Book Notes: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Your life depends on your habits.
Book Notes: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Habits saved my life.

Too dramatic?

I'm fairly productive nowadays, but it hasn't always been this way. Just two years ago, I was still struggling to find my way through the darkest period of my life.

And habits did play a major role in helping me move forward.

Still, it took me two more years before I fully grasped how habits work and how I can consistently apply them to my life.

I've been hearing about Atomic Habits for years, but I only got around to checking it out a few months ago. It felt too popular to be good. A self-improvement best-seller? Must be overhyped crap, pass.

I couldn't be more wrong.

As it often happens, by that time I had the basics of habits already figured out. And I still found Atomic Habits amazing. The book reinforced my approach to habits and gave me a lot more to think about and to work with.

The main thesis of Atomic Habits is that the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our habits. Truer words have never been said. I've experienced this personally, and I find it incredible how much more manageable and enjoyable life gets when it's powered by habits.

Habits have completely changed my life for the better, and I keep seeing similar examples all around me.

If there was one actionable self-improvement book I could recommend, Atomic Habits would be it. Pair it with Peak (see my Peak notes here) and you're in for a life full of learning and devoid of boredom.

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Great!

The concept aside, the book itself is written in a very clear and actionable manner. The Audible version I listened to is narrated by James Clear himself, and it's another case of the author also being a great narrator.

No matter where you are in life and what you think of habits, I'm convinced you'll benefit from this book one way or the other.

But enough with the rah-rah. Here's what I enjoyed about Atomic Habits the most.

Why I liked this book

  • The concept is critically important. Habits can and do affect your life, whether you like it or not. Build good habits, or be stuck with the bad ones.
  • It's packed with value. Too many self-help books are overhyped fluff. This book is the opposite, and I've gotten value out of every single paragraph.
  • It's clear and actionable. Some great books make you think. This one also makes you do. It's full of advice to help you start improving your life today.

My favorite ideas from this book

Habits are the secret to a rewarding life

The quality of our lives depends massively on the quality of our habits.

It's not about productivity, it's about the quality of life.

You don't have to be a productivity freak to benefit from habits in your life. In fact, you might benefit more if you're simply trying to enjoy your life.

Here's my take on habits and routines from a decade ago:

Psh, routines are for those super-organizer types who got every second of their lives scheduled a century in advance. Living life on a schedule is both boring and terrifying at once. Screw that, I embrace randomness!

Turns out, habits aren't about this like at all.

Here's the truth:

It's up to you to decide what you want from life, habits make it easier no matter what that is. Want to enjoy life? Deal with the things you hate faster!

Look, spontaneity and serendipity are still two of my favorite things in life* a decade later. And habits give me more of it, not less.

Just a few simple examples of habits in my life:

  • I keep a diary and do retrospectives. The absolute worst times in my life were caused by me living unconsciously and not learning from my past. The simple habit of journaling and reflecting has completely changed my life and made me more aware of my past, present, and future.
  • I habitually budget. I've had my fair share of poor financial decisions because I didn't know better. A few left me in debt and stressed out for years. Learning to budget habitually helped me recover, and I rarely worry about the state of my finances since**.
  • I habitually exercise and eat healthy. I've also had a fair share of health issues due to disregarding my lifestyle early in life. It wasn't until I started to rely on habits to keep me active and fit that I learned just how much more I enjoy life with the extra energy I got out of it.

There are many more. You get the idea.

I don't just use habits to be productive. They let me do more of what I enjoy and make dealing with everything else a lot easier.

Habits don't define your life. They help you live the life you've defined for yourself.

Goals vs systems, processes, identity

You don't rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between "getting shit done", "having a system of getting shit done", and "being the person who gets shit done".

I spent most of my life focusing on the first one while completely disregarding the other two.

In my 20-somethings, I wanted to:

  • Get ripped.
  • Have a net worth of $X.
  • Move to Country Y.
  • Become successful.

See the problem?

There are multiple problems, in fact:

  • Too much focus on goals.
  • Little thought to systems and processes.
  • Complete disregard for the identity.

I basically saw my life as a set of goals, a list of things to achieve. "If only I do X, I'll be happy". If X felt important enough, I'd put my whole life on hold to work on just that. I kept telling myself "just a few more weeks, months, years, and I'll get there".

