Book Summary of Atomic Habits

I have been hearing about Atomic Habits for a while now and there was a period when I was obsessed with James Clear’s website too. I finally got to read the book Atomic Habits recently, thanks to my new habit of rising an hour earlier in the morning, and I thought why not share the summary of Atomic habits with y’all. Don’t I sound a nice? 

Not everyone likes or wants to or can read but everyone wants to learn right? So here is the summary of Atomic habits by James Clear, which will be in three bite size parts! Click To Tweet

About the summary

The aim is to bring you the essence of the books, even if and especially if you are not a reader. Not everyone likes or wants to read but everyone wants to learn right? Let us use that motivation to better ourselves. So let us get on with it, shall we? 

Atomic Habits

About Atomic Habits

Book Name: Atomic habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Author: James Clear

Genre: Fiction – Non Fictionself-help

The book consists of about 21 chapters including the conclusion. And the summary of Atomic habits will be in three parts, so that each post will be a bite sized version and would not overwhelm you. As I said we will make it easy as possible for you!

Summary of Atomic Habits

  • Atomic Habits Part 1 (you are here)
  1. The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits
  2. How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)
  3. How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps
  4. The Man Who Didn’t Look Right
  5. The Best Way to Start a New Habit
  6. Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More
  7. The Secret to Self-Control

Free bonus: Download the 3 part summary of Atomic Habits as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it and keep at your desk.


This is just a book summary of Atomic Habits by James Clear to help other people who would not be able to read the entire book by themselves. These lines are taken from James’ book for academic purposes only. I am not posing as it is my work or my ideas. The copyrights rights are with the author only. 

Chapter 1: The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

  • The aggregation of marginal gains – searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do.
  • The idea is that if you broke down everything you could think of, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.
  • It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.
  • Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.
  • Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement .


    1% worse every day for one year. 0.99 365 = 00.03
    1% better every day for one year. 1.01 365 = 37.78
  • Be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.
  • If you find yourself struggling to build a good habit or break a bad one, it is not because you have lost your ability to improve. It is often because you have not yet crossed the Plateau of Latent Potential.
Plateau of Latent Potential Atomic Habits


  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
  • If you’re a coach, your goal might be to win a championship. Your system is the way you recruit players, manage your assistant coaches, and conduct practice.
  • Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

What happens when you have goals but not systems?

  • Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals.
    So that can’t be the reason for the winners/survivors.
  • Problem #2: Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
  • Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment.
  • If you have a goal to have a clean room, cleaning it is only for NOW. It will be a mess again soon.
  • We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results.
  • Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.
  • Problem #3: Goals restrict your happiness.
  • “Either you achieve your goal and are successful or you fail and you are a disappointment”.
    “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.”.
  • You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.
  • Problem #4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress.
  • When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?


  • If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you.
  • The problem is your system.
  • Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.

Chapter 2 How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Changing our habits is challenging for two reasons:
1) we try to change the wrong thing and
2) we try to change our habits in the wrong way.

Levels of behavior change Atomic Habits
  • There are three levels at which change can occur.
  • Changing your outcomes: losing weight, publishing a book, winning a championship. Outcomes are about what you get.
  • Changing your habits and systems AKA process: new routine at the gym, decluttering your desk for better workflow, developing a meditation practice. Processes are about what you do.
  • Changing your beliefs/Identity: your worldview, your self-image, your judgments about yourself and others. Identity is about what you believe

Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity.

  • I am horrible at math,
    I am not a morning person,
    I am not organized
  • When you have repeated a story to yourself for years, it is easy to slide into these mental grooves and accept them as a fact. 
  • In time, you begin to resist certain actions because “that’s not who I am.” 
  • There is internal pressure to maintain your self-image and behave in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. 
  • You find whatever way you can to avoid contradicting yourself.
  • It can feel comfortable to believe what your culture believes (group identity) or to do what upholds your self-image (personal identity), even if it’s wrong.
  • Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it. 
    If you go to church every Sunday for twenty years, you have evidence that you are religious. 
    It’s unlikely you would consider yourself a soccer player because you kicked a ball once or an artist because you scribbled a picture. 
    The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.
  • We do not change by snapping our fingers and deciding to be someone entirely new. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit. 
  • Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

If nothing changes, nothing is going to change.

  • The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
  • Each time you write a page, you are a writer. 
    Each time you practice the violin, you are a musician.
    Each time you start a workout, you are an athlete. 
    Each time you encourage your employees, you are a leader.
  • New identities require new evidence.    
  • Changing is a two step process 
  • Decide the type of person you want to be. 
           “I’m the kind of doctor who gives each patient the time and empathy they need.” 
           “I’m the kind of manager who advocates for her employees.” 
  • Prove it to yourself with small wins.
            “What would a healthy person do?” 
           Would a healthy person walk or take a cab?
            Would a healthy person order a burrito or a salad?
  • Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.
  • It’s a two-way street.
  • Building better habits isn’t about littering your day with life hacks.
  • Your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be.

