#656 The 4 Laws of Behavior Change

Make It: Obvious + Attractive + Easy + Satisfying

In our last number of +1s, we’ve been having fun swimming in and out of the Atomic Habits pool. Most recently, we had fun measuring Michael Phelps’ inseam and noticing the fact that it PERFECTLY matched the domain he chose to dominate. (Does YOUR soul-inseam fit your life?)

Today, we’re finally ready to get down to the nuts and bolts of creating great habits.

We’re going to take a super-quick look at James Clear’s 4 Laws of Behavior Change then we’ll spend a day applying those Laws to building a good habit and then another day applying those Laws to breaking a bad habit.

Drumroll, please.

The 4 Laws of Behavior Change are based on the four keys to building habits. James basically (brilliantly!) extends Charles Duhigg’s model we discuss in our Notes on The Power of Habit.

Here’s how James describes “the habit loop”: “If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start. Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act. Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it. And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future. Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, a behavior will not be repeated.

In summary, the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. Together, these four steps form a neurological feedback loop—cue, craving, response, reward; cue, craving, response, reward—that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. This cycle is known as the habit loop.


Cue + Craving + Response + Reward.

We have a cue in our environment that leads to a desire to do something, we respond and we get a reward.


That leads us to the 4 Laws—one for each of the elements of our habit loop.

Here they are:

So… Want a create good habit?

Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying.

Want to break a bad habit? Do the opposite.

Make it invisible. Make it unattractive. Make it difficult. Make it unsatisfying.

That’s all for Today.

Well, that and this: What’s a habit you want to build in your life?

Is Today a good day to put the Laws to work on it?

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