James Clear, Atomic Habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones, Penguin Random House, 2018.


Rules: make obvious, fun, easy, satisfying. ie, hide 'bad' habit stimuli, see them as unpleasant, hard, unsatisfying, to break ‘bad’ habit.

-the more tasks you can handle without thinking, the more your brain is free to focus on other areas.

-little stresses compound into serious health issues.

-knowledge builds up, like compound interest. (buffett)

-if you see people as angry, unjust, selfish, you will see them everywhere.

-the more you help others, the more others want to help you. Build up connections (~ knowledge)

-not how successful you are right now. Your current trajectory rather than current results.

-fall in love with the process rather than the product. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. Your commitment to the process will determine your progress.

-true behaviour change is identity change. Start habit from motivation but stick with it because it becomes part of your identity. Must believe. Your habits are how you embody your identity. (when you write each day you embody identity of creative person.) Identity: proof in pudding. (what you do is what you are.) process of building habits is the process of becoming yourself.

-look at goal and work backward from result you want, the type of person you can get those results from.

-keep values and identity in driver’s seat of feedback loop. Your identity not set in stone. Choose who you want to be [wisely] and achieve it. (nietszche, frankl, jung, …)

-recognize what makes you feel good, then look at what led to that. -> feedback loop. Try fail, learn, try differently...

-habits: reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment. The brain then skips process of trial and error and creates mental rule. Cognitive scripts become automatic [left hemisphere -> right hemisphere] overcoming conscious bottleneck in brain. Habit -> freedom ie for brain to do other things c (not habit as limitation on freedom). Ie, minimize energy and effort. Mini-max saddle/sweet point. (in food mktg ‘bliss’ point for sugar/ salt/ fat combo that maximizes consumption). We always choose easiest, law of least effort (energy precious so conserve). Whitehead: civilization advances by extending number of things we can do automatically.

But don’t lose concentration -> errors. Pointing-and-calling safety system for train drivers mobilizing concsiousness as backup to habit, pushing you to do better, not yield to boredom. Ie, extra layer for self-awareness spike. Need combination of automatic habits and deliberate practice. Build new habit on top of old, ie, old already easy, but new challenge.

Not ‘good’ ‘bad’ habit but what's effective for solving problems. Does this action help me become the type of person i want to be? Observe your thoughts and actions without judgment.

-half of brain’s resources used on vision. You have relationship with objects in environment. Think of environment as full of relationships. 20% vietnam soldiers addicted to heroin but only 5% stayed addicted in US, and 90% of those untreatable. Ie, environment more important that genes. not more self-control but structure your environment so don’t need heroic willpower to resist temptations. Habit encoded in mind like weapon that can be used as needed. shaming other/ self for ‘bad’ habit has opposite reaction (increases anxiety sluggishness -> repeat)

Rats with dopamine blocked die of starvation. Can excite them with sugar taste but still don’t want to eat. Overstimulate dopamine and poke nose into box 800/hr (~ slot machine 600/hr). Dopamine when anticipate pleasure more than when receive pleasure. Ie stimulus to act. Anticipation makes pleasure more intense. More neural circuitry allocated for wanting rewards (brain stem, amygdala, prefrontal cortex) than for liking them (hedonic hotspots -tiny islands throughout brain). Ie habits should be attractive [computer game for breathing for ms kids]

We adopt habits praised by our culture because want to fit in and belong to tribe. ie, change ‘have to read’ to ‘get to read’, emphasize benefits of your condition. In meditation, losing concentration lets you practice returning to your breath. In competition, ‘i am nervous’ change to ‘i am excited and getting adrenaline rush to help me concentrate.’ practice motivation ritual for good habit (link with theme song). Even if not motivated, ritual puts you in ‘game mode’. Happy (think of petting dog).

-2 groups to make best photo: quantity of photos vs quality. Best results quantity (because habit and practice -> experiment and creativity in action). -> long-term potentiation. Hebb’s law: neurons that fire together wire together. In musicians cerebellum (movement) larger. But lose over time if not exercise. Repetition = form of change. All habits follow trajectory from effortful practice to automatic behaviour. Automaticity.

Stacking: combine new practice for new habit with existing habit. And make place/ time for new habit easy. Proactively lazy. Invert to break habit.

Time inconsistency: value present over future. For bad habit (good present bad outcome) = bad, for good habit (bad present good outcome) = good. (bastiat). Neurotic when overestimate present (unlikely) danger (risk averse vs risk prone), or underestimate future (likely, ie, fat, cancer) threat. So add some present pleasure to good habit.

Personality traits: 1/ openness to experience, 2/ conscientiousness (organized efficient vs easy going spontaneous/ impulsive), 3/ extroversion, 4/ agreeableness, 5/ neuroticism (anxious and sensitive vs confident, calm, stable. Extroversion seen from birth (loud noise baby turns to/ away)

Rule of thumb: if success run for it, if fail explore. What feels like fun to me, but work to others? What makes me lose track of time? Where do i get greater returns than average? What comes naturally to me? When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. Specialization to overcome ‘accident’ of bad genetics. Compete against yourself, ie achieve your own potential. Greatest threat to success not failure but boredom.

-variable rewards/ intermittent conditioning increasing craving. Sweet spot of desire 50/50 balance success/ failure. Just enough winning to experience satisfaction, just enough losing/ wanting to satisfy desire (not sate).



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