Chapter 3 How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

  • A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.
  • Habits are, simply, reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment. – Jason Hreha
  • People who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom.
        If you’re always being forced to make decisions about simple tasks—when should I work out, where do I go to write, when do I pay the bills—then you have less time for freedom.
Stages of habit Atomic Habits
  • The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior.
  • What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers.
              You do not crave smoking a cigarette, you crave the feeling of relief it provides.
  • We chase rewards because they serve two purposes:
            (1) they satisfy us and
            (2) they teach us – reward detector.

If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit.

  • Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start.
  • Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act.
  • Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it.
  • And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future.
Feedback loop Atomic Habits
  • Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, a behavior will not be repeated.
        It is an endless feedback loop

THE 1ST LAW Make It Obvious

Chapter 4 The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

  • You don’t need to be aware of the cue for a habit to begin. – hunger/cookie
  • We dont realize that you apologize before asking a question, or that you have a habit of finishing other people’s sentences.
  • Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. – Carl Jung
  • We’re so used to doing what we’ve always done that we don’t stop to question whether it’s the right thing to do at all.
  • It is a lack of self awareness

Create your Habits Scorecard

  • Make a list of your daily habits.
  • Write your score near each habit
            If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it.
            If it is a bad habit, write “–”.
            If it is a neutral habit, write “=”.
  • The goal is to simply notice what is actually going on.
  • You can try Pointing-and-Calling for extra dose of self awareness 
  • If you want to cut back on your junk food habit but notice yourself grabbing another cookie, say out loud,
  • “I’m about to eat this cookie, but I don’t need it. Eating it will cause me to gain weight and hurt my health.”

Chapter 5 The Best Way to Start a New Habit

  • Voter turnout increases when people are forced to create implementation intentions by answering questions like:
  • “What route are you taking to the polling station? At what time are you planning to go? What bus will get you there?
  • People who make a specific plan for when and where are more likely to follow through.

Habit stacking

  • Identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.
  • Example: After I finish eating dinner, I will put my plate directly into the dishwasher.
    After I put my dishes away, I will immediately wipe down the counter. After I wipe down the counter, I will set out my coffee mug for tomorrow morning.
  • Habit stacking allows you to create a set of simple rules that guide your future behavior.

Chapter 6 Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

  • People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are.
  • Make sure the best choice is the most obvious one.
  • Example: If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them on your table
  • In fact, the trigger is rarely a single cue, but rather the whole situation
  • Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking.  “One space, one use.”
  • It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues. 
  • Change your environment/routine to change habits

Chapter 7 The Secret to Self-Control

  • Disciplined people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control, because they spend less time in tempting situations.
  • Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.

Other parts of the summary of Atomic habits

By the way, do not forget to grab the next two parts of the summary of Atomic Habits by James Clear in the following weeks.

Free bonus: Download the 3 part summary of Atomic Habits as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it and keep at your desk.

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Let us chat

Did you find my summary of Atomic Habits useful? Do you read summaries of books or would you rather read the entire book by yourself? Do you read non fiction at all? What other non fiction book should I be summarizing? Let us talk.


  1. Jinjer

    Your summary is appreciated! I love self-help books but I just need the meat of what they’re suggesting I do, not 21 chapters worth of explanation. My mind can’t deal!!! Just the bare bones that you gave us here is perfect. Thank you!

    • Gayathri

      I am glad you found it useful, Jinjer!

    • Gayathri

      Thank you

    • Gayathri

      I am glad you enjoyed it, Megan!

  2. Whispering Stories

    Great review. I don’t think this would be a book for me, but thanks for showcasing it.

    • Gayathri

      Thank you for dropping by!

  3. DJ Sakata

    I’m far too lazy for this and have no shame in confessing my habits are beyond nuclear intervention 😉

    • Gayathri

      You are hilarious, DJ!

  4. Kate @ Bitch Bookshelf

    Thanks for the summary. I’m going to think about this one and forming some solid habits.

    • Gayathri

      Oh that would be great!

  5. Kathy West

    This seems like a really interesting book.

    • Gayathri

      It definitely was.

  6. Susanne

    This is a great way to show what to expect from this book! Well done 🙂

    • Gayathri

      Thank you!.

  7. Charnyaa

    Absolutely useful for ppl like me 😉

    • Gayathri

      Glad to be of use!

  8. Charvi Koul

    I don’t really read summaries of books but I think it works differently for nonfiction books, especially self-help books. I loved your summarized version of these chapters and am really looking forward to part two! 😀

    • Gayathri

      I am glad you liked it, Charvi. I might be doing some more of non fiction books soon.


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Gayathri has been reviewing books since 2010. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she works as a writer and a digital marketer. Head over to meet me!