Yet no matter how hard I tried, I never managed to get there. The vague goals kept eluding me. The specific ones were getting achieved with little satisfaction. And the more I failed, the worse I felt. Always not good enough. Worthless. A failure.

The reality was of course simpler. I wasn't a failure, I was just playing the game wrong.

As a Level 1*** char in the RPG of Life, I was too focused on going after Level 80 quests instead of leveling up. And I was getting pummeled.

You don't get shit done in isolation. You create a system that lets you become the person who gets shit done.

Here's a better take on my 20-something goals:

  • "Get ripped" > "Create a system to become the person who exercises regularly".
  • "Have a net worth of $X" > "Create a system to become the person with valuable skills and the knowledge to monetize them".
  • "Become successful" > "Create a system to become the person capable of being interesting and attracting attention".

You don't get things done to live the life you want. You create systems to become the person capable of getting things done as part of that life.

And then you keep being this person. Day in, day out. That's the power of systems.

Daunting? Nah, it's actually the opposite once you wrap your head around it.

It's very liberating to be instead of having to do:

  • I don't have to exercise each morning.
  • I don't have to budget.
  • I don't have to write.

I do these things because I am. They're part of my identity, and doing them reinforces my identity and makes me feel good.

And habits help me be.

So forget goals for a second and focus on the processes that will help you become the person capable of achieving your goals:

  • Want to lose weight? Think processes. How can you be more active every day? How can you eat a little healthier every day?
  • Want to pay off credit card debt? Think processes. How can you be more mindful of your expenses? How can you save a little more every month?
  • Want a better job? Processes. How can you learn something new every day? How can you reach more people? How can you level up your skills?

Processes and systems first, goals later.

You'll get to the goals. They're great to keep you going in the right direction, but it's the processes that keep you going.

When I start something new, I'll often just start doing it to see how it feels. As I keep going, I figure more things out. This lets me set the right goal later.

And sometimes I don't figure it out, or realize I don't want to keep going. And it's fine, you can always switch to something different.

Here are the internal processes powering some of my habits:

  • My diary. The process is to take note of the daily events in the evening, then do weekly, monthly and yearly retrospectives. Simple.
  • My budget. The process is to assign income to categories, then go about my life making sure I enter every expense. At the end of the week, I reconcile it. I use YNAB, and it's simple.
  • My exercises. The process is to do a daily 12-minute Headspace cardio routine first thing in the morning, plus a few swimming pools or workouts per week. Simple.

See? Processes, not goals. Simple!

And if I wanted to do better in these areas, I could slap a goal on top and go for it.

The recap. If you struggle with your goals, do this:

  • Review your systems and your identity.
  • Make sure both align with your goals.
  • Focus on taking small steps and being consistent.

Then keep reflecting and tweaking your processes as you go.

And don't be too harsh on yourself.

Tiny habits compound, marginal gains aggregate

You don't get shit done overnight.

It's the aggregation of marginal gains that does it. Keep getting 1% better every day, and you'll end up 37x better a year later.

The most powerful outcomes in life are delayed, but you need to cross the plateau of latent potential to get there. It's where you keep putting in work with little visible progress.

But your work isn't wasted, it's stored. Keep going and you'll cross the critical threshold eventually.

I liked these two examples of latent potential from the book:

  • The ice cube. You got an ice cube on a tray, and you keep increasing the room temperature by 1 degree. There's no visible progress for a while until the cube finally starts melting. It's not the last increment that did it, but all of them.
  • The rock. You keep hitting a rock with a pickaxe seemingly to no avail. When it cracks after the 100th hit, it's not the last hit that did it, but all of them.

And here's one I came up with:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When you've finally reached the destination, it's not the final step that did it, but all of them.

Spiffed up that Lao Tzu quote, didn't I?

People love overnight success stories, but the truth is there's little overnight in them. They're the result of years and years of meticulous work we never see.

Latent potential is my middle name:

  • My early writing felt like a chore, but here you are reading this.
  • My early budgeting was daunting, but I'm not broke anymore.
  • All my habits have felt disheartening at first, but I can't imagine my life without them now.

I learned to start small, improve marginally, and keep compounding.

But it's not just the positives that compound. If you're not careful enough, you'll get to experience the compounding of stress, bad habits, and negative thoughts.

