Lindsay Cortright

Lindsay Cortright

Atomic Habits: Chapter 1

Notes on Chapter 1:

Small decisions compound over time to reach positive or negative results.

  • For example - British cycling team broke down every component of cycling, from the equipment, environment, personal health of the athletes such as sleep, self-care practices like massage, hygiene and boosting the immune system), to achieve big results through small tweaks
  • The problem with small changes is that they are often invisible…until they’re not. The effort can seem pointless and it’s easy to become frustrated. This also makes it easier easier to let small but negative choices slip (one meal, one workout skipped, one drink) and these negative choices compound over time to produce the opposite result we are striving for.

I love this example: Consider an ice cube. In a freezing cold room (say, 25F), it remains frozen. Say you increase the temperature of the room one degree at a time. For the first 7 degrees, there will be no change…UNTIL the temperature reaches 32+. As the temperature continues to increase, the ice cube melts faster and faster.

What looked like absolutely no progress actually compounded and the change is now accelerating.

Because we expect progress to be linear but compound gains are more of a curve, it’s easy to get discouraged (see figure 2 - valley of disappointment). We set high goals and expect to see consisten progress which sets us up for disappointment. It’s why people fail diets or gain the weight back.

![The Plateau of Latent Potential graph, Reference: James Clear in Atomic Habits, p22]…

But! There’s hope!

More important than your goal or end result is the system you use to reach it.

Without a system in place, you can’t make consistent progress. It’s hard to stay the course when you’re not achieving the result you want. Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the methods you’ll use to reach it (input vs output - Dan Shipper has a great article on process vs output oriented goals this but I paused my - will link later if I can find it).

Goals are for providing direction but systems are what lead to progress.

Clear outlines the issues with goals: 1) Winners and losers have the same goals, but winners have systems that set them up for success. 2) Achieving a goal is momentary. Achieving is not sustaining. - Example - if your goal is to have a clean room, then sure, you can just clean your room and get the result you want. But next week, chances are you will need to clean your room again. However, if you set up a system and follow it (give everything a place, make your bed upon waking, etc), you have a much better chance of maintaining a clean room 3) Goals can limit your happiness. Often we strive to achieve our goals through delayed gratification…which means you’re probably not happy until you reach your goal! - Unfortunately, this can encourage black and white thinking - when the going gets tough, it can be hard to stick it out. You let it slip and once you let it slip, you get the f*ck-its. You’re already late, what’s five more minutes. You already had the donut, why not have the second, etc. 5) And finally - goals create a yo-yo effect. Once you’ve reached your goal, you lose motivation (again - why diets fail.

Welp, that’s all for now!

Additional resources: read The Neuroscience of Achieving Your Goals or listen to The Science of Setting and Achieving Goals - Huberman Lab Dopamine Stacking: The hidden wisdom in trying new tools and systems

Buy the book or check out more James Clear

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