From Good to Great: An Atomic Habits Overview for Success

5 personal takeaways from atomic habits


9/19/20238 min read

a man reading a book with headphones on his head
a man reading a book with headphones on his head

Take the life history of any successful person, and you will find one common factor: they have built at least one good habit.

Good habits are essential for success, but why do we struggle to create them?

For those who believe that habit formation is challenging, what if I told you that you’re already practicing a few habits?

How often are you mindful while performing tasks such as walking, brushing your teeth, or driving?

We unconsciously develop some habits. So, it’s not a difficult task; all you need to know is the process of creating them.

In this article, I would like to share 5 key takeaways that I learned after reading the book ‘Atomic Habits’.

The Science Behind Habit Formation

Before diving into the key takeaways, it’s important to understand how habits are formed.

According to James Clear in his book, there are four stages of habit formation:

1. Cue

2. Craving

3. Response

4. Reward

Imagine this: You’re working on your laptop at your desk, and your phone is right there on the table next to you. Suddenly, your phone makes a sound because you got a new message from a social media app. You quickly open the message and reply to your friend.

· Here, the notification serves as your ‘Cue.’

· Your desire to read and learn the message is the ‘Craving.’

· When you pick up your phone and read the text, that’s your ‘Response.’

· After reading it, your craving is satisfied, which is the ‘Reward.’

Note: Cues can be anything, such as the time of day, advertisements, emotions, or even YouTube notifications.

The Key Takeaway — 1: Get 1% Improvement Everyday

What comes to your mind when I say “Get a 1% improvement daily to achieve big in life”.

Some of you may be sceptical.

People often overlook small things in life, thinking, ‘What’s the big deal here?’

Yes! getting a 1% improvement may not seem extraordinary, right?

From 1908 to 2003, the British cycling team had the worst phase in their history, where they were in a continuous losing streak in both local and international tournaments.

To describe that situation precisely, one famous European cycle manufacturing company decided to stop supplying cycles to the British team because they thought that supplying cycles would decrease their brand value.

Now, you should have understood how bad their situation was.

Like life, the fate of the British cycling team changed when Brailsford joined as their new head coach.

Brailsford didn’t deliver any motivational speeches or ask his players to work harder. Instead, he followed one simple strategy.

Guess what? That simple strategy led their team to win a gold medal in the Olympics and set a new world record.

How did this happen? What was their strategy?

Brailsford broke down big tasks into smaller parts and asked the players to strive for a 1% improvement every day. He focused on correcting small things, such as improving the players’ hand positions, providing more comfortable shoes, and ensuring that the tire pressure matched the road conditions.

These small changes actually yielded tremendous results and changed their fate.

Imagine this: you’re aiming to lose weight, and you decide to walk regularly in the morning. After a month, you check your weight, but there’s no improvement. You feel devastated and decide to quit walking.

People often expect immediate results for their hard work, and when they don’t see them, they’re more likely to quit.

It takes a year to gain weight, but you want to reduce it in a month? Is it really possible?

No! Habits should be followed for a long time to reap the benefits.

This is where you have to understand the power of compounding in life.

“If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero”

Small changes often don’t make an immediate difference, but they will compound over time and give you the desired results.

Action Plan: Try to improve by 1% every day.

For example, if you want to develop a reading habit, start by reading 2 pages a day.

Key Takeaway 2: Two Simple Ways to Build a New Habit.

Habit Stacking

Now, if you’re interested in habit formation and looking for the best way to start your journey, consider the concept of habit stacking.

Here’s how it works: ‘After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].’

As you already know, all of you have already built some inbuilt habits like brushing your teeth, showering, drinking coffee, etc.

The first step is to identify and list those current habits in a notebook. Then, list down the habit you want to create and pair it with the current one.

For instance:

After brushing my teeth, I will meditate for 10 minutes.

After dinner, I will walk for 10 minutes.

How it works? As you already built current habits and repeated several times that created a strong pattern in brain. You’ll not be mindful while doing it because brain will be in autopilot mode.

Instead of creating a new habit from scratch, if you pair it with the current habit, more likely you’ll stick to it.

The 2-minute Rule

For goals that require effort or learning something new, it can be challenging for anyone, and as a result, we often procrastinate on our goals.

The concept behind this rule is simple: start working on your new habit for just 2 minutes.

For instance, let’s say you loved this summary and bought a book to read. However, no matter how motivated you are, you can’t complete the entire book in one go.

“The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away.”

