Hi, friends! This is a book review of “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, and I’m also going to share a few tips on habits that I learned from reading this book.
I had this book, “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear, on my list for a while before I finally bought it and dug in. It was fairly easy to read, the research and stories backing up the claims about human psychology were good, and the writing was solid too. I got a lot out of it.
But I will not say this was my favorite non-fiction book to read, maybe because the idea of habit forming can be a little dry. The author, James Clear, is a great writer, but he isn’t super funny or entertaining. In fact, I fell asleep while reading this book quite often (granted, I only read at night in bed before actually going to sleep, so I’m used to falling asleep while reading, but it happened very fast with this one). However, I pressed on, because the content was very valuable. And I can definitely see why it is a New York Times Bestseller. It’s got real advice. Doable advice. And that’s something we all need, especially when it comes to behavior change.
While I will share some useful tips in this post, I’m absolutely not sharing everything from the book. I would still encourage you to read it, if you’re interested in this topic and need some help creating change in your life.
Tips on habits and a book review of “Atomic Habits”
The gist of this book is that making small improvements on a daily basis adds up to big change, even if the results are hardly noticeable in the moment. And this is entirely opposite to the idea we are often taught that you have to make sweeping changes and overhauls to be successful or get results.
“No matter your goals, ‘Atomic Habits’ offers a proven framework for getting 1 percent better every day.”
In fact, it’s all about the little habits. And the effects of your new small positive habits start to compound too. While this may sound so simple, when it’s laid out in front of you throughout the course of the book, you really start to see the power of moving the needle in tiny increments as a superior method.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
But we don’t just do this by change. Clear explains how we need to create systems that support who we want to be. Who we want to be is our identity, and our habits make up our identity. And how do we create systems? We design them with daily habits that are planned and prepared and calculated.
The majority of pages in “Atomic Habits” is devoted to Clear digging into the little steps it takes to create and to break habits to make up your identity and systems. And he relates it all to how the mind works, and why we do the things we do. Basically, he says, self-control can only get you so far. In order to be successful, you need more than discipline. You truly have to plan, prepare and set yourself up for success to make small changes. It’s can be monotonous, boring and unglamorous, but with consistency, it works.
“Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery”
And here’s how you can create a good habit and break a bad habit …
How to create a good habit:
- Make it obvious. — Stack a new habit with a daily ingrained habit that you already have, so you can more easily remember to do the new habit.
An example of making it obvious (when you are trying to create a new good habit of being more grateful), is putting your gratitude notebook next to your coffee maker. That way, every morning when you go to make your coffee, you can write down something you’re grateful for while your coffee brews. With your notebook out in the open, and stacking the practice of filling out your gratitude journal with drinking your morning coffee, you will be much more likely to complete your new small habit regularly.
- Make it attractive. — The more attractive something is, the more you’ll want to do it. You can make a habit attractive by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.
- Make it easy. — Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. That means taking out as much of the effort as possible. Creating automation is helpful too.
An example of making it easy (when you are trying to create a new good habit of exercising regularly) is to set a goal to work out for two minutes a day. Even though this is a super-small workout duration, it is a small start, and you will be more likely to complete your daily workout, if it’s easy to get two minutes done and you don’t dread it or feel overwhelmed by the idea of it. After a few weeks of doing two minutes, you will likely want to do more and more. This “two-minute rule” can work for a number of behaviors, as a mental trick to make everything seem easier to accomplish.
- Make it satisfying. — We are more likely to repeat a behavior when it is satisfying, so find a way to give yourself a tiny reward for completing the new and good habit.
How to break a bad habit:
- Make it invisible. — Remove the temptation cue from your daily life, and you’ll be less likely to do it.
An example of making it invisible (when you are trying to break the habit of procrastinating with social media) is to turn off the notifications for social media apps on your cell phone, or remove the apps from your phone entirely. If they aren’t there, you won’t be pulled to mindlessly scroll so often.
