Thomas Wang

From journeyman to master.

Book Review: Atomic Habits

The book is a very practical book, it has very detailed steps to help you build habits & break bad ones.

The author kindly puts the cheat sheet online: THE HABITS CHEAT SHEET
The cheat sheet categorized the steps in his four-step model of habits - cue, craving, response, and reward - and the four laws of behavior change that evolve out of these steps.

Most tips in this book I've already been doing, but it helps me to develop a framework to understand the whole flow a bit deeper.

That said, I think the four-step model is better for someone who's already known what habits to build and what to break.
Many times my struggle is not knowing what is a better habit for my own goal, therefore not convinced enough to invest in such habits - once I know a habit is benefiting me, I can stick with it.

Identity change is the key

My biggest take-away from the book is not the concrete steps/instructions, it is the habit-identity shaping theory.

Some highlights from the section:

How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa):

  • Changing our habits is challenging for two reasons:
    1. We try to change the wrong thing and
    2. We try to change our habits in the wrong way.
  • 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.
  • Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
  • Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

The mindset change is from: Outcomes -> Processes -> Identity to Identity -> Processes -> Outcomes.
In other words, you don't become a certain type of person because you've done something or established a routine; you naturally understand what routine to have and generate outcomes because you've become a certain type of person, or have started to believe in yourself to be.

For example, my goal is to become a reader. I don't "become" a reader when I check the daily reading habit for 1 year or something.
I should understand that a reader should try to read books more, ideally everyday when I decide to be a reader.
I would also start to think about what else would a reader do that I'm not currently doing - and I should start doing those because I'm a reader!

Back to my struggle of "unknown what habits to build", one possible solution is to ask folks who have the identity I seek to have.
I can ask mentors and friends of mine who read a lot about what habits they have and what their daily routines are.
I don't need to follow all of them, but I can get a better understanding of the commonalities and become a better self.

Start from the identity change, then true habits emerge.

Four laws for habits building


Creating good habits:

Breaking bad habits: