throughout your surroundings, you increase the odds that you’ll think about your habit throughout the day. (p. 116)
      • The cues that trigger a habit can start out very specific, but over time your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. (p. 117)
      • We mentally assign our habits to the locations in which they occur: the home, the office, the gym. Each location develops a connection to certain habits and routines. You establish a particular relationship with the objects on your desk, the items on your kitchen counter, the things in your bedroom. (p. 117)
      • Stop thinking about your environment as filled with objects. Start thinking about it as filled with relationships. Think in terms of how you interact with the spaces around you. For one person, her couch is the place where she reads for an hour each night. For someone else, the couch is where he watches television and eats a bowl of ice cream after work. (p. 117)
      • In one study, scientists instructed insomniacs to get into bed only when they were tired. If they couldn’t fall asleep, they were told to sit in a different room until they became sleepy. Over time, subjects began to associate the context of their bed with the action of sleeping, and it became easier to quickly fall asleep when they climbed in bed (p. 118)
      • habits can be easier to change in a new environment. It helps to escape the subtle triggers and cues that nudge you toward your current habits. Go to a new place—a different coffee shop, a bench in the park, a corner of your room you seldom use—and create a new routine there. (p. 118)
      • Trying to eat healthier? It is likely that you shop on autopilot at your regular supermarket. Try a new grocery store. (p. 119)
      • Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking. The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.” (p. 119)
      • 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. This is one reason why the versatility of modern technology is both a strength and a weakness. (p. 120)
      • A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose is an environment where habits can easily form. (p. 121)
      • Habits thrive under predictable circumstances like these. Focus comes automatically when you are sitting at your work desk. Relaxation is easier when you are in a space designed for that purpose. (p. 121)
      • Robins found that when soldiers who had been heroin users returned home, only 5 percent of them became re-addicted within a year, and just 12 percent relapsed within three years. In other words, approximately nine out of ten soldiers who used heroin in Vietnam eliminated their addiction nearly overnight. (p. 122)
      • Robins revealed that addictions could spontaneously dissolve if there was a radical change in the environment. (p. 123)
      • Someone becomes addicted at home or with friends, goes to a clinic to get clean—which is devoid of all the environmental stimuli that prompt their habit—then returns to their old neighborhood with all of their previous cues that caused them to get addicted in the first place. (p. 125)
      • 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. (p. 126)
      • Bad habits are autocatalytic: the process feeds itself. They foster the feelings they try to numb. You feel bad, so you eat junk food. Because you eat junk food, you feel bad. (p. 127)
      • Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “cue-induced wanting”: an external trigger causes a compulsive craving to repeat a bad habit. Once you notice something, you begin to want it. (p. 128)
      • showing addicts a picture of cocaine for just thirty-three milliseconds stimulates the reward pathway in the brain and sparks desire. This speed is too fast for the brain to consciously register—the addicts couldn’t even tell you what they had seen—but they craved the drug all the same. (p. 128)
      • You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves of habit have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely—even if they go unused for quite a while. (p. 128)
      • This practice is an inversion of the 1st Law of Behavior Change. Rather than make it obvious, you can make it invisible. (p. 129)
      • supernormal stimuli. A supernormal stimulus is a heightened version of reality—like a beak with three red dots or an egg the size of a volleyball—and it elicits a stronger response than usual. (p. 133)
      • dynamic contrast, which refers to items with a combination of sensations, like crunchy and creamy. Imagine the gooeyness of melted cheese on top of a crispy pizza crust, (p. 137)
      • how’s that seventeenth bite of kale taste? After a few minutes, your brain loses interest and you begin to feel full. But foods that are high in dynamic contrast keep the experience novel and interesting, encouraging you to eat more. (p. 141)
      • a biological signature that all habits share—the dopamine spike. (p. 143)
      • By implanting electrodes in the brains of rats, the researchers blocked the release of dopamine. To the surprise of the scientists, the rats lost all will to live. They wouldn’t eat. They wouldn’t have sex. They didn’t crave anything. Within a few days, the animals died of thirst. (p. 143)
      • 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. (p. 143)
      • Every behavior that is highly habit-forming—taking drugs, eating junk food, playing video games, browsing social media—is associated with higher levels of dopamine. The same can be said for our most basic habitual behaviors like eating food, drinking water, having sex, and interacting socially. (p. 144)
      • For years, scientists assumed dopamine was all about pleasure, but now we know it plays a central role in many neurological processes, including motivation, learning and memory, punishment and aversion, and voluntary movement. (p. 144)
      • dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate (p. 144)
      • Cocaine addicts get a surge of dopamine when they see the powder, not after they take it. (p. 144)
      • It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. (p. 144)
      • Your brain has far more neural circuitry allocated for wanting rewards than for liking them. (p. 147)
      • HOW TO USE TEMPTATION BUNDLING TO MAKE YOUR HABITS MORE ATTRACTIVE (p. 149)
      • You’re more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time. (p. 151)
      • Premack’s Principle. Named after the work of professor David Premack, the principle states that “more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.” (p. 151)