- Make it unattractive. — Tell yourself the benefits of avoiding the bad habit over and over again, so you’re less likely to want to do it.
- Make it difficult. — Increase the friction caused by doing a bad habit you want to break, and increase the number of steps it takes to get that bad habit done.
An example of making it difficult (when you are trying to break the habit of binging on ice cream late at night), is to stop buying ice cream and storing it in the freezer in your house. If you don’t have it there, you won’t be as tempted to go after it. It would require many extra steps to get the ice cream, if you have to travel further than the trip from the couch to the fridge.
- Make it unsatisfying. — Find an accountability partner who will check in on you. Or create a habit contract with yourself and penalize yourself if you don’t stick to your contract.
As you can see, with these tips, you can come up with a good game-plan for creating new good habits and breaking old bad ones.
A few more insights on creating good habits …
One of the areas of the book that I most enjoyed was where Clear talked about being real with yourself about your own personality, genes and strengths. He referenced the fact that habits are easier to stick to when they fit within your natural abilities.
We don’t all have to be good at everything. And we can’t all be good at everything. But we can all be good at something. And just because you have good genes for a particular activity, doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard at new things. He related this to different types of sports and how people have specific builds that make them more likely to be good at something (think of Michael Phelps and his huge wingspan and narrow hips … he was basically born to be an Olympic swimmer). For some reason, this idea of working with what you’ve got really resonated with me. You will do better if you work hard at things that you feel pulled to that also fit within your abilities. That’s not saying you can’t work toward something you aren’t already good at, but it should be something that makes sense for you in your life, with your body, your mind and your capabilities. If you hate to write, don’t set a goal to write a novel or start a blog, perhaps consider starting up something else. And if you hate being inside the gym, don’t set a goal to go to the gym everyday to lose weight, perhaps consider finding an outdoor activity that may bring your more joy, as well as healthy movement.
And finally, as a reminder, you only need to get 1 percent better every single day, and you’ll be almost 37 percent better by the end of the year. Atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.
Book review of “Atomic Habits”
As I said in the beginning, this is a useful book. I think it would be super helpful to anyone who wants to create better habits, make changes in their life and certainly if they want to break bad habits. Clear gives some interesting research, stories and anecdotes from sports teams, university professors, science experiments and even his own life. The chapters are short, and each chapter has summary bullet points in the end, which I’m a big fan of to help with comprehension.
That being said, I will add this to my list of must-read non-fiction wellness books, after this official book review of “Atomic Habits.” But, it wasn’t my favorite based on personal enjoyment. For some reason, I didn’t devour it and stay up late reading, like I often do for books that really pull me in. That’s not to say I didn’t think the content was great, but I didn’t think it was as entertaining as some non-fiction books can be.
It took me about three weeks to read this book, because I only read small sections at night. But I can see myself going back to it one day for another skim through to refresh on the content.
Moral of the story: Don’t set out to rip through the pages smiling and laughing, but you will get helpful tips and insight into how to make positive impacts in your life in doable ways. Also, this would be one to share with family and friends who need it, especially if someone in your life knows they need to make changes but doesn’t know how to start.
And if you (or someone in your life) can even make one small “atomic” habit based on reading this book, and that habit creates positive ripples in their or your life in the future, it’s worth reading the 250+ pages. Wouldn’t you agree? Three cheers for baby steps in the right direction.
How to find out more from James Clear …
James Clear has a totally free newsletter that you can sign up for here.
You can also find his book, “Atomic Habits,” here.
Thanks for reading my book review of “Atomic Habits,” my friends. Have a great day and week!
Other A Lady Goes West posts you may like …
- The seven best books I read in 2020
- Positive thoughts and a book review of “You Are a Badass”
- Add more good to your life with anchor habits
- Three health and wellness books that changed my life
Questions of the day
Have you read anything good lately?
What’s a habit you are trying to improve in your life?
What’s a good habit you have that you are proud of?