And we think you're not gonna love it!

Compounding is a double-edged sword, so keep it in mind when building good habits or battling bad ones.

Working hard vs being smart about it

The secret to success?

Staying motivated, grinding every day, wielding your massive willpower, overcoming obstacles, slaying your enemies!

Nah. Well, it's part of it, but that's not The Secret.

The secret to success is making it easier to succeed and harder to fail.


It's what James Clear calls the Four Laws of Behavior Change:

  • Make good habits obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying. This makes you more likely to keep doing them.
  • Make bad habits invisible, unattractive, difficult, unsatisfying. This makes you less likely to keep doing them.

Almost too easy, right? But it's quite on point.

You don't succeed by wielding massive willpower and resisting temptation, you succeed by not having to rely on it in the first place.

Keep reading.

Willpower vs environment design

We do things not because of what they are, but because of where they are.

In his 1936 book Principles of Topological Psychology, Kurt Lewin has proposed the idea of behavior being a function of the person in their environment.

In other words, the way our environment is designed has an effect on our behavior.

Other studies support this idea:

  • Anne Thorndike's hospital experiment has led to the reduction of soda intake by adding drinking water as an option. The act of adjusting the environment has changed people's behavior.
  • The majority of the US soldiers addicted to heroin in Vietnam have stopped taking it after returning home. The new environment with most of the old triggers and cues missing has led to the change in their behavior.

It's not about self-control, it's about organizing your life in a way that doesn't require self-control.

Create an environment where doing the right things is easy:

  • Feature good cues more prominently. Put a book on your pillow to read more before bed. Place a tray of apples on your table to eat more fruit. Keep a water cooler nearby to drink more water.
  • Insert new habits into your current routines. This reduces friction. You're more likely to stick to the gym when it's on your way home from the office, not out of the way.
  • Step into a new environment. This makes it easy to build new habits. Don't work in your bedroom. Don't sleep in your kitchen? Avoid mixing contexts to stop mixing habits. If you have a small apartment, split it up into activity zones.

Then, do the opposite for bad habits.

Prime the environment to make bad habits invisible:

  • Hide that popcorn.
  • Leave your phone in a different room.
  • Don't keep booze at home.

I'm distractible, so I rely on my environment a lot. Probably why I enjoy minimalism: so much easier to focus on what's important and enjoyable.

Also, I'm amazed by the people who manage to get things done with all notifications and sounds enabled done. How? Why?

Easy and attractive sticks, hard and unattractive fades away

The more attractive something is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.

As humans, we are wired to choose things that are convenient and provide the most value for the least effort. And the modern world is built around this idea.

We live in a heightened version of reality:

  • Foods are enhanced to make them more appealing.
  • Songs and movies are written to be extra-catchy.
  • Games and other apps are designed to keep us engaged.

Too good at pushing our own buttons.

It's problematic, but we can rely on this idea to make good habits stick.

There are a few ways to do this. Environment design is one. Linking your desired habits to your normal behaviors is another.

The Premack principle states more probable behaviors reinforce the less probable ones. I call this negotiating with myself, and I do it all the time to get stuff one.

I like to split up my procrastination into smaller chunks and stick them to my more productive tasks:

  • I try not to check my phone until I've done my morning routine.
  • I stay away from socials until I've done a productive chunk, such as writing.
  • I allow myself to be a little unproductive after I've done the important stuff.

Then I stack habits to create more powerful habit chains, more on which below.

What about bad habits?

Bad habits are modern solutions to ancient problems. They're our attempts to address the underlying motive: conserve energy, obtain food, relieve stress, bond, and reproduce.

If there are multiple ways to address the motive, we pick the one we're used to, which is usually the easier one.

Boom, there's your bad habit!

Don't like this? Go ahead and reprogram your brain:

  • To stick with good habits, associate them with what you enjoy and with the long-term benefits of continuing.
  • To ditch the bad habits, associate them with what you hate, and highlight the long-term benefits of avoiding them.

Also, learn to reframe. See opportunities, not burdens:

  • You don't have to exercise, but it makes you healthier and develops skills.
  • You don't have to get up early and make breakfast, you get to do it.
  • You don't have to be anxious about the presentation, be excited about it.

It's not always easy, but figuring this out will change your life.

And the more you do it, the easier it gets. Pinkie promise.

