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  • The philosophy of marginal gains.
  • Where can you improve 1%?
  • Be more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.
  • Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.
  • Goals are good for setting a directions, but systems are best for making progress.
  • Identify yourself with the person you want to be.
  • What do you want to achieve? What type of person is most likely to achieve it?
  • The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
  • Cue, craving, response, and reward.
  • The recipe for habit formation: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying.

Create your own game

  • Combine your skills to create a genre that favors you.
  • Be the best in a very narrow category.
  • Choose the right field of competition.

  • You have to fall in love with boredom.
  • Your system is more important than your goals.
  • Look for where you can improve 1%.
  • Habit formation is based on identity, not on outcomes.


Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.

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You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.

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You get what you repeat.

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If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.

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Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

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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.

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You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

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It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.

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Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.

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Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.

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More precisely, your habits are how you embody your identity. When you make your bed each day, you embody the identity of an organized person.

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The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior.

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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.6 We are continually undergoing microevolutions of the self.

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The concept of identity-based habits is our first introduction to another key theme in this book: feedback loops. Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.

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You have the power to change your beliefs about yourself.

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The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.

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Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.

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“Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” Habits that reinforce your desired identity are usually good. Habits that conflict with your desired identity are usually bad.

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Your habits change depending on the room you are in and the cues in front of you.

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Want to think more creatively? Move to a bigger room, a rooftop patio, or a building with expansive architecture. Take a break from the space where you do your daily work, which is also linked to your current thought patterns.

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Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

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If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.

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Look at any behavior that fills up much of your life and you’ll see that it can be performed with very low levels of motivation. Habits like scrolling on our phones, checking email, and watching television steal so much of our time because they can be performed almost without effort. They are remarkably convenient.

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Much of the battle of building better habits comes down to finding ways to reduce the friction associated with our good habits and increase the friction associated with our bad ones.

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Nuckols dialed in his cleaning habits by following a strategy he refers to as “resetting the room.”7 For instance, when he finishes watching television, he places the remote back on the TV stand, arranges the pillows on the couch, and folds the blanket.

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The secret is to always stay below the point where it feels like work. Greg McKeown, a leadership consultant from the United Kingdom, built a daily journaling habit by specifically writing less than he felt like. He always stopped journaling before it seemed like a hassle.7 Ernest Hemingway believed in similar advice for any kind of writing. “The best way is to always stop when you are going good,” he said.

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The road less traveled is the road of delayed gratification.

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Buying a new jacket is fine if you’re trying to lose weight or read more books, but it doesn’t work if you’re trying to budget and save money. Instead, taking a bubble bath or going on a leisurely walk are good examples of rewarding yourself with free time, which aligns with your ultimate goal of more freedom and financial independence.

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Eventually, as intrinsic rewards like a better mood, more energy, and reduced stress kick in, you’ll become less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. The identity itself becomes the reinforcer. You do it because it’s who you are and it feels good to be you. The more a habit becomes part of your life, the less you need outside encouragement to follow through. Incentives can start a habit. Identity sustains a habit.

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Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you.

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If you can’t find a game where the odds are stacked in your favor, create one. Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert, says, “Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.20 In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare.

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At some point, everyone faces the same challenge on the journey of self-improvement: you have to fall in love with boredom.

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Books I’ve read.

Johannes Holmberg

Tiny summaries on books I’ve read. Sorted by latest read. But you can also sort on top recommendations. Highlights and covers are copyright to their respective authors.