      • The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED]. After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT]. (p. 152)
      • The hope is that eventually you’ll look forward to calling three clients or doing ten burpees because it means you get to read the latest sports news or check Facebook. (p. 153)
      • The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits (p. 154)
      • whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you’ll find. (p. 155)
      • We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful. (p. 157)
      • “a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if he or she had a friend who became obese.” It works the other way, too. Another study (p. 158)
      • 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. (p. 159)
      • Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper, underlying motive. (p. 170)
      • Some of our underlying motives include:* Conserve energy Obtain food and water Find love and reproduce Connect and bond with others Win social acceptance and approval Reduce uncertainty Achieve status and prestige A craving is just a specific manifestation of a deeper underlying motive. (p. 170)
      • Look at nearly any product that is habit-forming and you’ll see that it does not create a new motivation, but rather latches onto the underlying motives of human nature. (p. 171)
      • 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. (p. 173)
      • When you binge-eat or light up or browse social media, what you really want is not a potato chip or a cigarette or a bunch of likes. What you really want is to feel different. (p. 174)
      • You have to cook dinner for your family. Now, imagine changing just one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to. You get to wake up early for work. You get to make another sales call for your business. (p. 175)
      • Instead of telling yourself “I need to go run in the morning,” say “It’s time to build endurance and get fast.” (p. 175)
      • You can transform frustration into delight when you realize that each interruption gives you a chance to practice returning to your breath. (p. 178)
      • you can create a motivation ritual. You simply practice associating your habits with something you enjoy, then you can use that cue whenever you need a bit of motivation. For instance, if you always play the same song before having sex, then you’ll begin to link the music with the act. Whenever you want to get in the mood, just press play. (p. 178)
      • Find something that makes you truly happy—like petting your dog or taking a bubble bath—and then create a short routine that you perform every time before you do the thing you love. Maybe you take three deep breaths and smile. Three deep breaths. Smile. Pet the dog. Repeat. (p. 183)
      • N THE FIRST day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups. Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on. Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image. (p. 187)
      • 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. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome. If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action. (p. 188)
      • It’s easy to be in motion and convince yourself that you’re still making progress. You think, “I’ve got conversations going with four potential clients right now. This is good. We’re moving in the right direction.” Or, “I brainstormed some ideas for that book I want to write. This is coming together.” Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. 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. (p. 189)
      • If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it. This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in. (p. 189)
      • Neuroscientists call this long-term potentiation, which refers to the strengthening of connections between neurons in the brain based on recent patterns of activity. With each repetition, cell-to-cell signaling improves and the neural connections tighten. First described by neuropsychologist Donald Hebb in 1949, this phenomenon is commonly known as Hebb’s Law: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” (p. 189)
      • Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which occurs when the nonconscious mind takes over. (p. 191)
      • “How many does it take to form a new habit?” (p. 192)
      • When agriculture began to spread around the globe, farmers had an easier time expanding along east-west routes than along north-south ones. (p. 196)
      • Guns, Germs, and Steel, anthropologist and biologist Jared Diamond points out a simple fact: different continents have different shapes. (p. 195)
      • It is human nature to follow the Law of Least Effort, which states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. (p. 197)
      • every habit is just an obstacle to getting what you really want. Dieting is an obstacle to getting fit. Meditation is an obstacle to feeling calm. Journaling is an obstacle to thinking clearly. You don’t actually want the habit itself. What you really want is the outcome the habit delivers. The greater the obstacle—that is, the more difficult the habit—the more friction there is between you and your desired end state. (p. 198)
      • Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life. You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle. (p. 200)
      • In an article published in the New Yorker titled “Better All the Time,” James Suroweicki writes: “Japanese firms emphasized what came to be known as ‘lean production,’ relentlessly looking to remove waste of all kinds from the production process, down to redesigning workspaces, so workers didn’t have to waste time twisting and turning to reach their tools (p. 201)
      • Nuckols dialed in his cleaning habits by following a strategy he refers to as “resetting the room.” For instance, when he finishes watching television, he places the remote back on the TV stand, arranges the pillows on the couch, and folds the blanket. When he leaves his car, he throws any trash away. Whenever he takes a shower, he wipes down the toilet while the shower is warming up. (p. 203)
      • my wife keeps a box of greeting cards that are presorted by occasion—birthday, sympathy, wedding, graduation, and more. Whenever necessary, she grabs an appropriate card and sends it off. (p. 203)
