Atomic Habits was one of the first few books that I read when I started getting into reading. I figured I should know how to build that habit in the first place. I knew the book was about how small changes would make big differences in the long run just based on the cover. But what I wasn’t expecting was a scientific and systematic approach to habit change
Admittedly, the author immediately won my trust over from the introduction. Hearing his story of a life-changing injury and how he had to learn the systems for habit change through practice to better his life suddenly made me feel more connected to the contents of the book.
But even with this aside, James Clear cuts directly into the heart of the matter. The beginning of the book talks about his philosophy towards habit change. This may seem simple but the idea is important to understand the system he created. As you could imagine, the most important element of his philosophy is the idea of small changes leading to big results.
This only really struck me though when he talked about the idea of compounding. He asked what it would be like to improve a skill 1% per day. After a year, you’ll be over 35 times better than it. And on the flip side if you get 1% worse at something per day, after a year you’ll be practically close to 0. It’s simple numbers, but seeing it illustrated really sold me on the idea of making small improvements.
So what differentiates this book from others? I’m not aware of other popular habit-building books other than The Power of Habit. While I may read that in the future and update this review, Clear actually does mention the system created in that book, particularly Cue, Response, and Reward. However, he sees Atomic Habits as an update to that model based on new findings in psychological and behavioral research.
The pattern that Clear uses is Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward. What Clear does is add the internal component of craving to the system. Clear breaks up the book into parts analyzing each component of this system. In each part, you’ll understand the behavior driving your actions, and how you can instantly use your own psychology to your advantage to build good habits and get rid of bad ones, particularly by modifying your environment.
I think why I picked this as a must-read comes down to the simplicity of Clear’s writing. For the average person, including myself, it’s hard to understand and have the perspective necessary to drive good behavior and eliminate bad habits, even when we say we want to. Most often we try to just will ourselves into radical changes that don’t last.
Clear explains the philosophy behind each part of the system and what you need to do at this moment to make the changes you want. He’s not selling you on some big idea of huge changes like some dramatic motivation video. Instead you can just make small tweaks to your environment to naturally support yourself to change in long-run. He gives you the power to construct the habits you want. If simple knowledge like this were in the hands of everyone, I couldn’t imagine the power we have to change ourselves into the individuals we want to become.
There’s a host of resources to learn Clear’s teachings. You can order the book yourself on Amazon my affiliate link here if you’d like. Clear also runs a newsletter on his website jamesclear.com where you can find the same great content. I wish you the best in making the changes in your life to succeed in your goals.