Book Review: Atomic Habits

October 5, 2021

I'm Abby

Filling my days with joy, adventure, and chasing my dreams without feeling burnt out. Read on for how I make it happen and how you can, too!

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James Clear’s book Atomic Habits offers practical advice on how to implement habits that stick and bring about the change you’re seeking. Big changes don’t happen overnight. They take time and are made up of many small steps. Most of us already know this. Clear breaks down some of the more complicated science and psychology behind habits into clear, easy to understand language.

He made several key points that I agree with, and one that I definitely do not! In this book review of Atomic Habits, I’ll share the five concepts that stood out to me the most. If this book has been sitting on your shelf for awhile, I hope my review will inspire you to pick it up and give it a read.

Book cover of Atomic Habits
Atomic Habits – my favorite lessons from the book.

Lesson 1: Small habits, small wins, make a big difference and are important

Imagine if you woke up this morning with an amazing new vision for how to live your life that would make you happier. You decide to take action. You make the big change that day. And from then on you are imminently happier. Sounds so easy right?

We all know it doesn’t happen that way. Big changes don’t get done in one day. We recognize we want to change something in our lives.  Then it takes consistent, repeated action. Often that action changes and develops as we make progress. This is why habits are so important. The consistent, small steps are what add up and lead to the big changes we seek.

Clear breaks down exactly how to start a new habit, how to stick with it and keep yourself motivated. I found a lot of the science behind building habits very informative and helpful. The concept of breaking down big actions into smaller tasks is the same philosophy I used to develop my action plan framework. This is why I picked up the book in the first place! I knew gaining a better understanding of habits would benefit how I break down a goal.

{Read more about this starting on page X}

Lesson 2: We are at peak motivation when working on tasks that are not too hard, not too easy, just right

Clear calls this the Goldilocks Rule. I love this idea! How often do you say, next week I will start eating healthy. Monday rolls around and you have no idea how to eat healthy. Your new habit is now overwhelming, complicated, and hard. So you don’t take any action and stick to eating your normal, not so healthy meals. {I’m raising my hand over here!}

This is a great example of not simplifying our action enough. If we really want to eat healthy, we need to break the idea down into a task that is not too hard, not too easy.   We have to find that sweet spot, that Goldilocks spot, so that we are confident and capable to take the action.

{Read more about this starting on page 231}

Lesson 3: Your greatest motivation is present you

You are given a choice between two tasks. The first option would not affect you at all for a whole year, but in a year, you would achieve the thing you most desire. The second option would make you immeasurably happy right away. Which one are you picking, future satisfaction or immediate gratification?

More often than not, we will pick the second option. Humans are motivated by satisfying the needs and desires we have in the present. It’s a lot harder to convince ourselves to work at something that shows no results, no change, for a long time.

This lesson connects to lesson two. We need to break down the goal better so that we can see the present impact. This will help us stay motivated. When we’re motivated we take action and make consistent progress. When we see the positive affect right away, we stay motivated. It’s all connected!

{Read more about this starting on page 189}

Lesson 4: Our actions are rooted in what we believe about ourselves

This message echoed many of the same principles Simon Sinek writes about in his book Start With Why. (I’ll have to write a future book review on this one, too). I am a huge fan of Sinek and his concept of Why. It’s no wonder this lesson from Clear stuck out for me.

His point is, we will do the things we believe we are supposed to do based on the identify we carry. For example, all through high school I defined myself as not a runner. I couldn’t complete the warm up lap without walking. Even in my early twenties, after completing a 5K, I still defined myself as not a runner. Not being a runner was my identity. This is what prevented me from ever considering running a marathon. It wasn’t until I started to redefine my identity, to say I am a runner, that I considered running a marathon.

Your identity may be limiting you or holding you back for any number of reasons. There is a whole separate blog post I could write about the limiting beliefs we hold. I will write it one day! This lesson reminded me, sometimes the things we want the most exist beyond the identity we are most comfortable with. We need to think bigger and bolder and get a bit uncomfortable. It is in this space we realize the potential of our big dream goals.

Sometimes the things we want the most exist beyond the identity we are most comfortable with.

Abby Myette – Abby Lee Coaching

{Read more about this starting on page 32}

Now, as promised, there is one message from Clear that I do not agree with.

Lesson 5: Forget about goals, focus on systems.

Clear argues that goals only bring about momentary change. If we want to achieve long lasting change, we need to change the systems we use. I disagree!

Goals can be life changing. Each goal we set and achieve, creates the space for the next goal. The next goal wouldn’t be possible without the one before it. Goal setting is all about creating new opportunities and new possibilities for yourself. If your goal is connected to a momentary change, that’s okay, too!

What we need to focus on is the plan we develop and follow to achieve whatever goals we have. Big or small. Life altering or momentary revision. Goal setting is what pushes us further and encourages us to see more, do more, learn more.

{Read more about this starting on page 25}

Clear’s overall message of many small steps, tiny changes, that add up and lead to big results resonated with me. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for tips to take meaningful action. And it doesn’t hurt that we both attend Denison University. Go Big Red!

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  1. […] can be strong. Over time, routines become automatic responses. Your routines become habits. As author James Clear reminds us “Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” […]

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I'm Abby

Filling my days with joy, adventure, and chasing my dreams without feeling burnt out. Read on for how I make it happen and how you can, too!

categories

avoiding burnout

time management

finding joy

mindset

popular posts

Signs of Burnout

Time Management Tips

Celebrate Your Progress

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