Atomic Habits by James Clear - Book Summary and Review Part-2

Last week's post Atomic Habits Part-1 introduced the feedback loop of habits, habit stacking, identity based habits, habit tracker, implementation intention and environment effect on habits.  In this post, we would delve more into the feedback loop of habit : cue, craving, response and reward.

Atomic Habits
Atomic Habits



  • Associate your habits not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. The context becomes the cue.
  • It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.
  • “Disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least.
  • Bad habits are auto-catalytic: the process feeds itself. They foster the feelings they try to numb. You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. 
  • Cut bad habits off at the source. Make it invisible. Reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.


Temptation bundling:

  • Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.
  • Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do. More probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.
  • The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is:
    •  After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED].
    •  After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].


  • We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).
  • One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and  (2) you already have something in common with the group. Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe.
  • We imitate people we envy. If a  behavior can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.

Habit Associations:

  • Habits are all about associations - associate good ones with positive feelings and bad ones with negative feelings. Systematically reframe each cue associated with habit and give it a new meaning.
  • Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper, underlying motive. Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires.
  • Highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit to make it seem unattractive.
  • The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling. Desire is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be in the future.
  • For good habits, replace - You don’t “have” to. You “get” to. You transition  from seeing these behaviors as burdens and turn them into opportunities.  Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.



  • Walk slowly, but never backward. The best is the enemy of the good.
  • Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.
  • If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. “Neurons that fire together wire together.”
  • Practice rather than just planning, taking action rather than just being in motion will make the action automatic through repetition.
  • The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.

Prime the environment :

  • Conventional wisdom holds that motivation is the key to habit change. Maybe if you really wanted it, you’d actually do it. But the truth is, our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient.
  • Optimize your environment to make actions easier. Find every point of friction in the process and eliminate it. Prime the environment for future use: Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.

Starting a habit:

  • When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. 
  • Make it easy to start and the rest will follow.
  • The secret is to always stay below the point where it feels like work. The best way is to always stop when you are going good.
  • Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.

Commitment Device:

  • A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. 
  • The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do. Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act.
  • The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits. When you automate as much of your life as possible, you can spend your effort on the tasks machines cannot do yet.


  • We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying. What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.
  • We don't live in an immediate-return environment. Every habit produces multiple outcomes across time. The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.
  • Add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.
  • Make avoidance of bad habits visible with some reward.
  • To get a habit to stick, you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.. Reinforcement ties your habit to an immediate reward, which makes it satisfying when you finish. The more a habit becomes part of your life, the less you need outside encouragement to follow through.
  • Incentives can start a habit. Identity sustains a habit.
  • Obvious cue, attractive craving, and  easy response increase the odds that a behavior will be performed. Satisfying reward increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time.
  • Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures—like moving paper clips or hairpins or marbles to a jar —provide clear evidence of your progress.
  • Don’t break the chain. Don’t put up a zero.
  • Habit tracking: measurement should be automated. Add a note to your calendar to review it each week or each month, which is more practical than tracking it every day. manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits. It is better to consistently track one habit than to sporadically track ten.
  • Never miss twice. 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. 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.
  • Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system.
  • Pain is an effective teacher. If a failure is painful, it gets fixed. If a failure is relatively painless, it gets ignored. The more immediate and more costly a mistake is, the faster you will learn from it.
  • If you’re going to rely on punishment to change behavior, then the strength of the punishment must match the relative strength of the behavior it is trying to correct.
  • Make a habit contract with an accountability partner.


PS: There's a third part upcoming for this!

Continue Reading Next Part :  Atomic Habits by James Clear - Book Summary and Review Part-3


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