James Clear is a writer who primarily started off writing articles at Jamesclear.com. His articles are well written, digestible and practical. His bestselling book atomic habits can help anyone break bad habits and build effective ones.
As of writing this article (April 2022), we have more opportunities and all of the information we could possibly need within our grasp than at any other time in history.
And yet many of us find it hard to make positive changes in our lives and realise our full potential.
At the heart of this unrealised potential lies our habits. In the long run, the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our habits.
Here are my top 7 takeaways from Atomic Habits by James Clear.
1. ” Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be “.
We have choices at every moment. Some better, and some worse. If we can make better choices more than we make worse ones. Our lives can go on an upwards trajectory.
Think about how you spend your time. Could you swap some bad choices for good choices? For example, if you’re trying to lose weight you could:
- Swap the elevator for the stairs.
- Walk instead of driving if it’s only a short journey.
- Swap the cheese for a lower-fat cheese.
- Eat the piece of fruit instead of the chocolate bar.
- Swap the junk food for whole foods.
- Swap the 3-5 unhealthy meals with 3 healthy meals made up of whole foods rich in protein, carbohydrates and some dietary fat, also include 2 snacks (preferably fruit) in between the 3 meals.
These seemingly insignificant changes can result in you having a greater energy expenditure (you’ll burn more calories) and a lower caloric intake ( you’ll eat fewer calories) resulting in a higher chance of weight loss in the long term by putting you in a calorie deficit.
Of course, you’d need to stick with these good habits for weeks/ months but you should make remarkable progress in the long run.
Or if your goal is to go from reading no books to reading more books you could:
- Buy an amazon kindle (this small choice provides a neverending supply of books to become a perpetual learner).
- Read for 10 minutes upon waking and read for 10 minutes before going to sleep.
- Reading during your rest intervals when you’re working out at the gym.
If you think about it, we can always find pockets of downtime to read throughout our daily lives.
Good Habits Can Bring Us Closer To the Person We Want To Be, Bad Habits Drift Us Further Away From Our Realised Selfs
James compares making better or worse choices to an aeroplane taking off. If the aeroplane takes off on a slightly different trajectory and sticks to this wrong trajectory it can find itself at a completely different destination than first intended.
Our daily habits and choices are like that as well. By making the right choices we can see tangible success relatively quickly and eventually reach our goals. Whereas the wrong habits and choices can lead us down a road of unhappiness, anxiety, idleness and mediocrity the place where we don’t want to be.
2. “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”
By reading 30 minutes every day, over time you can become an expert in almost anything.
Exercising 45 minutes several times per week over a sustained period can transform your body.
Investing 10% of your salary every month throughout your life can result in amazing returns due to compound interest.
Just an hour or two of writing every day over the long term can produce a legacy of work.
For example, John McPhee only writes 500 words every day which takes around an hour. And he’s published 29 books, 2 of which have national book award nominations!
Small changes add up to extraordinary results. They can also work against you. For example, bad habits like smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol increase your likelihood of succumbing to disease.
Make sure you make the changes that matter. And stick with them long enough to see extraordinary results.
3. ” Our dreams may influence what we’re capable of, but our habits will ultimately determine what kind of lives we live. “
Merely thinking about what we want to achieve can be helpful. But it’s the habits we build that lead to the realisations of our goals and dreams.
The trick is to set a goal, then forget about it and focus entirely on the systems that will result in the achievement of that goal.
If you want to lose 20-30 pounds because you’re overweight, then you’d need to focus on eating in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn) and exercising several times per week.
If your goal is to build a blog, try writing a minimum of 500 words every day.
You get the point.
Thinking that we’re going to achieve this or that, Is radically different to building and sticking to the systems needed to achieve x goal.
4. ” Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change. “
In any system where you have an intended goal, know that we reap what we sow.
The more you write the better writer you become.
The more you strength train the stronger you get.
The more you ( insert X activity) the better you get at it.
Steven Pressfield puts this nicely in his book the war of art:
” A territory can only be claimed by work. When Arnold Schwarzenegger hits the gym, he’s on his own turf. But what made it his own are the hours and years of sweat he put in to claim it. A territory doesn’t give, it gives back. A territory returns exactly what you put in. Territories are fair. Every erg of energy you put in goes infallibly into your account. A territory never devalues. A territory never crashes. What you deposited, you get back, dollar-for-dollar. “
In the book ” so good they can’t ignore you ” Cal Newport says how much experience you have in a given field/ profession is career capital.
For example, the more you write the more career capital you have in the writing profession. And the more career capital you have, the more you’re rewarded.
Essentially in any activity that we get better at the more capital, we build up over time in that activity/ profession or field. And over a sustained period, the more career capital you have the more remarkable the results will be.
Because in most economies it’s the people who are the best at what they do, and who provide the most value, that are rewarded the most.
It all starts by doing the work every day which is the result of habits and systems.
5. “Small habits helped me fulfill my potential, and since you picked up this book, I’m guessing you’d like to fulfill yours as well.”
You can’t argue with James on this one. He’s living proof good habits build a good life. He says on his website how it all started off, just publishing 2 articles a week. And within years he’s had a positive impact on millions of people.
This book is extremely well researched and everything is evidence-based.
6. ” When you make your bed each day, you embody the identity of an organized person. When you write each day, you embody the identity of a creative person. When you train each day, you embody the identity of an athletic person. “
Whatever type of person we wish to be, we can only become that type of person through habits and systems. The more you write the more of a writer you become, the more you make your bed the more of an organised person you become.
We don’t just magically become the person we say we’ll be. We prove it with actions.
Words are fickle and actions are always more powerful. We should embody the type of person we want to be. Not say it.
As Ralph Waldo Emmerson says:
” Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying. “
This is an important reminder that actions prove who we are above everything else.
7. ” It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.”
Looking for the perfect way to do something, whether that be to lose weight, build muscle or the perfect idea for a side hustle. Not taking action towards those goals in the present is a form of procrastination.
Take action now, but at the same time learn more about whatever you’re doing and you should see progression slowly but surely.
One thing that has helped me become more productive with this blog is prioritising writing every day no matter how perfect or imperfect the articles are. Writing will always be the main thing that I need to accomplish every day the rest of the day I can just play by ear.
Use this approach with whatever goal you may have. If you want to build muscle prioritise getting stronger and eating enough protein and calories above all else.
If you want to lose fat focus on eating in a calorie deficit and building/maintaining your strength above all else.
Some More Of My Favourite Quotes From Atomic Habits By James Clear
” Like the muscles of the body responding to regular weight training, particular regions of the brain adapt as they are used and atrophy as they are abandoned. “
” In a sense, every habit is just an obstacle to getting what you really want. Dieting is an obstacle to getting fit. Meditation is an obstacle to feeling calm. Journaling is an obstacle to thinking clearly.”
” One push-up is better than not exercising. One minute of guitar practice is better than none at all. One minute of reading is better than never picking up a book. It’s better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all. “
The Bottom Line On Why You Should Read Atomic Habits By James Clear
- James is living proof that his advice on habits work. He’s become an extremely succesful writer by embodying effective habits.
- Atomic habits is evidence-based so it’s hard to deny the effectivensss of this book if we apply the advice in our daily lives.
Have you read atomic habits? If you have, let me know in the comments below what you thought about it.