Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Clear, James 2019.06
Jacket design by Pete Garceau; cover shown with permission from Penguin Random House

One of the fears I have is that I will get to the end of my life to find that I never reached my potential. I beat myself up because I tell myself I could do better in certain areas, but then I quit because I’m not improving or progress seems slow. Setting goals and then being discouraged when they are not reached is very common. We set goals, we fail to accomplish them, then we think something’s wrong with us, that we aren’t good enough, that people who succeed in reaching their goals are better in some way that is just out of our grasp.

Atomic Habits, however, breaks down the ways that simple, small changes in your habits, over time can reveal remarkable results, and often it’s simply the difficulty of maintaining a small change over time, because it’s boring and doesn’t seem to be working, that really gets in the way of accomplishing our goals. Also, when we fail to make the mental shift of who we want to be to actually being that person, we are destined to fall back into the patterns that got us here in the first place. Clear’s directions can be broken down into two short, bullet-ed lists:

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

And to accomplish these small wins follow the four laws of behavior change:

  1. How can I make it obvious?
  2. How can I make it attractive?
  3. How can I make it easy?
  4. How can I make it satisfying?

Each one of these laws is broken down with multiple, practical, bite-sized steps to create a new positive habit, as well as corresponding steps to take to break a bad habit. What made this book stand out to me was:

  • Research has shown that burn-out and boredom are the main nemeses of new habits, so Clear encourages his reader take small steps, ex. Want to do fifty push-ups a day? Start with one.
  • Straight-forward, clear steps such as “Habit stacking”, in which you stack a new habit with one you do naturally already. For me this has been “After my daughter goes to bed I will write for 20 minutes” (notice I said 20 minutes, not an hour, which would impede more on my personal life and make it undesirable. See Law of Behavior change #2)
  • This book really helped me understand that when I’ve failed to reach a goal, it’s not that the goal was impossible to reach, but that I didn’t set the proper systems for accomplishing it.

This diagram of “The Plateau of Latent Potential from page 22 felt like the real-life explanation of every healthy habit I’ve ever formed. Just when I think “I’ve been doing this for months and nothing’s happening!” Suddenly there are results, Everything takes time, even when we want instant results.Clear, James 2019.06 diagram

James Clear has been talking about habit building for years on his site Atomichabits.com, based on lessons he learned from having to re-build himself after a devastating baseball accident. This book is filled with tons of versatile insights that would be valuable to anyone looking for change or growth. There were so many different avenues for building habits I believe anyone could cobble together an individual plan that works for them. I read this as an audio-book, read by the author, and really enjoyed it, but there is a lot of helpful information in the physical book so I would recommend taking a look at that as well if you are truly serious about remarkable change.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Published: October 16, 2018

I read this as: an audio-book from Overdrive and a hardback purchased from publisher

If you like this you may enjoy:

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Zevin, Gabrielle 2019.06You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, “What is your favorite book?”

Finally! A book for book-people! Just kidding, all books are for book-people, but you’ll forgive me for being especially fond of a novel whose subject is a quirky book-seller and in which each chapter begins with a review of a real book. Oh, and the story is wonderful as well.

Bookstore owner A.J. Fikry has achieved curmudgeon status before reaching the age of 40, mostly isolating himself from new people after the sudden and tragic death of his wife, Nic. Then, his world is upended with the arrival of baby Maya, who is left in his store with a note from Maya’s mother begging him to raise her child in a world surrounded by books. Slowly, Maya grows on him, and as his love expands, so does his ability and desire to connect with others. Forged together, A.J. and Maya’s circle of love begins to influence and change lives for the better, demonstrating that a life can be re-made, that lost love does not equal lost life. This is a heartwarming, fun, and charming read, here is one of my favorite quotes:

We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And I think these really do live on.

The emotion here is palpable, and attention to the power of love combined with the book’s sense of fun and whimsy are what makes it a great read. It is as if someone took The Rosie Project and A Man called Ove, smashed them together, and set it in a book-store. The perfect read for any book-lover or someone looking for an endearing, lovely, and moving story.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Published: April 1, 2014

I read this as: a library book

If you enjoy this you may also like:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry   by Rachel Joyce

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman