“Atomic Habits” by James Clear – Lessons and Book Review

Title: Atomic Habits

Author: James Clear

Category: Non-fiction, Self-help

Rating: 5/5

10-word summary: If you develop the right habits, you will be successful.

About Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits is one of the best personal development books that I’ve ever read. However, even this statement doesn’t do it justice. Many personal development books are filled either with information that is simple and common sense, or with questionable advice with no basis in reality. Atomic Habits is the opposite of that. It approaches success and habits from a more critical perspective and often gives science-based advice.

Atomic Habits can help you learn how to build better habits and, therefore, have a higher chance of reaching your goals. And it does that in a clear, logical way that is refreshing and inspiring at the same time.

This book may change the way you understand success and how you pursue it. Because, despite what cheap motivational content claims, it’s not enough to “dream big” and hustle. You need to develop a system to reach that goal. Atomic Habits will teach you some basics to help you do that.

Lessons from Atomic Habits

Small changes end up making a big difference

We often want to change our lives and make bold moves. While these can be amazing and inspiring, they are not the only way to improve. If you make small changes and stick to them, you’ll see that they can as life-changing as big moves.

Making small improvements to the way we do anything worthwhile can matter more than we imagine. If you focus on becoming 1% better today – and every day – you will be a totally different person in a few years.

Start small and see what you can improve just a bit. This could be:

  • reading one more page
  • walking 5 minutes more
  • waking up 15 minutes earlier
  • spending 20 minutes less on social media or Netflix
  • saying one nice thing to your spouse

While you are doing this, it won’t feel like much. But stick to it long enough and this may transform an entire area of your life.

Don’t focus on goals, focus on habits

We sometimes think that goals are like the Holy Grail. We just need to set the right goals, visualize, desire it and…maybe work on them a bit. If we set great goals, we’ll definitely achieve them, right?

Well, not really. You can have a great and noble goal and still fail. After choosing a goal for yourself, you need to also create a system for how you want to reach it. You need to create a blueprint – your daily habits.

James Clear said something very interesting in this book. Even if a person does not have a certain goal in mind, they could achieve it if they have the right habits and do them daily (or often enough). For example, maybe you don’t want to lose weight. But if you work out 4 times a week, eat healthy food and burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight anyway!

That’s why it’s so important to focus on building the right habits for your goal. If you can identify the habits you need and incorporate them in your daily schedule, you will reach your goal!

Your habits create your identity

We are what we repeatedly do. The way you spend your time every day now will determine who you will be a year or 10 years from now.

If you want to be rich, save money every day.

If you want to be healthy, eat healthy food and stay active every day.

If you want to be successful, work and improve every day.

Don’t let your current habits create an identity you may not like. Think about the person you want to become and ask yourself: What would future me do every day? Then try to act in that way and make a habit out of it.

What I like about Atomic Habits

1. It is well-written and easy to read

Honestly, I haven’t read this book. I listened to the audio version. But I still believe it’s easy to read. Atomic Habits is written in a clear way and is well-structured. It uses simple language when talking about interesting ideas. One thing that I particularly liked about this book is that it has some quotable sentences, which makes it easier to remember some great ideas from it. Also, this book is very interesting and inspiring, but in a realistic, down-to-earth way.

2. It includes science-based information

There are many non-fiction books out there that are, at least, partly fiction – especially in the personal development category. Fortunately, this book isn’t one of those. Clear often references science-based information to explain how to build good habits. This obviously gives the book credibility and renders it more useful for you.

3. It gives practical advice

Some books talk about interesting topics by sharing the stories of others. While such stories are easy to read and prove a point, they often have no practical value for us. However, you’ll find that Atomic Habits often includes more practical advice that helps you think about how to act on it.

4. Clear’s perspective on success

Many motivational authors or speakers sell us an idea of success that is more a fairytale that we cannot reach than a reality we can experience. James Clear does the opposite of that – he makes us understand that big goals are not enough and that ultimately, what matters most is what we do. He emphasizes the importance of consistency, small improvements and identity change. He offer a much more down-to-earth perspective, that still manages to inspire you.

What I don’t like about Atomic Habits

1. It hasn’t lead to any changes in my life (yet)

I honestly believe that Atomic Habits is a great self-help book. It gives a lot of good advice and it changed the way I think about habits and success. However, it hasn’t lead to an actual change in how I behave every day – at least, not yet.

Of course, this is my personal experience and things could be very different for you. After all, an author can only give us good advice and tell us how to act, but it’s up to us to choose what we do with that information.

My problem is that I often need more than a great piece of advice to change. I also need to understand how to change. For example, I understood that I should focus on building the habits I need to achieve my goals.

But what if I don’t know which habits those are?

What if I have no idea how much time to devote to each habit I have to build?

And ultimately, how should we choose a worthy goal?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither clueless, nor lazy. I simply wish we could have a blueprint for how to do research to determine how to set a goal that is wort pursuing, how to learn what matters most, how make those 1% daily improvements and so on.

Of course, I don’t think this is necessarily a flaw of the book or the author. Maybe the questions I have won’t be answered in any book because even authors are human. Maybe they don’t have a system for everything that they can pass on to us and that applies to all of us.

Either way, I still think this book was valuable to me and I will try to apply the information I learned. I just need to think about how to do that…

Quotes from Atomic Habits

“Habits form based on frequency, not time.”

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

“Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.”

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

“Your habits shape your identity and then your identity shapes your habits.”

“The 4 laws of habits:

1. Make it obvious

2. Make it attractive

3. Make it easy

4. Make it satisfying”

“Winners and losers have the same goals.”

“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

Should You Read Atomic Habits?

Yes. You should read Atomic Habits if you are struggling to reach your goals or be successful and have no idea what to change. The book will be useful to you if you want to develop better habits, quit bad ones or find ways to motivate yourself more. If you are interested in becoming  a better version of yourself, this book can help you get started. And frankly, I think Atomic Habits is one of the best self-help books out there.

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