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Atomic Habits by James Clear: Start Small and Build Better Habits – My Takeaways

I have to say one of the best personal development books I have read in the past year is Atomic Habits by James Clear. As I was reading, I kept thinking, that makes total sense. Why didn’t I think of that before? So even though most of the knowledge was pretty common, he packaged it in such a way that made it tangible and helpful.

The cover of the book says “tiny changes, remarkable results” and “An easy & proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.”

On a news clip, Clear talks about the fact that it isn’t us that’s our problem with building better habits, but it’s our system and environment. Furthermore, small changes that sometimes can go unnoticeable can actually go a long way and make a big difference.

He says, “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” (p. 15).

James Clear

On the flip side, getting worse has a huge detrimental effect over that one year.

Four and a half years ago I ran a half marathon. I trained, followed my plan, and met that goal. Then what happened? I took a day off from training. Then another day and then another. Before long, I had stopped running completely.

Clear says, “Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment” (p. 25). His suggestion for changing my system now is to simply put sneakers next to my bed on the first day. Then, maybe add in another article of clothing until I get up and walk for a minute. Then, continue to compound those small changes until my system and routine are changed.

Another point that Clear makes in his book that has stuck with me is how our identity influences our habits. For a long time, I’ve been trying to be more of a morning person and I constantly say that I’m not. Those beliefs have power over our actions. If we want to change our identity, we need to start with small habits.

atomic habits
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The four laws of behavior change can be used to build better habits. They are cue, craving, response, and reward. Clear says that we need to cue our environment to make habits obvious. Conversely, if we want to break a bad habit, we need to make it invisible. We have to train our brains to pick up clues and not even think about what’s happening.

I was just talking to my accountability partner this week about building habits. I referenced this book, which inspired me to write the post you are reading right now. One of the pieces of advice I gave came from Clear’s book, which is habit stacking.

Essentially, you place a new habit immediately after something that is already a habit. For example, I’m trying to get better at remembering to put moisturizer on my face at night. So, after I brush my teeth (an automatic habit), I put moisturizer on.

Recommendation on Reading Atomic Habits

I’m not going to give the whole book away because I do recommend that you read it. Throughout Clear’s discussion of how to build better habits and how to break bad ones, he gives clear, relevant examples and offers practical steps and advice to make it happen.

He has a cheat sheet that describes the four laws of creating a good habit with advice that you can download and print from his website. Additionally, it’s worth signing up for James Clear’s weekly newsletter that offers 3 short ideas, 2 quotes, and 1 question.

Overall, Atomic Habits has been highly influential in changing my thinking and behavior little by little, which I hope in the long run has hugely positive impacts on my life. Hey … I think it’s time I re-read this book for summer! Best of luck in your journey of building better habits!

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