Thoughts on Atomic Habits (Chapters 15-17)


The 4th Law of Behavior Change- Make it Satisfying

Chapter 15- The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

This chapter hit home for me as it focused on the 4th Law of Behavior Change (make it satisfying). In other words, we are more likely to repeat a behavior when the behavior, or even the experience, is satisfying. So many times I try to change a behavior that I very much loathe without any consideration as to making adjustments to make it enjoyable. Simply put, I am not a fan of reading. I don’t hate it per-se, nor do I hate it when I am immersed in it. For me it’s just getting over the hump and/or setting aside more enjoyable tasks to take the time to read. If the experience is not satisfying, as the book suggests, then we have little reason to repeat it. For me at this point (a new doctorate student) the delayed-return environment is the attaining the doctorate degree (reward), so therefore I take the time to read towards the reward. Although for me that might be motivation enough, this chapter made me open my eyes and create immediate rewards to keep on-track with my readings and assignments.

Chapter 16- How to Stick with Good Habits Everyday

The thing that stuck out to me the most in this chapter was the Trent Dyrsmid paper-clip strategy which involved moving paper clips from one container to another to track progress. Seeing as I’m a game-driven person who likes to see the fruits of his labor, I certainly want to try this with marbles, paper-clips, or the like to see if it imporves the frequency of hitting my reading and writing goals. Habit-tracking, as the book suggests, can be attractive, obvious, and satisfying. An effective strategy to employ, especially when I’m neck-deep into a doctorate curriculum workload.

Chapter 17- How an Accountability Partner can Change Everything

The inversion of the 4th Law is to make it immediately **unsatisfying, so bad habits can be eliminated by accountability and punishment. The book suggests the construction of a *habit-contract, which enforces the strength of the punishment greater than the cost of the behavior. For me this includes my wife, my co-workers, my students, and even myself. I am very notorious to step away from something temporarily if it becomes stressful, so therefore I must form some form of punishment to keep me engaged. I intend to try this first with my wife in cycling. In other words, I won’t go cycling with her (an enjoyable activity for both of us) until I hit my reading/writing benchmark for the week.


This reading was very enjoyable as it began to layout REAL ways to correct bad habits and behaviors rather than just cliche quotes and motivations on why to change your habits. For me it’s never been about the habits themselves, it has been merely finding new and novel ways to correct them and strengthen their frequency. I felt as if these chapters gave me a roadmap on how to begin to move in this direction to reinforce them. A timely read, especially when I’m staring down the barrel of a BUSY fall doctoral semester.