Book Club – Atomic Habits by James Clear

Book: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results Atomic Habits

Publishing Year: 2018

About the Author: James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit creation, is the author of Atomic Habits, a #1 New York Times bestseller which has sold in over 4 million copies worldwide. The creator of the Habit Journal and The Habits Academy, and the publisher of the 3-2-1 newsletter, James writes about habits, decision making, and continuous improvement, and is a frequent speaker at major companies and events.

Growth Is A Journey book review consists of a series of questions and answers, intended to represent 1-2 key nuggets of insights from the book, as well as personal takeaways with an invitation for readers to discover the book in its entirety.

Key message of the Book: Atomic Habits provides a receipt for success in life via the habits we develop or break. The entire philosophy of the book is that “your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits” and that we should always be in the pursuit of a 1% improvement: “If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.” If understood and implemented, the laws and systems around habit creation will result in changes that even if they “seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

The Four Laws of Behavior Change “Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying” – are decoded by James Clear via a mixture of real-life examples and stories, and science-based insights and findings. Good habits are not the result of willpower but of the systems we put in place; likewise, we can put tools, strategies and systems in place to break bad habits by making them “invisible, unattractive, hard or unsatisfying”: “When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

What to know before reading: The book is a step-by-step plan for developing good habits and breaking bad ones. After going through some Fundamentals on the compounding power of small changes, James Clear delves into the four laws of habits, which can be applied to develop or break habits.

To make it more concrete, as an example, the 1st Law section starts with a chapter titled The Man Who Didn’t Look Right. It starts with a story of a paramedic who during a family event said to her father-in-law that he didn’t look right. Jokingly, he replied: “Well, I don’t like your looks, either.” She insisted that her father-in-law goes to the hospital, and a few hours later, he was undergoing lifesaving surgery. Her daughter-in-law’s intuition had saved him. After several other examples of similar accurate predictions, James Clear lays out the theory that “with enough practice, you can pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it. Automatically, your brain encodes the lessons learned through experience“. In other words, “the more automatic a behavior becomes, the less likely we are to consciously think about it“. If we want to change a behavior, we need to increase our awareness. Two tools are offered for this purpose: a “point-and-call” system to verbalize our actions and therefore move from non-consciousness to consciousness; and a “habits scorecard” to track our habits, be it good, bad or neutral. Both tools will enable a better acknowledgement of engrained habits and their associated cues, a starting point in firming up a habit or breaking it.

Throughout the book, the reader will be discovering insights and research-based principles around the science of habits, with James Clear drawing on ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience, and on real-life examples.

Biggest personal learning from the book: Key personal learning was the idea that a habit can be successfully created or replaced not based on sheer willpower but on the tools, strategies and practices we develop around that habit – and this has application in both our personal and professional lives. The book makes it obvious how success around our behaviors has nothing to do with our personality or motivation, it simply comes down to our systems and understanding the Four Laws of behavior change.

One specific learning from the book: A point made in the book is around one of the best ways to start a new habit, called habit stacking. This is the practice of pairing a new habit with a current habit: “After [current habit], I will [new habit]”. The habit stacking enables building a new habit by creating a structure and a routine benefiting from the momentum created from the existing behavior, which becomes a cue for the new habit. For instance, “After I exercise in the morning, I will meditate for five minutes” can lead to a new routine on meditating.

How is this book different from other leadership books: The book was recommended to me as one of the best personal development books out there. It didn’t disappoint – it’s a very powerful guide, offering practical wisdom, tools and strategies to build good habits and stop bad ones.

Additional resources: For more details Books | James Clear

Atomic Habits Resources | James Clear

Source/Credit: Atomic Habits (Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear)

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