About the book

A revolutionary system to get 1 per cent better every day. People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. He calls them atomic habits. In this ground-breaking book, Clears reveals exactly how these minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes. 

Year published: 2018

Buy book:  Amazon

Book summary:  Summary


Quotes from the book


Atomic Habits (James Clear)

The power of habits


Habit is a routine or behaviour performed regularly

  • A habit is a routine or behavior that is performed regularly—and, in many cases, automatically.

Habits reduce cognitive load

  • Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks.

Habits create freedom

  • Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it.  In fact, the people who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom.  Without good financial habits, you will always be struggling for the next dollar.  Without good health habits, you will always seem to be short on energy.  Without good learning habits, you will always feel like you’re behind the curve.  If you’re always being forced to make decisions about simple tasks—when should I work out, where do I go to write, when do I pay the bills—then you have less time for freedom.  It’s only by making the fundamentals of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity.

Habits determine what we become

  • Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. Quite literally, you become your habits.
  • The quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.

Habits determine our outcomes

  • 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.
  • Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.

Habits determine the quality of our lives

  • We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results.  But with better habits, anything is possible.

The power of habits lies in tiny daily changes compounded over time

  • But when we repeat 1 percent errors, day after day, by replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes, and rationalizing little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results. It’s the accumulation of many missteps—a 1 percent decline here and there—that eventually leads to a problem.
  • The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.
  • Can one tiny change transform your life? It’s unlikely you would say so.  But what if you made another?  And another?  And another?  At some point, you will have to admit that your life was transformed by one small change.  The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them.
  • Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.
  • Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.
  • Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement.
  • Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
  • It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.
  • The aggregation of marginal gains is the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do.
  • The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.  Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero.  What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.
  • This is the meaning of the phrase atomic habits—a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.
  • Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it.  Good habits make time your ally.  Bad habits make time your enemy.

New habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold

  • Habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance. 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.
  • When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.

Focus on systems, not goals


Forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.
  • If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
  • “If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
  • In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.
  • You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Systems are processes that lead to results

  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
  • Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.

Commit to the process

  • The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.  True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking.  It’s not about any single accomplishment.  It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.  Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Fall in love with the process

  • 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. And a system can be successful in many different forms, not just the one you first envision.

Find happiness in the process rather than the attainment

  • Goals restrict your happiness. The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone. I’ve slipped into this trap so many times I’ve lost count. For years, happiness was always something for my future self to enjoy. I promised myself that once I gained twenty pounds of muscle or after my business was featured in the New York Times, then I could finally relax.

Advice on creating new habits


Choose the habits that best suit you and match your natural abilities

  • The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition. This is just as true with habit change as it is with sports and business.  Habits are easier to perform, and more satisfying to stick with, when they align with your natural inclinations and abilities.  Embracing this strategy requires the acceptance of the simple truth that people are born with different abilities.
  • You don’t have to build the habits everyone tells you to build. Choose the habit that best suits you, not the one that is most popular.

Choose habits that reinforce your desired identity

  • 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?” Habits that reinforce your desired identity are usually good. Habits that conflict with your desired identity are usually bad.
  • Good habits can make rational sense, but if they conflict with your identity, you will fail to put them into action.
  • It’s not always about what happens during the workout. It’s about being the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.  It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it—even if you do less than you hope.  Going to the gym for five minutes may not improve your performance, but it reaffirms your identity.
  • Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.
  • Research has shown that once a person believes in a particular aspect of their identity, they are more likely to act in alignment with that belief.
  • The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it. If you’re proud of how your hair looks, you’ll develop all sorts of habits to care for and maintain it. If you’re proud of the size of your biceps, you’ll make sure you never skip an upper-body workout. If you’re proud of the scarves you knit, you’ll be more likely to spend hours knitting each week. Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.
  • True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.
  • What do you want to stand for? What are your principles and values? Who do you wish to become?

Every action you take becomes a vote for the type of person you wish to become

  • No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it is actually big. That’s the paradox of making small improvements.
  • With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become.
  • 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.

