Brady F. Anderson

Atomic Habits

My Notes

Our understanding of habits started from a place where B.F. Skinner recognized that rewards and punishments condition future behaviors. Back then only external stimuli could be easily tested but current research has focused on how feelings and beliefs influence behavior.

Apply a lean manufacturing model to your own life. Each small, beneficial habit you practice accretes marginal gains that add up to big changes.

Become 1% better each day for a year and you will improve to 37x your current self. Getting 1% worse each day for a year takes you to zero.

Be more concerned with your trajectory than current results. You want non-linear gains, but that kind of performance underperforms a linear path in the short run. Your ultimate outcomes are a delayed validation of your current actions.

The outside world views success as a one-time event, but observers did not endure the discouraging feeling of not seeing results tied to the responsible behaviors for lengthy intervals.

Goals have a few issues that make them inadequate for success:

  1. Of course, winners will tell you about their goals. But there are the silent, unnoticed losers who all had the same goals.
  2. Reaching a goal is a temporary success, but constant success is what we’re pursuing. To enjoy continuous success, you need to commit to a process.
  3. Goals make you think you are delaying happiness and restrict your enjoyment to the exact scenario when you reach your goal. When you fall in love with your process, you don’t need outcomes to be happy.

We often try to change habits to achieve the outcomes we want. An improved approach is to focus on who we want to become, and then the results follow. There’s no greater motivation than an intrinsic one, tied to your identity.

You must edit your beliefs and unlearn your most natural tendencies. Change your identity so that you can hit upon that elusive intrinsic motivation that ingrains excellent habits.

Habits follow the same process: cue –> craving –> response –> reward

Your identity is who you are repeatedly.

A million sensory inputs could function as a cue. It only becomes a cue once it produces a craving.

Responses rely on motivation.

Rewards satisfy your cravings. They teach us what responses yield satisfaction. The satisfaction then becomes associated with the cue.

Set up environments where you are bound for success. Don’t have alcohol in your house if you are trying to stop drinking. Keep your journal on a clean, convenient desk if you would like to write every night.

Goodhart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Measures work best as feedback, not goals.

Great habits for you look like work to others but feel like play for you. You also lose track of time and get into flow states when you do those kinds of activities.

Relying on willpower will lead you to fail. Operate in disciplined environments where the amount of times you need to exercise self-control is limited.

We often convince ourselves that we are acting when we are just preparing to act. This produces the illusion of progress while you delay failure.

Repeating habits is what ingrains them, not the amount of time passed since you started a habit.

We overestimate immediate threats like getting eaten by a shark but underestimate distant, but certain, threats like skin cancer from not putting on sunscreen.

Don’t make your habits too difficult too quickly. Humans are most motivated when our work is just outside of our comfort zone.

Successful people also get bored of what they do. But they don’t rely on motivation, they have the routine of showing up every day, even when they don’t feel like it.

You must continue to improve your habits. You will begin to plateau in your performance at some point. Setting aside time to evaluate what is happening forces you to keep improving.

When your beliefs become tied to your identity you will struggle to discard them. Be willing to unlearn your best-loved ideas to improve.

Tie your identity to general claims rather than specific roles. If you identify as an athlete, an injury is devastating because it destroys part of you. Identify yourself as someone who is both mentally and physically tough who loves challenge instead. This way the best aspects of your identity become shielded from external events.


Make cues for good habits obvious while hiding cues for bad ones.

You don’t need to be aware of a cue for it to affect you.

Persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues.

If you perform multiple habits in the same space, for example, reading, watching tv, and sleeping in your bed, the easier behaviors win out. Tie good habits to their unique contexts.

Decide when and where you will do something for it to get done. Stating these two pieces of information leverages our two most common cues: time and location.

People do not lack motivation; they simply do not know when to start. Using the above strategy, you can create a predetermined plan so you won’t need to wait for inspiration to strike. You have already decided that you will be doing an activity once the time and location come around.

The Diderot Effect: new possessions influence you to upgrade your other belongings to match the quality of your new object. The contrast between your possessions and the habit of linking purchases together produces the craving for more, more, more.

We often link habits together, such as brushing your teeth and then putting on deodorant in the morning. You can build new habits on top of pre-existing ones to leverage this sort of habit stacking.


Make good habits attractive.

Our brains fill with a surge of dopamine the first few times we get a reward, but once the practice becomes a habit, we start experiencing a dopamine rush in anticipation of that reward.

Our brains dedicate their throughput to wanting rewards, while only our body dedicates a smaller amount of processing speed o liking those rewards.

Bundle the things you want to do with the things you need to do to get them done.

Habits normalized by others become attractive. We imitate the people near us, the general majorities, and those we admire.

Habit-forming products leverage our intrinsic motivations rather than creating new ones. Our motives include eating, drinking, reproducing, and being accepted by others. The sneaky one that is hard to notice is our attempts to reduce uncertainty.

The same cues can produce far different cravings.


Make the actions you have to take easy, but make it difficult to conduct bad habits.

Make good habits take less energy. Then you will be more likely to do them. Make undesirable behaviors take a lot of effort to perform.


Make rewards for good habits satisfying

Bad habits tend to have delayed consequences but instant gratification. The inverse is usually true of good habits like working out.

Immediate rewards and punishments inform our cravings. Separating rewards from the behavior makes it far more challenging to ingrain habits.

You want habits that serve you and are in accordance with your desired identity.

Make the invisible visible. If you are trying to save money, move a few dollars to an account every time you decide not to spend. Practices like that give you a tangible, satisfying measure for your habits and reinforce them.