      • Unplug the television and take the batteries out of the remote after each use, so it takes an extra ten seconds to turn it back on. And if you’re really hard-core, move the television out of the living room and into a closet after each use. You can be sure you’ll only take it out when you really want to watch something. (p. 205)
      • Habits are like the entrance ramp to a highway. They lead you down a path and, before you know it, you’re speeding toward the next behavior. It seems to be easier to continue what you are already doing than to start doing something different. (p. 208)
      • Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. I refer to these little choices as decisive moments. The moment you decide between ordering takeout or cooking dinner. The moment you choose between driving your car or riding your bike. (p. 209)
      • WYLA THARP (p. 207)
      • Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” (p. 210)
      • “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.” (p. 211)
      • “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path. (p. 212)
      • But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved. If you can’t learn the basic skill of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. (p. 217)
      • As you master the art of showing up, the first two minutes simply become a ritual at the beginning of a larger routine. This is not merely a hack to make habits easier but actually the ideal way to master a difficult skill. 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. By doing the same warm-up before every workout, you make it easier to get into a state of peak performance. (p. 218)
      • Journaling provides another example. Nearly everyone can benefit from getting their thoughts out of their head and onto paper, but most people give up after a few days or avoid it entirely because journaling feels like a chore.* The secret is to always stay below the point where it feels like work. Greg McKeown, a leadership consultant from the United Kingdom, built a daily journaling habit by specifically writing less than he felt like. (p. 219)
      • Strategies like this work for another reason, too: they reinforce the identity you want to build. If you show up at the gym five days in a row—even if it’s just for two minutes—you are casting votes for your new identity. You’re not worried about getting in shape. You’re focused on becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. You’re taking the smallest action that confirms the type of person you want to be. (p. 219)
      • At some point, once you’ve established the habit and you’re showing up each day, you can combine the Two-Minute Rule with a technique we call habit shaping to scale your habit back up toward your ultimate goal. Start by mastering the first two minutes of the smallest version of the behavior. Then, advance to an intermediate step and repeat the process—focusing on just the first two minutes and mastering that stage before moving on to the next level. (p. 220)
      • Commitment devices are useful because they enable you to take advantage of good intentions before you can fall victim to temptation (p. 224)
      • Whenever I’m looking to cut calories, for example, I will ask the waiter to split my meal and box half of it to go before the meal is served. If I waited until the meal came out and told myself “I’ll just eat half,” it would never work. (p. 224)
      • The key is to change the task such that it requires more work to get out of the good habit than to get started on it. (p. 224)
      • Some actions—like installing a cash register—pay off again and again. These onetime choices require a little bit of effort up front but create increasing value over time. (p. 226)
      • 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. It completes the habit loop. But there is a trick. We are not looking for just any type of satisfaction. We are looking for immediate satisfaction. (p. 243)
      • immediate-return environment because your actions instantly deliver clear and immediate outcomes. (p. 243)
      • delayed-return environment because you can work for years before your actions deliver the intended payoff. (p. 244)
      • time inconsistency. That is, the way your brain evaluates rewards is inconsistent across time.* You value the present more than the future. (p. 245)
      • 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. (p. 247)
      • Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided. (p. 247)
      • it’s possible to train yourself to delay gratification—but you need to work with the grain of human nature, not against it. 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. (p. 248)
      • The vital thing in getting a habit to stick is to feel successful—even if it’s in a small way. The feeling of success is a signal that your habit paid off and that the work was worth the effort. (p. 248)
      • What we’re really talking about here—when we’re discussing immediate rewards—is the ending of a behavior. The ending of any experience is vital because we tend to remember it more than other phases. (p. 248)
      • Immediate reinforcement can be especially helpful when dealing with habits of avoidance, which are behaviors you want to stop doing. It can be challenging to stick with habits like “no frivolous purchases” or “no alcohol this month” because nothing happens when you skip happy hour drinks or don’t buy that pair of shoes. (p. 249)
      • Open a savings account and label it for something you want—maybe “Leather Jacket.” Whenever you pass on a purchase, put the same amount of money in the account. (p. 250)
      • as intrinsic rewards like a better mood, more energy, and reduced stress kick in, you’ll become less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. The identity itself becomes the reinforcer. You do it because it’s who you are and it feels good to be you. The more a habit becomes part of your life, the less you need outside encouragement to follow through (p. 252)
      • Dyrsmid began each morning with two jars on his desk. One was filled with 120 paper clips. The other was empty. As soon as he settled in each day, he would make a sales call. Immediately after, he would move one paper clip from the full jar to the empty jar and the process would begin again. “Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar,” he told (p. 257)
      • A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit. The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine. (p. 260)
