Atomic Habits Summary: Core Message & What You Can Learn

Habits Sep 15, 2020

Constantly failing to reach your goals? It’s probably bad habits that are holding you back.k

According to Atomic Habits, you need to create a system to move forward rather than just setting goals.

The book shows different strategies to break bad habits and develop good ones to help you win. It is easy to read and has some well-researched case studies. You can also find a few tools and techniques to improve habits.

If you want to get a brief idea without digging in too deep, here’s my summary of Atomic Habits:

The Core Message

James Clear uses the phrase “1% better every day” to show how you can make small incremental improvements to master a habit and achieve your goal.

So you can start with one goal and create a system of improvements to achieve it. Moreover, habit formation is more effective when by your identity and process rather than outcomes.

Atomic Habits - Outcomes, Process & Identity

For example, saying “I’m not a morning person” or ”I’m bad at maths” can shape your identity.

Your habits determine your identity. So to become the best version of yourself continuously improve your identity and processes.

Habits are linked to you and the things around you rather than your goals.

What You Can Learn

There are 4 laws of habit formation. These laws are based on the problem (cue and craving) and solution (response and reward) cycle.

Atomic Habits - The Habit Loop
Source: Atomic Habits

Here’s an example adapted from the book:

  1. Cue: Stress at work.
  2. Craving: Need some relief.
  3. Response: Open social media.
  4. Reward: Feel better from the diversion.

Once our brain detects a reward at the end, we start going around a habit loop for more rewards. So if we can tweak these four stages, we can form better habit loops.

For example, the next time you’re stressed at work, you can respond by walking for 5 minutes. It is a better and timed approach to form better habits.

The four laws of behavior change are discussed in-depth in the book.

With these laws, you can also learn many things like:

  • Habit Scorecards: Keeping a habit scorecard can help track check your positive, negative, and neutral habits.
  • Habit Stacking: Stack new habits on older ones. For example, if you wake up early you can stack a new habit of exercising, and then stack another habit of meditation.
  • 2-Minute Rule: When you feel like procrastinating, scale down the new habit to 2-minutes. For example, read one page of the book.

Do ‘Atomic Habits’ Really Work?

Yes. In my case, the atomic habits framework really worked in a few cases. Recently I bought an expensive yoga mat so that I’m motivated to do yoga in the morning. I also play music so that I’m not bored. And whenever I feel like procrastinating I use the 2-minute rule to get started and end up exercising for 30+ minutes.

All the things said in Atomic Habit aren’t necessarily going to improve your habits. But it gives an in-depth understanding of habit formation that can help anyone–unsuccessful or successful.

I’d refer Atomic habits to anyone in a heartbeat.

Other Books to Consider

If you don’t want to read Atomic Habits. Here are the best alternatives:

  • Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
  • The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg


Bipin VK

Bipin is the co-founder of Savay app. He's passionate about building products that help people in learning, skill development, and productivity.