Our environment can greatly support or impede new habits

  • 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.  And that means that simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy.  It is hard to maintain a Zen attitude in a life filled with interruptions.  It takes too much energy.  In the short-run, you can choose to overpower temptation.  In the long-run, we become a product of the environment that we live in.  To put it bluntly, I have never seen someone consistently stick to positive habits in a negative environment.
  • You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.

Add a new habit to an existing one

  • 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.

Join a tribe that supports your habits

  • Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe. It transforms a personal quest into a shared one.  Previously, you were on your own.  Your identity was singular.  You are a reader.  You are a musician.  You are an athlete.  When you join a book club or a band or a cycling group, your identity becomes linked to those around you.  Growth and change is no longer an individual pursuit.  We are readers.  We are musicians.  We are cyclists.  The shared identity begins to reinforce your personal identity.  This is why remaining part of a group after achieving a goal is crucial to maintaining your habits.  It’s friendship and community that embed a new identity and help behaviors last over the long run.
  • 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. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day.  If you are surrounded by fit people, you’re more likely to consider working out to be a common habit.  If you’re surrounded by jazz lovers, you’re more likely to believe it’s reasonable to play jazz every day.  Your culture sets your expectation for what is ‘normal.’  Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself.  You’ll rise together.

To change behaviour, make new habits obvious, attractive and easy

  • Whenever you want to change your behavior, you can simply ask yourself: How can I make it obvious? How can I make it attractive? How can I make it easy? How can I make it satisfying?
  • In a sense, 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.  This is why it is crucial to make your habits so easy that you’ll do them even when you don’t feel like it.  If you can make your good habits more convenient, you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.

Be specific about what you want

  • Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course.

Action is key to success and reveals our true motivations

  • It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action.
  • Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action.  Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.
  • Your actions reveal how badly you want something. If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it.  It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself.  Your actions reveal your true motivations.

Be more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results

  • It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success.  You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.  If you’re a millionaire but you spend more than you earn each month, then you’re on a bad trajectory.  If your spending habits don’t change, it’s not going to end well.  Conversely, if you’re broke, but you save a little bit every month, then you’re on the path toward financial freedom—even if you’re moving slower than you’d like.

Realise it is emotions that drive behaviour

  • Emotions drive behavior. Every decision is an emotional decision at some level. Whatever your logical reasons are for taking action, you only feel compelled to act on them because of emotion. In fact, people with damage to emotional centers of the brain can list many reasons for taking action but still will not act because they do not have emotions to drive them. This is why craving comes before response. The feeling comes first, and then the behavior.

New habits must be carefully cultivated

  • All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision but as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger.  Roots entrench themselves and branches grow.  The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us.  And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.

Review your habits periodically

  • Habits deliver numerous benefits, but the downside is that they can lock us into our previous patterns of thinking and acting—even when the world is shifting around us. Everything is impermanent.  Life is constantly changing, so you need to periodically check in to see if your old habits and beliefs are still serving you.  A lack of self-awareness is poison.  Reflection and review is the antidote.

Threats to new habits


Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit

  • Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit. This is a distinguishing feature between winners and losers. Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly. The breaking of a habit doesn’t matter if the reclaiming of it is fast. I think this principle is so important that I’ll stick to it even if I can’t do a habit as well or as completely as I would like. Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all.
  • Missing one workout happens, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with a healthy meal.  I can’t be perfect, but I can avoid a second lapse.  As soon as one streak ends, I get started on the next one.  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.
  • 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.

Instant gratification stands in the way of our long-term goals

  • The brain’s tendency to prioritize the present moment means you can’t rely on good intentions. When you make a plan—to lose weight, write a book, or learn a language—you are actually making plans for your future self.  And when you envision what you want your life to be like, it is easy to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits.  We all want better lives for our future selves.  However, when the moment of decision arrives, instant gratification usually wins.  You are no longer making a choice for Future You, who dreams of being fitter or wealthier or happier.  You are choosing for Present You, who wants to be full, pampered, and entertained.  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.

Boredom is the greatest threat to success

  • 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.  Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next.  As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy—even if the old one was still working.

When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behaviour

  • We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done. We care more about getting ten thousand steps than we do about being healthy.  We teach for standardized tests instead of emphasizing learning, curiosity, and critical thinking.  In short, we optimize for what we measure.  When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior.

Final thoughts

  • Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.
  • Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.