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Stop reading this and go put on the Stones.

Good, now continue reading.

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the result is satisfying:

  • Introducing the Safeguard soap in Karachi in the 90s made washing hands satisfying, driving adoption of hand hygiene, and reducing the rates of diseases.
  • The early chewing gums and toothpastes didn't become popular until flavors were added to them to make the experience of using them more satisfying.

Today, it's the concept behind most of the things that surround us.

The cardinal rule of behavior change is what is immediately rewarded is repeated, what is immediately punished is avoided.

But there's a problem:

  • The immediate outcome of good habits may feel bad, but the long-term results are good.
  • The consequences of bad habits are delayed, while the feel-good results are immediate.

We value the present more than the future, but success requires us to ignore the immediate reward.

As Frédéric Bastiat nicely put it, "It almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa ... Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits."

It's a world of mismatch between immediate and delayed rewards. And our brains aren't great at it, making us fall into the trap of instant gratification.

What do?

You can turn instant gratification to your advantage by adding a little immediate pleasure to good habits, and a little pain to bad ones.

For example, transfer the money you decided not to spend today into your savings account to see it grow over time.

And there are other ways to hack instant gratification, like using a habit tracker.

The book tells the story of a Canadian bank clerk who employed a paperclip strategy to push himself to achieve more. Whenever he made a sales call, he would move a paperclip from a full jar into an empty one to act as an immediate reward.

As the story goes, this soon made him very successful.

But habit trackers come in all shapes and sizes. There are those that make you check your streaks. There are habit-tracking apps. Benjamin Franklin had a makeshift habit tracker. Jerry Seinfeld had a joke tracker.

Habit trackers make your habits obvious, attractive, and satisfying. They also make you focus on the process, not the goal.

As with all things in life, there are drawbacks to habit trackers.

Tracking can be a burden when you're having a hard time sticking to the habit itself. Tracking calories is hard when you're already struggling to eat healthy.

And don't track everything! Not only it's exhausting, but also counterproductive.

As Goodhart's Law goes, a measure that becomes a target stops being a good measure. Measure everything and you'll start focusing on the wrong things.

If your goal is weight loss and you've started eating healthier, worrying about the number on the scale can make you overlook the other benefits of eating healthy.


  • Know what not to track.
  • Automate the process of tracking where possible.
  • And reserve manual tracking for things that can't be tracked otherwise.

Finally, know how to quickly recover from failures.

More on that below.

Commitment devices and locking in your future today

In 1830, Victor Hugo was having a hard time writing The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Instead of writing, he was chilling with friends and working on other stuff.

Faced with the February 1831 deadline less than six months away, he decided to beat procrastination by locking away most of his clothes. Being naked wasn't quite compatible with a rich social life, so he resorted to staying home and writing his book. He finished it two weeks early, in January 1831.

The takeaway? Get naked to beat procrastination!

Also, commitment devices let you lock in your future actions today. This helps make good habits inevitable and hard habits impossible.

A few examples of one-time actions that lock in your future today:

  • Getting a good mattress and a computer chair. Do it once, and you'll keep benefitting from this single action for years to come.
  • Unsubscribing from newsletters. Spend an hour combing through your inbox and unsubscribing, and you'll have removed this distraction once and for all.
  • Disabling notifications. I'll never stop trumpeting this. Seriously, how can anyone function with notifications and sounds on their phones?

And if some of your actions aren't frequent enough to become habits, you can use technology to keep them habitual without thinking. Reminders and habit trackers.

Another way of committing to your habits is using implementation intentions like time and location.

Don't tell yourself to "eat healthier" or "write more". It's a waste of time. These foggy intentions will get you nowhere.

Instead, use the "I will behavior at time in location" formula:

  • I will practice swimming Wednesdays at 12pm in my local swimming pool.
  • I will exercise Sundays at 12pm**** at the sports ground outside my house.
  • I will clean my room Saturdays at 5pm when I'm back home.

This thing's great, but you know what's better?

Habit stacking, or chaining:

Tip: Stack habits to create powerful habit chains

It's easier to keep going once you've started, and it's easier to keep doing what you're already doing.

So, your brain often decides what to do next based on what you've just done:

  • Change into pajamas when you get home and the next thing you know you're Netflix and chilling on the couch.
  • Change into your tracksuit, and you're much more likely to go for your evening run.

