Atomic Habits is a thoughtful book on the forces behind and resulting from habits. Breaks it into 4 laws:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying


  • Identity>Process>Outcomes. Start with who you want to become, your identity. Identity emerges from habits. Each action is a vote for the type of person you want to be. A common pitfall is to do the opposite, to begin with what you want to achieve or the outcome.
  • Cue->Craving->Response->Reward. All habits proceed through these 4 stages. The four laws correspond to these stages. Cue::Obvious; Craving::Attractive, Response::Easy, Reward::Satisfying.

First Law: Make it obvious

  • Behavior change begins with awareness.
  • Small changes in context leads to large changes in behavior. Beer in a garage fridge versus your kitchen fridge makes you see it less.
  • Eventually, the context is tied to the cue and so the context becomes the cue. I am stressed and on the sofa watching the game, so I should eat some chips.
  • Use inversion of first law to breaking a habit rather than forming one: make it invisible.
  • Strategies:
    • Two common cues are time and location.
    • Habit stacking, one habit after the next. After I make my coffee, I will write my goals for the day.
    • It is easier to build habits in a new environment because there is no prior context.
    • Reduce exposure to something that you are trying to break from.

Second Law: Make it attractive

  • Anticipation, not fulfillment, is where the dopamine hits. Disappointment leads to negative dopamine hit.
  • Culture determines attractive/unattractive. Tribe mentality drives fitting in.
  • Often, we would rather be wrong and fit in versus be right and be on outside.
  • Use inversion of second law to breaking a habit rather than forming one: make it unattractive.
  • Strategies:
    • Temptation bundling: pairing actions you want with you need. Coffee requires writing.
    • Join a culture that values the habit you want.
    • Reframe mindset. Highlight the benefits of avoiding the bad habit.

Third Law: Make it Easy

  • Value action, not motion. Motion makes us feel like we are making progress without the risk of failure. We are experts in avoiding criticism.
  • Get your reps in. The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
  • Number of times is more important than amount of time.
  • Fix the problem rather than bulldozing. Remove the kink in the hose vs pumping more water through it.
  • The less friction, the easier your stronger self emerges.
  • Habits are an entry point, not the end point. They are the cab, not the gym. They are completed in a few seconds, but continue to impact your behavior for minutes or hours afterward.
  • Standardize before you optimize.
  • Use inversion of third law to breaking a habit rather than forming one: make it difficult.
  • Commitment devices force a behavior. It is a choice you make upfront that creates a cost to get out. It creates more work to get out of the good habit than to persist it. Increases the odds that you'll do the right thing in the future by making bad habits difficult in the present.
  • One time choices (buying a mattress) are single actions with persistent outcomes that compound its value.

Fourth Law: Make it Satisfying

  • We repeat behaviors when the experience is satisfying. This law is about repeating the action. Performing the action are the other three laws.
  • Bad workouts are more important than good ones. Need to maintain the compound of previous gains. It may not improve or create gains, but reaffirms your identity.
  • Habit trackers fulfill the satisfaction gained from observing progress.
  • Use inversion of fourth law to breaking a habit rather than forming one: make it unsatisfying.
  • Accountability partners create a cost of inaction. Knowing someone is watching can be a powerful motivator.

Advanced Tactics

  • The easier the path, more likely it will succeed. Match your objectives with what you will succeed in.
  • Goldilocks principle states that peak performance is when working on tasks on the edge of current abilities.
  • The greatest threat to success is not failure, but boredom.
  • Paul Graham: keep your identity small. Diversify your identity. The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you.

Little Lessons

  • Happiness is not about the achievement of pleasure but the lack of desire.
  • If you do not desire to act on what you observe, then you are at peace. Observation without craving is the realization that you do not need to fix anything.
  • Big enough why can overcome any how. Nietzsche: He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
  • Paradox of desire: All suffering and progress are sourced in the desire for a change of state.
  • Have an honest conversation with yourself on what you really want.
  • Seneca: Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more.
  • How we feel influences how we act (craving->response); How we act influences how we feel (response->reward)
  • Hope declines with experience and is replaced by acceptance. New plans offer hope because we don't have any experience to ground our expectations. New strategies seem more appealing than old ones because they can have unbounded hope.