Atomic Habits Chapter 10

This short chapter addresses cravings, their source, and how to reduce their control on you.

Idea 1: Cravings have a source

A craving is just a specific manifestation of a deeper underlying motive.

Habits are connected to existing motivations.

Cravings identify a gap

You have a craving because you need something or you think you need something based on experience.

It’s your brain saying, “Normally when I sense X, you Y. I’m waiting on you to Y. Why haven’t you don’t it yet. Do it already. Do it! Do it now!”

It makes brains seem like needy jerks. But they’re just trying to keep things simple. They are trying to prevent you from finding a new solution to an old problem. That’s wasted effort in most cases.

Idea 2: Reframe gaps as opportunities

I don’t think any of the advice in this section was new to me. It’s all about shifting to a positive mindset.

You don’t “have to”. You “get to”.

Clear’s example is a story about a man in a wheelchair. “I”m not confined to my wheelchair – I am liberated by it.”

Saving money can be unpleasant in the short run. Having a goal that excites you can make the habit easier to follow.


The last 2 pages of the book (yep, I have a hard copy) talk about rituals as habit triggers. This is the whole point of Tod Herman’s Alter Ego Effect. (There’s a good chance that I’ll review that book next.)

The idea isn’t complicated. If you start a process the same way every time, the 1st actions of that process – if they stand out – can trigger the rest of the process.

I work with a digital timer that has audible ticking. Lucky for me, I work alone and can do this. The ticking doesn’t make be work better or faster. But I’ve conditioned myself to work with that timer running. Now, that timer running tells me, at every level, that I’m supposed to be working.

Clear suggests using this technique to improve your mood. Create a small ritual. (3 deep breaths and a smile are the book’s example.) Then do the ritual before you do anything that makes you happy. With enough programming, you’ll be able to skip a step. The ritual will make you happy.

Key takeaways and implementation

  1. Cravings identify gaps.
  2. Control how you perceive a trigger and you control the habit
    1. Make bad habits unattractive and it will be easier to stop it
    2. Make good habits attractive and it will be easier to do

It’s funny that this is the chapter I’m on right now. It’s been 2 months since I added a chapter here. I’m in the process of redesigning my morning habit. I get to define all the parts – the triggers, the steps, the rewards.

I believe this is the most underrated idea in the book. We don’t notice all of the signals we sense because our brain deliberately shelters us from it. We’d be overwhelmed if we “manually” processed every input we received: every scent, every smell, every sound, every tactile sensation. But all of that combines into a specific pattern. Repeat that pattern enough times, you have a trigger. Done deliberately, you have the foundation for a new habit of your choosing.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Author: James Clear
Amazon rating: 4.8
Amazon price: $14.99
Amazon data gathered on 1Oct2020
Review status: In progress

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