Stack new actions on top of the current ones to create sustainable habits. Then link habits together to build powerful habit chains that will propel your life forward.

As Alfred North Whitehead once said, "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them."

Nicely put, Alfred!

I can't praise habit stacking enough. Can't imagine my life without my habit stacks.

In the past, mornings often were a challenge. Today, my morning habit chain is so ingrained I go through it without thinking:

  • After I wake up, I get up and make my bed.
  • After I make my bed, I drink a glass of water.
  • After I drink a glass of water, I brush my teeth.
  • After I brush my teeth, I do the 15-minute exercise routine on Headspace.
  • After I do the exercise routine, I get a cup of coffee.
  • After I get coffee, I write my daily 500+ words and publish on Twitter.

SHABANG! Can't stop me now. I go right for the chain no matter when I wake up.

You'll never go back after learning to rely on habit chains, trust me.

Tip: Surround yourself with the right culture

To fit in, we adopt the habits praised and approved by the culture we live in.

As humans, we imitate the habits of the three groups of people:

  • The close. Friends and family, the invisible peer pressure. Forming habits is easier if you join a group where these habits are expected and praised.
  • The many. "What's everyone else doing?" In many cases, being accepted is more important than being right. Sad but true.
  • The powerful. "What would others think of me?" We often imitate those who we envy and admire, and avoid behaviors that lower our status.

And while you can't simply change instincts, you can change your surroundings.

I struggled with the gym until I joined a local fitness group and made friends. It turned my exercises from a daunting responsibility into a fun social activity.

Keep this in mind to be more conscious about those around you and how they affect your behavior.

Tip: Don't overthink, just do

It's easy to think and plan without ever doing anything. As Voltaire apparently said, perfect is the enemy of the good.

Habits are reinforced by frequency, so forget perfection and just start:

  • Jerry Uelsmann's photography experiment showed students who focused on quantity produced better photos than their quality-focused peers.
  • According to Hebb's Rule, the neurons that repeatedly activate together develop a stronger connection between them.
  • The famous London cab driver study has shown that regular practice leads to changes in the specific brain regions related to the practice.

Quantity first, quality later.

I rely on this idea daily. When I start a new activity, I rarely know exactly what I'm doing. Which is uncomfortable, and it takes me effort to overcome the resistance.

But it's crucial. You learn to keep going first, then you figure out where you're going exactly. Standardize before you can optimize.

A few of my recent examples:

  • I started writing daily before I knew why. I quit a few times because it wasn't working out. But eventually, I figured it out. And here you are.
  • I started exercising every morning before I knew the best way. It felt daunting. I quit more than once, but I did end up finding the perfect routine in the end.
  • I wasn't great at note-taking, but I kept trying until I finally found a method that works for me. And I still keep iterating. Always be iteratin'!

Start doing, then keep going, then you'll begin to figure it out.

Tip: Take tiny steps, conquer decisive moments, just show up

A good chunk of our actions is automatic. The things we do without thinking determine the choices we'll make when thinking.

This often happens at the decisive moments of your day, your fork in the road. A few choices can make or break your day. And it stacks up.

A few examples of my personal decisive moments:

  • I wake up feeling meh. I can take a tiny step to start my morning routine (good day ahead), or give in and keep scrolling Reddit feeling progressively worse.
  • I go down the beer aisle. A single beer kills my productivity for the rest of the day. Not buying it is a tiny step towards staying productive and healthier.
  • I don't feel like writing. I can take a tiny step to sit down and write a sentence, which often gets me into the flow. If I give in and go on socials, see above.

How do you make starting easier?

Try the 2-minute rule. Start what takes you less than 2 minutes to complete. Even when you know you should start small, it's still too easy to start too big.

Here's how you can shrink your habits to make it easier to start:

  • Read before bed > Read one page.
  • Do half an hour of yoga > Take out the yoga mat.
  • Study for class > Open your textbook.
  • Run 3 miles > Put on your running shoes.

These gateway steps will get you going when you don't feel like it.

I do this myself:

  • When I don't feel like exercising, I start my exercise video on Headspace.
  • When I don't feel like washing dishes, I start with a single plate.
  • When I don't feel like writing, I write a single sentence.

