Book Review | Atomic Habits: by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear sitting on coffee table

Highlights and Quotes from Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

This book is incredible. I repeat…incredible!

Atomic Habits by James Clear is a goldmine of useful information and ideas around how to build better habits, break the bad ones, and live the life that you want.

And that is exactly what I like to write about on AR, so the fact that I haven’t read this book yet is crazy.

If I had to sum up my review in one blurb it would be this:

Don’t let this book pass you by. Worth the hype. Purchase now.

I loved every part of Atomic Habits from the start.

Clear’s writing is about as clear and effective as can be. He uses real-life examples and is able to cut various amounts of science and psychology into actionable and useful advice.

So whether you are a high paying CEO, a stay-at-home mom, or a single twenty something, this book will pay off big time.

One of the most interesting things about Atomic Habits for me, was that it shows you why the good habits stick, and why many of the other habits you’ve tried to create over the years have failed.

For me personally, I tabbed over 20% of the book. There is that much really good content that is worth returning to over and over.

If I was to recommend to someone ONE book to read this year, it would be Atomic Habits.

AR’s Book Score: 10 out of 10

Key book highlights from Atomic Habits by James Clear

Clear starts the book by giving a rundown of the fundamentals. Why habits help us to build the life we want and why many of our past attempts to create new habits have failed.

Part of the fundamentals is understanding why goal setting and why goals are not enough:

Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

Clear’s solution is that if goals simply do not work, then we need to forget about goals and focus on the systems instead.

“If you are having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system.

– James Clear, Atomic Habits

He goes on to explain why systems are important and the remainder of the book shows you how to use systems to build better habits.

Clear also discusses 1% better mentality – using small habits to make a big difference:

If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Lastly in the fundamentals section, Clear argues that most of your habits are tied with your identity. He says,

Building better habits isn’t about littering your day with life hacks. It’s not about flossing one tooth each night or taking a cold shower each morning or wearing the same outfit each day. It’s not about achieving external measures of success like earning more money, losing weight, or reducing stress. habits can help you achieve all of these things, but fundamentally they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

So Clear’s thesis is that if you begin to change your identity, you will begin to create habits to support that identity:

  • “The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.
  • The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.
  • The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.

After the important identity section, Clear introduces us to his habit forming rules, and goes on to dissect each chapter by chapter:

  1. Make it obvious —>
  2. Make it attractive —>
  3. Make it easy —>
  4. Make it satisfying —>
  1. Make it invisible
  2. Make it unattractive
  3. Make it difficult
  4. Make it unsatisfying

While at first, you are scratching your head, Clear walks through various methods for each of his Habit laws.

For instance, “Make it obvious” is really about being more specific.

“I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

  • Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
  • Exercise: I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym. “

Whereas the inverse of “Make it obvious” is “Make it invisible:”

  • “If you can’t seem to get any work done, leave your phone in another room for a few hours.
  • If you’re wasting too much time watching television, move it out of the bedroom.”

So as you can see, Clear dissects and creates strategies for both creating good habits and removing bad ones.

Here are some additional things you’ll glean in Atomic Habits:

  • Habit tracking
  • Habit stacking
  • Habit contracts
  • The two-minute rule
  • The law of least effort
  • How to recover quickly when your habits break down
  • The Goldilocks Rule: How to stay motivated in life and work
  • Other Advanced Tactics

Best quotes from Atomic Habits by James Clear

The first step is not what or how, but who. You need to know who you want to be. Otherwise your quest for change is like a boat without a rudder.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. […] Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable – sometimes it isn’t even noticeable– but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Success is the product of daily habits-not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

The outside world only sees the most dramatic event rather than all that preceded it. But you know that it’s the work you did long ago-when it seemed that you weren’t making any progress-that makes the jump today possible.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Goals create an “either-or” conflict: either you achieve your goal and are successful or you fail and are a disappointment. You mentally box yourself into a narrow version of happiness”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

If you are having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action. Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Be specific and clear: After I close the door. After I brush my teeth. After I sit down at the table. The specificity is important. The more tightly bound your new habit is to a specific cue, the better the odds are that you will notice when the time comes to act.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

We like to think we are in control. If we choose water over soda, we assume it is because we wanted to do so. The truth, however, is that many of the actions we take each day are shaped not by purposeful drive and choice but by the most obvious option.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term-one.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Your culture sets your expectation for what is “normal”. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

On the tough days, it’s crucial to have as many things working in your favor as possible so that you can overcome the challenges life naturally throws your way. The less friction you face, the easier it is for your stronger self to emerge.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad (or busy) days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done. We care more about getting ten thousand steps than we do about being healthy. We teach for standardized tests instead of emphasizing learning, curiosity, and critical thinking. In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we chose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

You don’t have to build the habits everyone tells you to build. Choose the habit that best suits you, not the one that is most popular.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

I can guarantee that if you manager to start a habit and keep sticking to it, there will be days when you feel like quitting. […] But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Improvement is not just about learning habits, it’s also about fine-tuning them. Reflection and review ensures that you spend your time on the right things and make course corrections whenever necessary.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

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