83 pages 2 hours read

James Clear

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2018

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Chapters 4-7Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 2: “The 1st Law: Make It Obvious”

Chapter 4 Summary: “The Man Who Didn’t Look Right”

Human bodies function on autopilot. Because of this, you often aren’t aware of cues that initiate habits. However, it also means that you can notice opportunities without your conscious attention. For example, a paramedic attending a family gathering noticed that her father-in-law didn’t look quite right. She told him he needed to go to the hospital, where doctors found a major artery was blocked, which placed him at risk for a heart attack. His daughter-in-law’s intuition led to a life-saving surgery. Because the paramedic had years of exposure to patients with heart failure, she unconsciously recognized the change in blood distribution to the face caused by blocked arteries. This wasn’t a pattern she could articulate, but she knew it instinctively. This unconscious process of filtering and analyzing information is found across industries. Human brains are effective at noticing what is important and pulling relevant cues. This is both useful and dangerous, as you often don’t notice your habits until someone points them out to you. The more you repeat patterns, the less likely you are to question them.

While unconscious knowledge can be lifesaving, doing things on autopilot has its downsides. The more regularly you do something, the more likely you are to make mistakes.