Then, split bigger habits into smaller steps that you'll perform one at a time:

  • Today, put on your running shoes.
  • Tomorrow, step outside.
  • The next day, run for 15 seconds.

You'll get into it.

And to keep yourself going, master the habit of showing up.

You'll have days when putting on running shoes will be the most you can do. Do it!

You don't fail by putting on your shoes to immediately take them off. You fail by telling yourself "I'm too tired, I'll do it tomorrow" and staying on your couch.

And if you do end up missing a habit once, don't miss it twice. Missing once is an accident, missing twice is a start of a new habit.

Tip: Align your habits with your abilities

As far as science is concerned, innate talent genes aren't really a thing.

But it doesn't mean that your natural abilities and genes don't matter at all. You can maximize the odds of your success by choosing the right field of competition.

Your habits should align with your abilities, not go against them.

Work hard on the things that come easy. Pick the right habit and progress is easy, pick the wrong one and life is a struggle.

To find the game where the odds are in your favor, ask yourself:

  • What feels like fun to me, but work to others?
  • What makes me lose the track of time?
  • Where can I handle the pain of the task more than the others?

Then combine your skills to reduce competition.

A good player works hard to win the game everyone else is playing. A great player creates a new game that favors their strengths and avoids their weaknesses.

As Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert said, "Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort." His game was the intersection of drawing, writing, and making business jokes.

Tip: Review and reflect to stay on track

Habits are great at automating our behaviors. It's also why they're dangerous.

The more automatic our behavior becomes, the less we think about our actions. And the less we think, the easier we let mistakes slide.

When we're good enough, we stop thinking about improving. You need to remain conscious of your performance over time to keep improving.

The authors of Peak call this deliberate practice. It's not just about learning habits, it's about keeping practicing deliberately to keep improving.

It's something I've struggled a lot with in the past.

No matter what new thing I'd go after, I'd become bored and quit as soon as I'd learn the basics of it. Who cares if it's a random hobby like tennis, but it's a disaster if it's a habit that powers your life.

It only changed recently after I began applying the idea of deliberate practice to everything I do.

Review and reflection are two great tools to keep your perspective. They keep you on track, let you stay aware of your mistakes, and make you keep improving.

It's what the top performers do all the time, no matter the area:

  • Kenyan pro distance runner Eliud Kipchoge takes notes after every practice.
  • So does Kathie Ledecky, an American competitive swimmer.
  • Comedian Chris Rock repeatedly tests his new jokes in small clubs.
  • Executives and investors keep decision journals for future review.

James Clear himself does two reviews per year to revisit his core values.

It's something I do as well:

  • Every evening, I recap this day's events in my diary.
  • Every weekend, I review the week and plan for the one ahead.
  • Every month, I also check in with my global roadmap and values.
  • At the end of the year, I do a yearly recap and set goals for the next one.

It sounds like an awful lot, but it really isn't that bad!

Just don't strive for perfectionism, start simple, and focus on consistency.

Start today, and you'll be amazed to see yourself a year from now.

Tip: Don't tie your identity to your role

There's one more thing to keep in mind when reflecting on your identity.

It's dangerous to have your identity rigidly tied to a major aspect of your life, such as your current role. The tighter you cling to it, the harder it gets to grow beyond it.

And if that role disappears, what's gonna happen to you?

Personal experience: you just might find yourself in a world of shit.

So, instead of being rigid about it, keep your identity flexible and loosely linked to the habits you're working on. Be like water, my friend.

Here's a great Lao Tzu quote to wrap this up:

Men are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.

Well said, Lao******!

* I also love coffee and dogs. The competition is fierce for my Top 3.

** This is not to suggest that budgeting will solve all your financial problems. But it will make you more mindful of your finances, which is the first step.

*** I use Level 1 for simplicity. You can be any level at different stuff. And yes, you can do higher-level quests as a lower-level character. But it's harder, and you'll get pummeled if you don't know what you're doing.

**** It's 6pm on Sunday right now*****, and I'm still editing this. I was supposed to be at the sports ground 6 hours ago. Things I do for you, friends.

***** I ended up editing past midnight, but I did get my 30 minutes of exercise earlier. And multi-level references are fun.

****** It should be "Well said, Er!", but Lao sounds better and I feel like having a little more fun with the asterisks.