Atomic Habit — The Power of Habit — Good Habit Bad Habit

Change Your Life with Habits! Review 3 Popular Books

My reviews and takeaways on 3 of the most popular books about how to create the Habits and Mindset to reach our goals in life. It’s not snake-oil, it’s science.

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This this will give you short descriptions of the 3 books Atomic Habits by James Clear, The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg & Good Habits Bad Habits by Wendy Wood. With my thoughts of the book as well as the 3 key things I learned from each one. I hope this will inspire you too pick up these books too!

Atomic Habits

An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear

I listened to the audiobook version

Change small things & see Big results

James Clear was badly hurt when he got hit in the face with baseball-bat at school practice. This event had him lose some core skills and he had to build himself up again if he wanted to continue with his baseball dream. In the years after the accident, he found the strength to create patterns of habits that made him improve each day and it took him all the way to reaching his life goals.

He has now reached far and beyond in many fields in life and in this book he tells us how he did it, the psychology of why it works and gives us the blueprint of how we can achieve our goals in a smarter and more efficient way.

Looking at habits and behaviours from human history and a psychological perspective, he is decoding the myth of grit, willpower and talent. The key throughout the book is to make small (atomic) changes in your daily routine that will all together make for big changes.

This book is a manual full of structured methods on how to create good habits with small steps that you can start using today to change your life. James gives many tools and tips that targets different type of habits so it can fit our individual lives and needs.

“Habits are a dopamine driven feedback loop. When dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act.”

My Thoughts

This book will change your life! After this book, you no longer have to wonder or be annoyed by another big attempt to be healthy, learn something new or attempt to stop doing bad habits.

You know the cool YouTubers that talk about productivity, going for your dream and lists “Top 15 book to change your life”? Yeah, this book “Atomic Habits” are on those reading lists. (So I guess I’m cool now too!)

I love the straight forward approach that this is just how our brains works, we should accept that so we can work smarter. James’s tools are easy to follow and I promise you that you will see the pattern in your life and start making small changes in your daily life after reading this book. Change does not seem big or difficult anymore.

The book is fun, easy to follow along in and it doesn’t have too much filler or too long stories. (There are some stories and examples). He had my attention the whole way through, he gets to the point and gives clear actions and steps on how to use this in our lives. I appreciate that.

I highly recommend the audio version of the book, James Clear does an excellent job as the narrator of his own book, but I also think this book is great to have as a physical copy because it is so full of practical steps and tips that it would be great to have handy when you want a refresher on something specific. It’s like a cookbook for life; You don’t remember each ingredient and step.

“Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become”

Key Takeaways

  1. We can’t rely on motivation or willpower at the moment when we are making decisions to do a new thing or not. We will have much more success with creating new habits if we design the process and steps we need to do to get there. Motivation & willpower works in the beginning, but it’s not enough to create effortless long lasting change.
  2. Get a dopamine hit by adding rewards to otherwise boring tasks. But the added reward should NOT be something that goes agains your other goals. For example, you should not reward yourself with donuts after a workout if your big goal is to be healthier. Be mindful of too easy rewards that doesn’t serve your future self.
  3. Create small habits that you stack on top of each other to create a chain that is easy to do, obvious in the context and helps your future self. If I have a set morning routine with, let’s say 4 steps, I won’t forget to do some if it when it has come a natural part of my habit. If I also add one more thing, listening to an audiobook while doing this, I have added something rewarding that makes me happy while I do it. I now associate this routine with not being boring and tedious, but instead I want to get up and do them because of the joy it gives me.

Recommendations

I recommend this book to the individuals that wants to learn or do something new, feel in control of their life and get the tools to do the actually change.

The Power of Habits

Why we do what we do and how to change

By Charles Duhigg

I listened to the audiobook version

Keystone changes that changes lives

How do we change habits on a community level? What can go wrong when we ignore bad habits? How important are habits anyway?

Charles Duhigg looks at what habits are, how habits can change the life of one individual as well as how it effects the many on a big communal level. It can change the lives and mindsets of a company and even how a country behaves.

If you love to now the research and psychology behind human behaviour, this is the book for you! Like rats in a maze, us humans operate on learned behaviours and triggers that tell our brains what to do in certain situations. Most of the day we do things on autopilot. This is how the brain saves energy, by setting up familiar habits that we don’t have to concisely think about too much.

You might be thinking that personal change comes from willpower. After all that’s what we have always been told. But if we solely rely on willpower without changing our environment or habit triggers it will be much more difficult for long lasting change. Especially when we have strong triggers and rewards connected to behaviour. The power of habits are often time stronger than our willpower. You probably know how easy to fall back into bad habits.

Charles Duhigg use many examples to get the message across: From research studies, AA attendants, Football coaching, hospital staff, to company managers. Keystone habits creates a ripple effect of positivity in companies and in individuals lives. This is how big results can come from just one change. It sets the wheels in motion for more good habits.

But he also tells of the dark side of bad habits. Events where habits and the cultural norm at companies went horribly wrong. This shows how strongly built in cultural habits can be and how important good habits and strategies are in a group of people to avoid catastrophe.

“How do habits change? We know that a habit can not be (easily) irradiated, it must instead be replaced.”

My Thoughts

A deep book with amazing stories of habit change and how it has changed people, groups and even large companies. I enjoyed the audiobook version immensely. The performance was great and this is now my preferred method of reading these type of books.

