Atomic Habits – Book Summary & Takeaways, Part 1

Atomic Habits – Book Summary & Takeaways, Part 1

Atomic Habits is a great book packed with reminders about mindsets and habits for success. As I think back over years of coaching, the suggestions in this book are classic strategies and designed thinking and systems to support driving activity and achieving the results of your intentions and desires. Here are a few thoughts and takeaways highlighted in the book, that are solid approaches to getting things done and setting yourself up for success! There are so many actions possible, I am going to divide them into two posts. There might be items you are doing and some you are not. Consider one activity you can add or sharpen to improve your results today!

#1) Do 1% each day. It is about small steps. You can take actions that make yourself 1% better each day OR do 1% that makes yourself worse – either by action or doing nothing (because the world is constantly moving forward, by doing nothing you are really moving backward). It is a decision. 1% does not need to be much. Just an intentional movement to make yourself better, learn and grow a little bit each day. What does 1% look like for you?

#2) Focus on systems, not goals. This supports how you want to improve by 1%. Lots of people have AM and PM Habits that include activities that support their daily growth and improvement. If the goal is to grow in mastery of a topic; the daily habit is to read 15 minutes on the topic. If the goal is to feed and develop kids’ mindsets; the daily habit is to text them an inspiration each AM. If the goal is to get fit; the daily habit is a 30-minute workout each AM. You get the idea. Take your goal and build a system that supports the goal with regular action. What system supports your goals?

#3) Set up Success with your Environment. Your environment matters! It contributes to your experience and feelings as you exist in your surroundings. Having decluttered and inspirational surroundings matter. Consider your goal and habits. Assess how your environments support or detract from that. If your goal is health and your habit is working out daily but your environment is crowded with no place to workout, snack food all over and workout clothes hidden, it will be difficult to be motivated or able to work out. If you are trying to focus and learn and you’re surrounded by piles of stuff, the stuff will steal your energy just by being there – whether in distraction or just taking up space. What part of your environment could you address to support your goals, systems, and energy? 

#4) Reward the habits you want to promote. Wins create chemical reactions in our brain that not only make us feel good but tell our brain and body this was something worthwhile and will cause you to want to do it again. Activities that we do not enjoy and do not have a reward send the opposite message. This does not mean to avoid hard things, but it is where the reward psychology came from. While bribing with rewards is not a good recipe for lasting change, personal rewards can be natural (i.e. at the end of that workout get a delicious chocolate protein shake). Another trick to behavior change is to attach the desired behavior to one that you already do. So if you drink coffee each AM, you know you are not going to forget or miss that, so attaching an activity you WANT to do in front of it will help to ensure both happen AND will tell your brain when I do X, I will enjoy Y, which I already love. Rewards are important. It isn’t just about the external but the internal and subconscious messages that are sent.

There are more steps and habits, but if you are wanting to develop a new habit or achieve a new goal, start with these first steps.

My biggest takeaways were:

  • The value of 1%. The impact of NOT doing something each day creates the same massive gap that doing something each day will create a giant step.
  • That systems do really matter. This isn’t about being “anal” or psycho systems, rather setting yourself up for success. Sometimes it takes a while to find the system, but systems are critical for the sustained activity you desire.
  • Rewards. Just consider each day what you are doing what might be the natural rewards vs. natural consequences of lack of rewards. Are you working hard to save or build a business but not reaping anything fun from that?  Are you watching what you eat but not seeing weight loss? Are you disciplining yourself to do key activities but not seeing results? If the rewards are missing it is time to assess what you are doing and make sure there is “reward” happening. Sometimes the scale isn’t the best tool and you have to measure your body – so you can see the win. Sometimes you have to change what you are doing because while it is a good activity it is not really getting results. Sometimes you have to balance responsibility with fun. Whatever it is, reflect on what you are doing and what you WANT to be doing and how there are “natural” rewards or not attached to those activities.

There is so much more in this book – but tons of great reminders to support you to grow and achieve where you want to be in life!