Library / Personal Development | Human Psychology

Date of review: June 2020
Book author: James Clear
Вook published: 2018

Atomic Habits by James Clear (2018)

This book by James Clear used a great example that willpower is like muscles – they can help but for a short period of time. If you create good habits and avoid bad – you would set yourself on the right course achieving more goals with less effort.

How to create good habits and avoid bad

For most of my life, I believed in willpower and looked for ways to strengthen my commitment to stay on course and achieve my goals. The problem I often faced, though, was burning out, even if temporarily, which led to low levels of energy with considerable time wasted until I found my motivation again.

The four-step process proposed by the author includes the following:

1) Making it obvious ('put fruits in the middle of the table, hide beer deep at the back or just don't buy it all to store it')).

2) Make it attractive (come with rewards, role of family and friends);

3) Make it easy (the law of Least Effort) – a good example is an overweight man driving to a gym every day, putting his sports uniform on and then changing back and leaving, after a week he spent just 10 min walking, then very gradually extending his time doing real work-out.

4) Make it satisfying. Find ways to reward yourself earlier. There is a big disconnect between good and bad habits: you get big satisfaction from eating junk forwards, but bad consequences appear only after a while. You don't see bigger muscles immediately after going to the gym, but you do experience some muscle pain right after the gym. The key to success is to focus on long-term positive consequences and ignore short-term effects.

The author also has an advanced plan, discusses the role of genes and talent and gives more advice on staying motivated in life and work.

Key notes

  • Whenever you predict that an opportunity will be rewarding, your levels of dopamine spike in anticipation. And whenever dopamine rises, so does your motivation to act. It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfilment of it—that gets us to take action. Interestingly, the reward system that is activated in the brain when you receive a reward is the same system that is activated when you anticipate a reward.

  • "What's the difference between the best athletes and everyone else?" I asked. "What do the really successful people do that most don't?" He mentioned the factors you might expect: genetics, luck, talent. But then he said something I wasn't expecting: "At some point, it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over." His answer surprised me because it's a different way of thinking about work ethic. People talk about getting "amped up" to work on their goals. Whether it's business or sports or art, you hear people say things like, "It all comes down to passion." Or, "You have to really want it."

As a result, many of us get depressed when we lose focus or motivation because we think that successful people have some bottomless reserve of passion. But this coach said that really successful people feel the same lack of motivation as everyone else. The difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.

  • The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.

  • The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom

  • This is a continuous process. There is no finish line. There is no permanent solution. Whenever you're looking to improve, you can rotate through the Four Laws of Behavior Change until you find the next bottleneck. Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying. Round and round. Always looking for the next way to get 1 percent better.

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