BookshelfJacob deGroot-Maggetti

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Old Ones – James Clear

Summary: This book’s first three chapters outline Clear’s model of the habit. Each habit has four components—Cue, Craving, Response and Reward—which occur in succession, and Clear argues that any new habit will not stick if it is deficient in any of these four components. The remaining chapters of the book expand on these four steps, offering examples of how to apply them to build new habits and to break old, unwanted ones.

Thoughts: I enjoyed Atomic Habits - Clear is an engaging writer, and there was a good balance of anecdotes to theory. Occasionally, he will generalize too broadly in citing a specific study as evidence for one of his concepts, but on the whole, I found that his model provides a useful and practical way to go about shaping one’s own habits. I appreciated how each chapter concluded with a summary of key points - more authors should do this!

(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering. With that said, I took more notes than usual on this book, so it should come fairly close to a full summary.)

Clear, James. 2018. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Old Ones. Avery.

Introduction: My Story

The Fundamentals: Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

1. The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

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

3. How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious

4. The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

5. The Best Way to Start a New Habit

6. Motivation is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

7. The Secret to Self-Control

The 2nd Law: Make it Attractive

8. How to Make a Habit Irresistible

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

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

The 3rd Law: Make it Easy

11. Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

12. The Law of Least Effort

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

14. How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

The 4th Law: Make it Satisfying

15. The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

16. How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

17. How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

Advanced Tactics: How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

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

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

20. The Downside of Creating Good Habits

Conclusion: The Secret to Results That Last


Little Lessons from the Four Laws

Posted: Jan 03, 2021. Last updated: Dec 01, 2022.