On the first day, you simply open the book and read one page (2 minutes), then close it and move on to your other tasks. The same process is repeated the next day.

What’s the use of this? The actual goal of following this rule is to create a new reading habit. Since you don’t have the reading habit initially, you need to establish a strong routine for reading.

Once you’ve established the routine, it becomes much easier to gradually increase your reading time from minutes to hours.

Anyone can read for 2-minutes, so it’s less likely that you’ll skip the habit initially. This little trick has the capability to change your life.

Key Takeaway 3: Environment Often Matters

The four rules for building new habits are:

1. Make it obvious (Cue)

2. Make it attractive (Craving)

3. Make it easy (Response)

4. Make it satisfying (Reward)

The inverse laws apply if we want to get rid of bad habits:

Make the Cue invisible

Make the Craving unattractive

Make the Response difficult

Make the Reward unsatisfying

Sometimes, your surroundings can significantly influence your habits. As you know, the ‘Cue’ is crucial for habit formation. When your cue is attractive, you’re more likely to complete your habits, but if it’s unattractive, you may miss them.

What happens when you make your cue both obvious and attractive? In my previous job, one of my friends suffered from a kidney stone, and the doctor advised him to drink more water. This incident inspired me to drink more water, so I bought a colorful water bottle, filled it, and placed it on my work desk

This simple trick encouraged me to drink more water, and I’m still following this habit.

Similarly, what happens if you make your cue invisible and unattractive?

In this book, the author shares a story from Massachusetts General Hospital, where soda sales in their hospital cafeteria kept increasing month by month. To change the eating behaviour of thousands of hospital staff members, the head of the department implemented a new idea. The hospital had a single dining hall for its staff.

They asked the cafeteria staff to move the refrigerator from the dining hall to the next room and replace it with a basket of water bottles.

What do you think happened? The number of soda sales dropped significantly by 11.8 percent, and water bottle sales increased by 25 percent within three months.

You can see that by simply changing the environment, the head of the department achieved their goal without making any announcements to the hospital staff.

Similarly, you can change your environment based on your goals.

For instance, if you want to stop using mobile while doing work or before sleep, then place your mobile in another room.

When you make your cue invisible, you’ll be less likely to engage in that habit.

Key Takeaway 4: Make Your Habits Satisfying

Lack of motivation is one of the reasons people struggle to stick to their routines, especially when the task is a bit challenging.

Take Ronan Byrne, an engineering student in Ireland, for example. He had no motivation to work out, but he found a clever solution.

He connected his exercise bike to his laptop and wrote some code that allowed Netflix shows to run only if he was cycling at a certain speed.

This not only motivated him to work out regularly but also allowed him to enjoy his favorite Netflix shows.

Rewards play a crucial role in motivating you to repeat behaviours until it becomes a habit.

You can create your own rewards, such as having a cup of coffee after reading a new chapter or watching funny YouTube videos after writing 100 words.

Make it Unsatisfying

One way to make a habit unsatisfying is through a habit contract where you impose a penalty for engaging in the undesired habit.

You can create an agreement with friends or family members, where you commit to paying them a certain amount as a penalty whenever you indulge in the bad habit.

For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, you could establish a contract stating that you will give $5 to your mother or friends every time you smoke.

You don’t need to inform them explicitly about the habit; you simply have to pay the specified amount each time.

This approach can gradually disrupt your habit pattern and make it unsatisfying to continue.

Key Takeaway 5: How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

Anyone can form a habit, but sticking with them is not an easy task.

One simple yet effective technique is to create a habit tracker. The process involves purchasing a basic calendar and crossing off the days where you successfully followed the routine.

The most common question is, “How long do I need to follow the habit to make it automatic?

There is no standard answer to this question, but, based on my experience, I suggest you follow a habit for at least 60 days.

One important factor to consider is ‘Never miss it twice.’

If you happen to miss a day, make an effort to get back on track as quickly as possible. When you break the chain for more than two days, it becomes increasingly challenging to stick with your habits.


In summary, what I have learned is

1. Small changes constantly overtime make huge difference. Try to improve 1% every day.

2. Start your new habits with any of these two methods: Habit stacking, Two-Minute rule.

3. You can break your bad habits by making your cue unattractive. Vice versa, you make your cue attractive to form a habit.

4. If you make your habit satisfying, then most likely you’ll stick with it.

5. Finally, stick with your new habits by following a habit tracker and never miss it twice.

You have to begin your journey with the right habits to reach your desired goals. Choose them wisely.

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