📆 November 18, 2023 | ⏱️ 2 minute read

Re: Atomic Habits

I recently finished reading Atomic Habits. It’s a decent self-help book about forming good habits and quitting bad habits. It touches on some of the same concepts in my journal entry “The Power of Convenience”, just in more depth. I’ve learned quite a bit from it and I’ve even started implementing some of the strategies in the book with success. I’m glad I read it and I would recommend it to anybody.

One big idea that was mentioned in the book but not expanded on is that we need our leaders to organize society such that it’s easier to form good habits and quit bad ones. To a limited extent, we can build a controlled environment inside our homes which promotes good habits, but we can’t individually control the environment outside of our homes.

To take just a single example: you as an individual cannot stop stores from promoting the tempting junk food to you that they’re economically incentivized to promote over more healthy options that you wish you bought instead. To implement that change would require collective action, whether it be by voting, boycott, or whatever else.

It often happens to be the case that getting people to develop certain bad habits (such as overconsumption) is highly profitable, creating a race to the bottom for human well being. The economic incentives are such that refusing to promote profitable bad habits in the population could cause one’s business to be outcompeted by an amoral competitor.

It’s difficult to organize collectively against these economic incentives because the rich write the laws. Barring comprehensive changes in existing economic or political systems, I predict that it will continue to get more difficult to maintain good habits and avoid bad ones, regardless of any individual efforts made.

If you take the principles of Atomic Habits in the larger context, I think you also have to conclude that we can’t just try to improve our habits individually, but that we must take collective action for a system of government and an economy that makes it easy for us to have good habits rather than the insane system we have now that allows a handful of CEOs to get rich making large fractions of the population obese by marketing ultra-processed junk food and driven insane by addictive manipulative social media platforms.

When human well being and corporate profit are in conflict, human well being must prevail.

People over profit.