      • habit streak. (p. 260)
      • Habit tracking provides visual proof of your hard work—a subtle reminder of how far you’ve come. Plus, the empty square you see each morning can motivate you to get started because you don’t want to lose your progress by breaking the streak. (p. 262)
      • manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits. It is better to consistently track one habit than to sporadically track ten. (p. 263)
      • record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs. The completion of the behavior is the cue to write it down. (p. 264)
      • I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice. (p. 265)
      • 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. (p. 267)
      • This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s Law. Named after the economist Charles Goodhart, the principle states, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” (p. 271)
      • we are also more likely to avoid an experience when the ending is painful. (p. 275)
      • Pain is an effective teacher. If a failure is painful, it gets fixed. If a failure is relatively painless, it gets ignored. (p. 275)
      • The more immediate the pain, the less likely the behavior. (p. 275)
      • getting an accountability partner or signing a habit contract can work so well. (p. 278)
      • 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. (p. 283)
      • 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. (p. 283)
      • You don’t have time to try every career, date every eligible bachelor, or play every musical instrument. Thankfully, there is an effective way to manage this conundrum, and it is known as the explore/exploit trade-off. (p. 285)
      • 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. (p. 285)
      • 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 winning, you exploit, exploit, exploit. If you are currently losing, you continue to explore, explore, explore. (p. 285)
      • In the long-run it is probably most effective to work on the strategy that seems to deliver the best results about 80 to 90 percent of the time and keep exploring with the remaining 10 to 20 percent. (p. 285)
      • What feels like fun to me, but work to others? (p. 285)
      • What makes me lose track of time? (p. 285)
      • Where do I get greater returns than the average person? (p. 286)
      • What comes naturally to me? (p. 286)
      • the way to maintain motivation and achieve peak levels of desire is to work on tasks of “just manageable difficulty.” (p. 289)
      • The Goldilocks Rule 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. (p. 290)
      • A flow state is the experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in an activity. Scientists have tried to quantify this feeling. They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability. (p. 290)
      • The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty (p. 291)
      • In psychology, this is known as a variable reward.* Slot machines are the most common real-world example. A gambler hits the jackpot every now and then but not at any predictable interval. The pace of rewards varies. This variance leads to the greatest spike of dopamine, enhances memory recall, and accelerates habit formation. (p. 292)
      • The sweet spot of desire occurs at a 50/50 split between success and failure. Half of the time you get what you want. (p. 292)
      • David Cain, an author and meditation teacher, encourages his students to avoid being “fair-weather meditators.” (p. 293)
      • HABITS CREATE THE FOUNDATION FOR MASTERY. In chess, it is only after the basic movements of the pieces have become automatic that a player can focus on the next level of the game. Each chunk of information that is memorized opens up the mental space for more effortful thinking. (p. 293)
      • However, the benefits of habits come at a cost. At first, each repetition develops fluency, speed, and skill. But then, as a habit becomes automatic, you become less sensitive to feedback. You fall into mindless repetition. It becomes easier to let mistakes slide. When you can do it “good enough” on autopilot, you stop thinking about how to do it better. (p. 294)
      • You assume you’re getting better because you’re gaining experience. In reality, you are merely reinforcing your current habits—not improving them. In fact, some research has shown that once a skill has been mastered there is usually a slight decline in performance over time. (p. 294)
      • Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery (p. 294)
      • Reflection and review enables the long-term improvement of all habits because it makes you aware of your mistakes and helps you consider possible paths for improvement. Without reflection, we can make excuses, create rationalizations, and lie to ourselves. We have no process for determining whether we are performing better or worse compared to yesterday. (p. 297)
      • I know of executives and investors who keep a “decision journal” in which they record the major decisions they make each week, why they made them, and what they expect the outcome to be. They review their choices at the end of each month or year to see where they were correct and where they went wrong. (p. 297)
      • Each December, I perform an Annual Review, in which I reflect on the previous year. I tally my habits for the year by counting up how many articles I published, how many workouts I put in, how many new places I visited, and more.* Then, I reflect on my progress (or lack thereof) by answering three questions: What went well this year? What didn’t go so well this year? What did I learn? (p. 298)
      • My Integrity Report helps me realize where I went wrong and motivates me to get back on course. I use it as a time to revisit my core values and consider whether I have been living in accordance with them. This is when I reflect on my identity and how I can work toward being the type of person I wish to become.* My yearly Integrity Report answers three questions: What are the core values that drive my life and work? How am I living and working with integrity right now? How can I set a higher standard in the future? (p. 299)
      • are. In the words of investor Paul Graham, “keep your identity small.” The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you. (p. 301)
      • “I’m an athlete” becomes “I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge.” (p. 302)
      • You can sign up at: jamesclear.com/newsletter (p. 307)