Atomic Habits by James Clear
Review by Ionatan Waisgluss
The psychological self-help genre has long been a favourite of mine. The genre gets a bad rap, and that’s understandable—it’s probably the most hit-and-miss genre of them all.
Every now and then, however, you find a book that’s so good you feel the need to share it with others. Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is definitely one of those books.
And if my recommendation for reading this book isn’t enough, dear reader, consider the following. At the time of this writing, Atomic Habits is the #1 most-sold non-fiction book on Amazon… and it’s been on their Top 20 list for 155 weeks already!
Here are some of my favourite takeaways from this book.
Changing Your Habits Is Possible
According to the book’s author, a habit is defined as a routine or practice performed regularly; an automatic response to a specific situation. In other words, our habits are what we tend to do or how we tend to respond.
In Atomic Habits, behavioural science expert and keynote speaker, James Clear, presents an interesting model for understanding habits, which he calls the Habit Loop. This loop consists of cue, craving, response, and reward. Clear argues that by understanding and working on our relationship with each of these four aspects of the Habit Loop, we can make meaningful and large-scale changes in how we live our lives.
Change Is Not All-Or-Nothing
One of the biggest takeaways from this book is that change does not necessarily require a big leap. Just like atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are part of a larger system of decision-making and potential self-improvement.
“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”
Atomic Habits makes use of a number of different analogies and models to drive these ideas home. In fact, Clear refers to habits as “the compound interest of self-improvement” and paints a picture wherein small, incremental changes have the power to take us where we want to go.
Habits Are a Double-Edged Sword
James Clear’s book is as much for someone who is looking to advance their career as it is for someone who is struggling with mental health or addiction. Habits are an important consideration for either of these audiences, as habits are a sort of predictor of our trajectory.
“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits,” he says. “You get what you repeat.”
Over time, our habits can drive us towards success or failure, however we define these for ourselves. This is why habits are so important to consider. For people with good habits, time is our friend. But for people whose habits are harmful or damaging to themselves or others, time can feel like an enemy.
In a way, becoming conscious of our habits and changing them for the better is a way to improve our relationship with time itself.
Understanding The “Habit Loop” Provides Leverage for Change
Changing our habits can seem daunting and inaccessible. I would venture to say that most people who are trying to change a particular habit have tried in the past already. If changing a habit was as easy as snapping out of it, we probably wouldn’t be seeing the mental health and addiction-related crises we’re seeing today.
So, for someone who has tried to change their habits and has not been successful in the past, what can this book offer?
Atomic Habits offers four “laws” or ideas meant to help you make incremental changes to the four parts of the Habit Loop for the desired habit. The ideas of Make It Obvious, Make It Attractive, Make It Easy, and Make It Satisfying are meant to help to ingrain a habit. When trying to curb an unwanted habit, these laws can also be implemented in reverse.
One law that really resonated with me was Make It Easy, the idea of leveraging friction (positive or negative) to move toward or away from a particular habit. You can expect another post soon about increasing or decreasing friction as a way to build or modify your habits, as there’s a lot I could say about this one law alone!
For now, I recommend reading this book, and if you’ve read it, I would love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below.
Ionatan Waisgluss is a writer, educator and web developer living in the qathet region of British Columbia. He is the founder of SquareByte.ca
The Sunshine Coast Health Centre and the Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic are leading facilities in the world of recovery from addictions and mental health. They combine a meaning-and-purpose-based approach with diverse and effective therapies to deliver high-quality care.