Clear’s well-constructed and practical book teaches a lesson we probably all know; small steps lead to big changes, but in breaking down how habits are made and how habits are cemented, he lays a solid foundation for the concepts behind the common-sense guide.
Key takeaways include re-examining how we look at goals; rather than focusing on setting goals, Clear suggests we need to pay attention to the system we put in place for the end result.
If, for example, your goal is to build a million-dollar business, your system is to test product ideas, hire employees, and run marketing campaigns. If you completely ignored your goal and focused only on your system, would you still succeed? Clear suspects you would. Other takeaways include examining your environment and seeing whether it’s the right one for you to implement new habits. If you want to avoid watching TV, he says, unplug it; trying to avoid social media, then put your phone out of reach. He also points out how new habits can be formed in short periods of time – just two minutes of exercise a day, he says, is manageable and can set you up for a lifelong fitness habit. Mindset matters and tips to make things stick include telling yourself you are the person who’s emerged from taking on a new habit, for example, ‘I don’t smoke’, not, ‘I’m giving up smoking’.
Clear also recommends you reward yourself when you do something you want to make a habit. And learn to habit stack; identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behaviour on top. If you have coffee when you wake, layer on your desired new habit: ‘After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.’ There’s loads more advice, research and practical tips to help you, ultimately, live a better life. And for ongoing support and inspiration, visit jamesclear.com to sign up for his email and to read his articles.
Atomic Habits by James Clear (Penguin Books, £15.99)