Book Reviews

Book Review – Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’ve just discovered a delightful book that’s inspiring me to ignite my future even more by going smaller.

The basic premise of Atomic Habits is that if you break a desired habit down into a 1-2 minute task that you do every single day while you build up the mastery, you will continue to do the task, and you will naturally desire to continue it.

But it needs to be a small, simple tasks.

The subtitle to this book is “An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.”

What You Will Learn

James Clear opens the book with a very personal story of an adversity he had to overcome, and how he discovered a system to help him.

This lead to his 4 step system

  • Make it obvious
  • Make it attractive
  • Make it easy
  • Make it satisfying

James then goes on to build up his theories behind his system, and how you can best adjust it to work for your habits and goals.

Kaizen Principle

This was defined in Japan in the early 1950’s for auto assembly line workers to continuously improve all functions in all areas.

Toyota evaluated how the workers stood, and would then slowly optimize to reduce the potential for mistakes or accidents. An example is that they built a tool station right next to them so the worker wouldn’t have to be looking for the right tool.

This allowed Japanese cars to have a higher quality than other manufacturers at the time.

Kaizen has been applied in other areas such as health care and banking.

So, a small improvement continuously evaluated and adopted will have more of an impact in your igniting your life.

Even a 1% difference done consistently (improving your life 1% every day) will have you 3778% better at the end of one year.

Action Taking vs. Action Faking

This section is one that a lot of people struggle with.

Often if you read about something related to the goal you desire, you think you’re working towards the goal.

But unless you’re doing something actively to achieve it, you’re not really working towards it.

Reading cookbooks can be fun and inspiring. When you find a recipe and decide to make it, you’re taking action towards your goal of eating healthier.

What Are Habits

Some habits are so ingrained like brushing our teeth that we don’t even think about it.

Other habits can become boring, and can cause us to lose momentum. One story in the book was an interview with an Olympic athlete who said that one of the keys to success is learning how to overcome the boredom of doing the intense workouts every day.

A habit is triggered with a cue which then makes you have a craving causing you to respond to get your reward. When you become aware of your cues and cravings, you can make adjustments to reprogram the response.

Habits aren’t good or bad

We pick up habits as a response to something. At one point, it helped us. There’s a good resource in the book to help you identify if a habit is working for you or if it’s one that you should let go.

For example, the author felt he was spending too much time on social media. So on Monday morning, he had his assistant change his passwords on all his accounts, and he didn’t get them back until Friday afternoon.

Since he couldn’t quickly check his accounts, the desire to decreased, and he enjoyed the time he did spend checking on the weekends.

Habit Stacking

I loved the idea of habit stacking. It’s where you add in a habit to an existing habit.

So if you wanted to exercise more, and you change your clothes when you come home from work, you could change your habit to be that you change into exercise clothes and do five minutes of something before you change into your relaxing clothes.

From there, you could increase the five minutes, or you could add in five minutes of meditation or stretching.

And it’s important to make it easy.

You can also break this up into different phases. If you wanted to be able to get up at 6 am every morning, you might first want to step away from all electronics by 10 pm. Then you would adjust that to being in bed by 10 pm, and finally to have the lights out by 10. The next phase would be to get up at 6 am!

If you wanted to do some habit stacking, you could say that you want the habit of reading or meditating each day. You could say that when you get changed for bed, you will spend one minute meditating before getting into bed.

What I Liked

This book is full of actionable advice for changing your habits. You will want to put it down and start doing something immediately when you get inspired.

I also liked how it provided a framework rather than a “Follow this one course and all will be great.” This way, you can set up a system that will work best for you and your goals.

I’m excited by how easy it makes it sound to change a habit by doing one little thing every day.

Consistency Compounds Momentum

If you miss one day, it’s important to forgive yourself. And then you need to get back into the habit as quickly as possible.

The key to ignite your habits is to ensure that you get back on track as quickly as possible, and continue to master your habit.

Maintaining Your Motivation

As I mentioned prior, learning to battle boredom as you start mastering a habit is key.

This is where trying to increase the challenge just a little bit will help you want to continue.

It can’t be too difficult and it can’t be too easy. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we desire to grow and evolve.

What I Didn’t Like

Actually, not a whole lot. It was an easy to read book that had examples that were easy to relate to my life.

If you’ve read self-help books on setting up systems to help you easily move towards your desired habit, and have negative consequences for when you slip back into an undesired habit, you won’t find anything new here.

Some people are critical about the underlying psychology. My feeling here is to try it and see if it works for you.

James discusses how to test the kind of person you are to see if you are more motivated by positive outcomes or negative consequences.

I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the section on knowing where to “compete.” He discussed Michael Phelps and Hicham El Guerrouj and how they were perfectly physically suited for their Olympic events, and wouldn’t have the same success if they tried to train for the other’s events.

But earlier in the book, he discussed the Hungarian Polgar family who raised three master chess players. Laszlo Polgar is a chess teacher and educational psychologist.

He wanted to test the theory that geniuses are made, not born. So he taught his daughters at an early age, and they became chess masters.

So I guess his point was to look for where you can use your strengths. And the author did spend some time on discussing how to find your strengths. And it looks like if you continually apply learning every day, you could be a genius.

My Final Thoughts

Igniting your growth will result from acquiring new, healthy, helpful habits. Atomic Habits recommends creating small habits that are repeated daily to compound your growth.

So instead of setting goals, focus on who you want to become, and then identify the habits to get you there.

This book is great for people who struggle to remain motivated or consistent with their habits.

If you want to be an expert cook, practice doing something new every day. If you want to improve your mind, read a page a day. If you want to publish a book, write one page a day.

Eventually you’ll increase the time. However, even if you don’t, these habits will help you ignite your life.

You can find this book online or at your local stockist. If you’ve read it, please let me know what you think in the comments.

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