5 life-changing lessons from Atomic Habits(Book Summary)

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5 life-changing lessons from Atomic Habits(Book Summary)

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Before reading this book, I think I'm a morning person since I have been waking up early, around 5-6 AM, for four years. I usually wake up early daily to learn and exercise, so I didn't realize that it helped me build a valuable habit that totally changed my life. Waking up early is an essential habit in my life. I do it every day without hesitation or difficulty.

Today, I will share the first five lessons I learned from one of the prevailing books about habits topics, titled "Atomic Habits". You can see the number of people rating this book on the Goodreads website to demonstrate the quality of this book.

image.png Lesson #1: 1 better percent every day - Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

Some people do not believe that tiny changes in habits can change their life. They always want to do big things because they are never satisfied with small ones.


The point of the "Atomic Habits" approach is to make minor changes in habits and repeat them consistently. If you improve by 1% better every day, you will be better 37 times after a year. Clear's key point is that success is not a one-time event. We need to maintain continuous progress to refine continuously without disruption or stopping. This view inspires me, so that is the reason why I always learn new things every day. For example, I maintain good habits daily such as learning English, developing myself, thinking positively, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Lesson #2: The valley of Disappointment

Do you think you easily give up when starting a new thing? If your answer is YES. This point is for you.


A lot of people quickly give up when they start new things because they desirably want to get immediate outcomes that are not working to their expectations. This is when sticking to your goals is complex and a lot of work. It is when you might feel discouraged or want to give up. But stick with them; once you can get past this valley of disappointment, you will feel the change in your healthy habits.

Imagine that you could not speak a new language fluently after 20 days or two months. It takes a long time and long-term progress to immerse yourself in the language and practice more. Perseverance is the key to surpassing this difficulty.

If you want to overcome the valley of disappointment, we have some tips:

  • Remember your motivation: Why do we want to achieve it?
  • Change your mindset: Instead of considering the results you aren't seeing, we need to invest more time and effort to accomplish it.
  • Be strategic: Make a detailed plan and stick to it daily. Nobody can disturb you.
  • Acknowledge where you are: If you do not see results, it does not mean you are deficient. You need to know your background and current level to move forward.
  • Believe in yourself: Learning from your mistakes, recognize and appreciate the lessons you are overcoming. Make every possible effort to do it because nobody knows your limit.

Lesson #3: Identity-Based Habits

Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). It would be best to start thinking new things about yourself to change your behavior for good. It would help if you built identity-based habits.

Imagine how we typically set goals. We might start by saying, "I want to lose weight" or "I want to get stronger." If you're lucky, someone might say, "That's great, but you should be more specific." So then you say, "I want to lose 20 pounds" or "I want to squat 300 pounds.”

⇒ These goals are centered around outcomes, not identity. To understand what he means, consider three levels at which change can occur. You can imagine them like the layers of an onion.


The first layer is changing your outcomes: This level is concerned with changing your results: losing weight, publishing a book, winning a championship. Most of the goals you set are associated with this level of change.

The second layer is changing your process: This level is concerned with changing your habits and systems: implementing a new routine at the gym, decluttering your desk for better workflow, and developing a meditation practice. Most of the patterns you build are associated with this level.

The third and deepest layer is changing your identity: This level is concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, self-image, and judgments about yourself and others. Most views, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level.

Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.

Many people begin changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. This approach focuses on who we wish to become.

Lesson #4: Forget about setting goals. Focus on this instead

"The goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to spend the whole game staring at the scoreboard. The only way to win is to get better each day. The same is true for other areas of life. If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead." - James Clear

What does he mean by this? Are goals completely useless? Of course not. Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.

Imagine you have a messy room and set a goal to clean it. If you summon the energy to tidy up, you will have a clean room. But suppose you maintain the same sloppy, pack-rat habits that led to a messy room. In that case, you'll soon be looking at a new pile of clutter and hoping for another burst of motivation. You're left chasing the same outcome because you never changed the system behind it. You treated a symptom without addressing the cause.

Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That's the counterintuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs, and the outputs will fix themselves.

Lesson #5: The 4 Laws Of Behavior Change

Do you remember brushing your teeth every day after getting up as an automatic habit? That is true.

A habit is a behavior repeated enough times to become automatic. Their ultimate purpose is to solve problems on an auto-pilot mode (with as little energy and thought as possible)

image.png Any habit is essentially a feedback loop of four phrases:

  1. Cue
  2. Crawling
  3. Response
  4. Reward

Let’s see how to apply these tips to workout consistently:

  1. (Cue – Make it obvious) => Put your gym clothes where they are visible in your closet.
  2. (Craving – Make it attractive) => Follow a simple workout routine that’s fun and efficient that fits within your schedule and your strength
  3. (Response – Make it easy) => Train at home, or choose a gym as close to the driving path from work to home as possible.
  4. (Reward – Make it satisfying) => Log the workout in your journal or calendar. Progress makes you feel good; it's a reward.


There are the 5 key lessons from the Atomic Habits book I learned. I hope that it can be helpful for you and motivate you to build up good habits.

Thanks for your reading time, and see you guys in my next posts.

If you want to understand more about habits, you can try reading "Atomic Habits" or the Vietnamese version "Thay Đổi Tí Hon - Hiệu Quả Bất Ngờ"

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