Home books Atomic Habits by James Clear: Why I Recommend It

Atomic Habits by James Clear: Why I Recommend It

by Marianne Navada
atomic habits book review

Title: Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones | Author: James Clear | 2018

What I love most about the book is how the author connects habits with self identity and clarity. When we think of habits not as things to do, but as processes that define who we are, they make sense. With a clear understanding of what our habits mean to our lives and what we want to get out of them, we are more likely to stick to them. As a result, we keep habits that serve us and get rid of those that don’t. 

After establishing how habits and the self align, the author provides tips/strategies, whether you want to take on new habits or get rid of existing ones. I’ll briefly discuss the ones I have already tried and those I’m excited to try. 

Here are 3 the three main concepts that stand out

  1. Habits are tied to your identity. They change who you are. 
  2. When habits are tied to identity, small changes become big changes because they are meaningful. 
  3. Habits are more than just end goals. Rather, for habits to work, integrate them into a system.

Quotes from the book

Habits are about “becoming someone”. This is why habits are tied to our identity.

Each habit is like a suggestion: “Hey, maybe this is who I am.”…If you practice playing the guitar, perhaps you are the type of person who likes music.

Each habit not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start to believe you can actually accomplish these things. When the votes mount up and the evidence begins to change, the story you tell yourself begins to change as well.

The focus should always be on becoming that type of person, not getting a particular outcome.

Each time you start a workout, you are an athlete.

Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it actually is big. That’s the paradox of making small improvements.

Small habits don’t add up. They compound. 

It is a simple two-step process: Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the process that lead to those results.

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course. We often say yes to little requests because we are not clear enough about what we need to be doing instead. When your dreams are vague, it’s easy to rationalize little exceptions all day long and never get around to the specific things you need to do to succeed.

Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. 


Here are strategies from the book that I want to highlight:

  • Habit stacking: “One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.” Here’s an example: “After I [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
  • Two-Minute Rule: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. This makes the habit painless to start. “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”

The book notes that “habits are the entry point, not the end point.” To set an example, the author tells the story of how a renowned dancer ritualized going to the gym every morning. More than going to the gym, the act of putting on her work out clothes and hailing a cab has become the ritual

I practice yoga at home but do like to go to a yoga studio a few times a week. To get myself to the studio, the ritual has become putting the yoga pants at 11:30 AM and take my car out of the driveway for a noon class. 

  • Paper-clip strategy: “this strategy provides a physical and visual way to feel small victories. Place a bunch of paper clips in on container and when you accomplish a task you set out to do, move one paperclip to another container.
  • Goldilocks Rule: “The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.” 

I have used this strategy when I started learning to play the guitar. I would slow down the tempo and would only focus on playing 3 notes in sequence. Pretty, soon, from 3 notes at 40% speed, I was playing the entirety of a song at tempo.  

I recommend this book not only for someone who wants to take control of their habits, but for introspection. For me, it provides another avenue to answer the question: who am I?

Commit to living.