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ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear

Date: Jan 28, 2022

ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear

Atomic

  1. an extremely small amount of a thing; the single irreducible unit of a larger system
  2. the source of immense energy or power

Habit

  1. a routine or practice performed regularly; an automatic response to a specific situation”

James starts his book by telling his story – how he suffered a serious injury and ended up in an induced coma as a result of being hit in the face by a baseball bat.  His passion was baseball, and he was an excellent player, but the accident caused him to go all the way back to the beginning.  Throughout it all though, James believed he could still be a good player again but knew that if things were going to improve, it was down to him to make it happen – through the power of small habits.

To start with he built good sleep habits when at university and whilst his peers were going out partying and staying up late, James would go to bed early.  He then moved to keeping his room tidy whilst his peers’ rooms were in a complete mess.  All small incremental habits but as he says in the book “success is the product of daily habits, not once in a lifetime transformation”.

Before I read this book, I thought of habits as always being bad and something difficult to break because they were intrinsically part of you, and therefore a fundamental change in mindset and action was needed.  As James says, “the task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us”.  However, I now realise that there are good habits and that, with systems in place and models to use, it isn’t as hard as I thought!  As he quotes “the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time”.

A lot of the thinking behind the models and techniques detailed in the book are, perhaps unsurprisingly, about behaviour change and beliefs, and building identity-based habits based on who we wish to become.  There is a simple two step method described which is:

  1. decide the type of person you want to be
  2. prove it to yourself with small wins.

Because the real reason that habits matter is not only that they get you better results, but they can also change your own beliefs about yourself. 

The process of building a habit is an interesting one, and as I read the book it resonated with me because it makes complete logical sense!  So, there are four simple steps to the process:

  • cue – something that triggers your brain to instigate or initiate a behaviour

 

  • craving – the motivating force or desire behind every habit, because without it we have no reason to act or make a change

 

  • response – the form of the actual habit you perform i.e., the thought or action

 

  • reward – the end goal of every habit

If in any of the four stages, the behaviour is insufficient then it will not become a habit – all four things need to be met and need to become part of our “habit loop” which is our neurological feedback loop that makes a habit natural to us without thinking. 

The book goes into detail about the various models and techniques that James has implemented but I won’t go into that here, because I think you should read the book yourselves!  Suffice to say that there’s lots of information that made me go “wow – that’s interesting”, “that makes complete sense” or “I can do this”!!!  What I need to do now though is break some bad habits and actually start making use of what I’ve read by building good habits! 

A really great read and I would highly recommend the book.  It’s littered with research and science to add context to the models used and is written in a clear straightforward way with summaries at the end of every chapter – something I personally found very useful!

I’d love to hear what habits you’d like to break or make!!