Exceptionally well researched and full of data, this book is insightful, interesting and full of eye opening events that shows us how much habits controls us and our society. It goes deep in many stories and descriptions, so it’s not a light and easy book to get through if you are expecting some quick tips on how to create good habits in your own life. For personal change I instead recommend Atomic Habits.

The dark side of bad habits is also a big part of the book. It was with equal measure interesting and terrifying to listen to the details of events that sadly ended peoples lives. These stories are not fun or easy to hear. In fact you will get angry that these things were allowed to happen and wonder why better practices and stricter safety habits weren’t put in place sooner.

Key Takeaways

  1. A behaviour consists of 3 steps. Trigger, Routine, Reward. We can design new habits by just replacing the Routine part of the habit. It’s much easier to make something stick when the full cycle is not replaced or new, but we instead use the system that we already have built up.
  2. Turn Willpower into Habits. Willpower has been shown to be the single most important keystone habit for individual success. Turning willpower into Self-discipline & Habits that support the goal is the key to success, i.e. you need to want the change to start the new habits and push you to continue to make them stick.
  3. Social norms are full of habits we have accepted and adapted for ourself. These habits can be used to create groups, companies or big societies that works together. These social habits are what makes us function and work smoothly together, but we also need to be alert so bad habits doesn’t get too ingrained in the culture that it promotes negative behaviour and then become very difficult to change.

“Self-discipline (habits) has a bigger effect on academic performance then does intellectual talent.”

Recommendations

This book is for people that want to now how behaviour and habits work for individuals, but more importantly, for a group of people or community.

  • Leaders that want to create positive change for a group of people.
  • Individuals that is interested in social habits & group behaviour.

Good Habits, Bad Habits

The science of making positive changes that stick

By Wendy Wood

I listened to the audiobook version

The greatest source of friction in this world is other people

This view on habits are from the perspective of Wendy Wood; Psychologist, researcher and the Provost Professor of Psychology & Business at the University of Southern California. Wood has worked many years on understanding habitual behaviours, how much of a role it plays in our lives and what we can do to use them to our advantage.

Research about behaviour and habit first started gaining attention with Sigmund Froyd and the now famous research he did on some dogs, food and a bell. This is quite a new field and it has just recently seen huge popularity and been made available for everyone to put onto practice.

Wendy Wood talks about the core functions of habits, how they are formed in the brain, why we need habits and how they have helped humanity throughout time. We now have a much better understanding of the impact that habits have on us in our daily lives and more studies and insights are being made in the behaviour field than ever before. This book is your introduction to the psychological side of habitual behaviour and how you can use it to help make your life easier.

“You — your goals, your will, your wishes — don’t have any part to play in habits. Goals can orient you to build a habit, but your desires don’t make habits work. Actually, your habit self would benefit if “you” just got out of the way.”

My Thoughts

I highly recommend the audiobook! Wood does an excellent job of making technical concepts simple and the example stories are lovely to listen to.

This is a great book to read to learn the basics about the psychology and history behind habit & behaviour research. Even though the information in the book is from a researchers point of view, don’t be discouraged because it’s very easy to read (listen to for me) and don’t have too complicated descriptions that other research heavy books might have.

It was really interesting to hear these ideas and theories from the view of a researcher. Her calm approach is in contrast with so many other hyped up version of “quick fixes” that jump to conclusions on how to “Get slim in X days with this one habit trick” etc. A lot has been learned about the human mind, behaviours and triggers in recent years, but we still don’t know everything. But with the information and learning in this book, I definitely have a new perspective and feel more positive about how I see my goals and how I can use habits to my advantage to reach them.

“Single large Rewards are not designed to create Habits”

Key Takeaways

  1. Intrinsic & Extrinsic Habits.
    Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you. This is your inner drive: because you enjoy it, you believe in your work, it’s a challenge you want to complete or it takes you closer to a personal goal.
    Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. These motivations comes from the outside of you and can be about: winning money, getting good grades, seeking approval, avoid punishment, a fine or social embarrassment.
  2. Randomised rewards are the most powerful rewards when it comes to motivation. Not so say that predictable rewards aren’t helpful in habits too, because they definitely are. It’s just that random rewards keep us pushing for even longer and harder.
    It’s also an ingredient for a happy relationship. The couple that continues to surprise and learn new things about each other tend to have better relationships. If the other person is too predictable, it stops exciting us.
    This is also why Gambling is so addictive. Casinos design the games to make us feel like we aaaaalmost won to give us a hit of dopamine (the “happiness chemical”) to keep us in the play-loop.
  3. Immediate rewards through lots of repetition is key. Add rewards that are immediately connected to the activity you are trying to make into a habit. It’s not at all as effective to have a distant reward (or threat) that isn’t connected to any specific thing you are doing. Example: “If I workout 3 times per week all month, I can buy the jacket I want.” Those type or rewards can work in the beginning as a motivator, but it does not help in creating new habits that stick even when it gets hard and difficult.

Recommendations

Read this book if you want to know what factors drive and effect us in what we do.

  • Designers that want to understand what motivates behaviours, to design better products.
  • Individuals interested in psychology, wanting to understand their motivations and habits on a deeper level.

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Anna Wikström

Senior UX Game Designer at Hangar 13 (previously CA & DICE). I write about UX in Games and Review Books about Design, Career & Life.