The Book in Three Sentences

You can do just about anything if you break down the task into habits. You are more likely to stick with good habits over the long run if you start with tiny habits that are incredibly easy in the beginning. When you miss a habit once, getting back on track and sticking with the next occurrence of that habit should become the top priority in your life.

Superhuman by Habit summary

This is my book summary of Superhuman by Habit by Tynan. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.

  • Habits allow you to stick with behaviors that would require a lot of willpower as a one-time attempt, but only need a little willpower to remain a habit.
  • Whenever you're going to not do a habit, explain to your brain why you're missing.
  • Absolutely never skip twice. Missing two days of a habit is like habit suicide.
  • When you miss a habit once, sticking with the next occurrence of that habit should become the top priority in your life.
  • Plan for failure. Figure out why you missed a habit and plan solutions in advance.
  • Plan for variances in habits ahead of time. “I won't follow my normal workout routine when I go on my trip to Europe. So I will do 20 push-ups per day while I'm there and then return immediately to my previous workout routine once I get home.”
  • When you don't feel like doing a habit, do a crappy job.
  • If you beat yourself up every time you miss a habit, you are basically ruining the whole purpose of the experience. Habits are supposed to make your life better. Hating yourself for missing a habit introduces negativity that completely offsets the positive benefits. (Note: we could use a finance metaphor here. Getting a new credit card to earn a bunch of frequent flier miles is pointless if you don't pay off the balance each month. The negatives offset any positive gain. Same situation here with habits.)
  • Use your mistakes to focus. They are an indicator of where to direct your energy.
  • There is no guarantee of success once you introduce your habits into the outside world. But, you can control your behavior, so focus on the process not the results.
  • It is best to always assume that it is your fault. We are quick to claim to be the victim, but not quick enough to claim responsibility. (Note: when we lose our job, we assume it's the economy. When we don't get a job, we assume it's because we don't have the right network. We make all sorts of assumptions. If you're going to assume something, assume it's your fault. There is always something more you could have done.)
  • When you mistreat others, feel guilty. When you mistreat yourself, feel compassion.
  • You can do just about anything if you break down the task into habits.
  • There are two types of people: those who find it easier to add new habits into their life and those who find it easier to cut habits out of their life. (Note: you may find it varies by habit. Attack your habits from both sides.)
  • If you're not going to follow through on a habit, it is better to not start it at all and focus on a habit you can actually stick to instead.
  • In many situations it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. Not so with habits. It is better to try a small one and stick with it than to try a big one and fail. (Note: this is because all the benefit of habits comes from the long-term consistency.)
  • Note: most people optimize for the finish line. Goals, outcomes, milestones, deadlines. Instead you should optimize for the starting line. Reducing friction, etc.
  • Learning how to build new habits is useful because you can translate the skills you learn to new habits. That's one reason why building an incredibly simple habit is still worthwhile.
  • The way you live your normal day is full of triggers for possible habits.
  • Doing something occasionally or whenever you feel like it is an inconsistent hobby. Doing it on a predictable schedule is a habit.
  • First you need to acknowledge your bad habit. Then you need to develop a specific plan to solve the problem.
  • Chain your habits together with the easiest habits at the beginning. Make it really easy to start and let the momentum build.
  • If you're struggling to find time and space for old and new habits, then let your old habits slide while you build the new ones. Once the new habit becomes routine you will be more likely to fall back into the routine with the old habits because you already had it mastered previously.
  • It's a good idea to become completely accountable to yourself.
  • There must be consequences for failure.
  • Reserve accountability for your most important habits. It can be a logistical pain to setup accountability partners, but it works really well.
  • If you want to grow, you have to expose yourself to high-quality influences.
  • Only quit habits when you no longer want to quit. The time when you have lots of emotional benefit from quitting is the beginning.
  • Expose yourself to ideas you disagree with and actually try them out.
  • The 3 big negative habits are: 1) drugs and alcohol, 2) addiction to stimulation, 3) negative friends.
  • It's a shame everyone else is such an idiot. Of course, to someone else, we are the idiot.
  • Remember that everyone is just trying to do their best and be happy. Just like you.
  • Eating healthy is perhaps the most impactful health habit you can adopt.
  • The key elements of great sleep habits are complete darkness and silence.
  • It takes two months of building a meditation habit before you start experiencing the benefits.
  • Meditation creates a space between feeling an impulse and acting on it.
  • Most people who work indoors are deficient in Vitamin D.
  • Everything in life is either input or output. We are either creating something or consuming something.
  • International travel, reading books, and seeking out masterpieces from all fields are some of the best ways to increase the quality of your input.
  • Writing daily, dancing, and organization habits are some of the best ways to increase the quality of you output.
  • For writing habits: what you write about and the quality of writing are not important. Following the habit is important.
  • For organization habits: practice imperfect cleaning where you get your home or work space to a 9/10 cleanliness, but don't worry about perfection.
  • Calendar habits: the critical component of a calendar habit is getting everything on the calendar. If you don't keep every single event on the calendar then you can't trust it and that defeats the purpose.
  • Unclutter your life. If you're 90 percent sure you won't use it in the next 6-12 months, give it away.
  • “Twice, then quit.” The first time you want to quit, don't. Push through. The second time you want to quit, don't. Push through again. The third time you want to quit, then you can stop.
  • Eliminate starting procrastination. If you want to procrastinate on some future part of work, that's fine. But you're not allowed to procrastinate starting the behavior. You have to start right now – don't delay, plan, strategize, research, etc. Of course, if you get started you probably won't want to procrastinate later because you'll have built momentum.
  • At this end of each day, rate yourself based on how much time you wasted and so on.

Reading Suggestions

This is a list of authors, books, and concepts mentioned in Superhuman by Habit, which might be useful for future reading.

Additional Thoughts

This is a list of interesting notes, side stories, or additional thoughts that were sparked as I read the book.

  • Is excitement different from motivation?

Superhuman by Habit by Tynan

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