Crisp and persuasive.
Atomic Habits, written by James Clear, is a book I’ll keep going back to.
For lasting change in your behaviour and habits, this book can be your handbook. I adored it quite a bit, and decided to curate 5 lessons that were close to my heart after reading the book.
If you’d like to read a spoiler-free review, that was it!
You can take an exit from this article right here and return later after finishing your copy of Atomic Habits!
But if not, here we go.
Here are 5 lessons I learnt from Atomic Habits.
1. Design your identity before your goals.
Behavior that is incongruent with the self will not last.
It’s fantastic to have goals, they keep us driven and they keep us moving. But if a goal is not the result of a self-aware and strong core of our identity and beliefs, it’s hard to keep us fueled when the going gets rough. There’s a key difference between ‘I want to have a fit body’ Vs ‘I am the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts and eats healthy’. We need to take time to sit with ourselves and understand who we are and who we want to be and embody those beliefs every time we walk, every time we take a breath. Our actions must reflect who we are. Goals that are motivated by short-term gains have the possibility of being reversed if we aren’t paying deep attention to who we want to be, even after the goal is achieved. Because we don’t just want to achieve goals, do we? We want a lasting lifestyle that feels comfortable and exciting to wear on our skin, and is a representation of who we are. When we go through the grueling task of self reflection and become hyper-aware of who we want to be, that’s the first step to eventually become that person. Then it’ll come to us, what kind of habits are a worthy pursuit, and what mountains are worth climbing. It’ll be the ones that are born from the fiery blaze of self-awareness of our identity, our values, our beliefs, our very core.
2. There is immense value in community.
One of the most effective things you can do to build habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
Our family bought a treadmill 8 years ago, and it had been used for a total of 8 times since. During The Quarantine of 2020® , we were all boxed in together and my father decided to start using it. Two weeks later, I added cardio everyday as well, then my sister and mother who both never had prior workout experience or inclinations also jumped on the bandwagon and we all have been consistently wearing out the treadmill for several weeks now. We’re practically queuing up for it!
On the other hand, during my University there was a very prevalent slacking off culture which was the opposite of the kind of mindset I wanted to have. So although I started off as extremely driven and enthusiastic, in my quest to belong at college, my spirit got diluted and I found myself to have become an apathetic, low-effort version of myself, that I absolutely loathed. Community has immense power. We feed off of each other’s habits, and their energy inspires ours. Human beings are soft creatures who just want to belong. And belonging in a culture that already manifests the behavior we want, vitalizes us and helps us access the untapped potential within us.
Other good evidence of sustaining habits while feeling fulfilled are making friends at your local gym or zumba class, joining a book club, studying at the library with a group, or joining piano lessons.
If all we want to do is belong, let’s belong in a culture that is right for us.
Find your people, and grow together. It is nothing short of magical.
3. Keep it simple, take it easy.
When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do, because habits are the entry point not the end point.
Ambition is a rare and fierce emotion, and it is all but natural to set high expectations for ourselves. But that makes the activation threshold much higher for momentum. Momentum, once it attains the invincible strength of a hundred thousand stallions, it pushes a habit to exceptional heights. The best way to gain momentum is to maintain a streak. So, all we need to do to gain speed is to keep showing up, every damn day. Showing up everyday, without fail, becomes far more important than how intensive the activity is. So keep it simple, and take it easy!Set up mini habits that are so easy to swallow that you wouldn’t face any resistance to do so. It could be just wearing your shoes, and unfurling the yoga mat. It could be just plugging your piano, and playing just one song. If our gateway habit takes less than 5 minutes and is as easy as drinking water, a beautiful thing called momentum comes into play again. And you might just end up sweating it out for 40 minutes or practice Beethoven's full discography. Just keep showing up, that’s the mantra. And to squash any resistance to show up, design your gateway habits to be simple and easy.
4. Visually track your habits.
Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures provide clear evidence of your progress.
Our brains get that dopamine hit in anticipation of getting what we desire. So, it’s absolutely imperative for us to keep our brain happy while we’re trying to change our lives, and as a thank you, the brain will give us a much needed boost of motivation, inspiration, drive, and whatnot. It’s useful to visually track our goals either through a habit tracker, or by any other creative means. My fine, inventive sister has been dropping a coffee bean in a jar for every chapter she studies for her ferocious entrance exams for medical school. It’s incredibly motivating for her to see how far she’s already come and it keeps her burning the midnight oil. Even the soft plop of dropping the coffee bean in the jar, the sound of her accomplishing another chunk of her goal, brings her joy and keeps her energized to do more. The sweet aroma of coffee doesn’t hurt either!So marry yourself to your very own custom ritual for a goal that’s important to you. Seeing how far you’ve already come, will propel you to do more, and will make it less likely for you to miss days.
5. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward!
The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements.
So you missed a day, that snowballed into a week, a month, a year. You’ve started
several times and failed, so what’s the point? Actually, the self loathing, the berating, the punishing cause way more damage than the act of missing itself! That’s the main reason you seem to have gotten stuck in a cycle. Try this. Just forgive yourself. For everything, for the big stuff, the slacking off, the past failures, the imperfections, everything. And bounce back again. Why be trapped in the miseries of our making? Simply forgive, and cut yourself lose. You can try again. You’re doing this for you, this change in lifestyle is for you. And change needs to feel wonderful and freeing for you. So, give yourself the permission to take this journey slowly and make it as enjoyable for you as you can.
So, there it is. I’ve been implementing these directives to build a strong, solid morning routine. I’ve been using the habit-stacking technique to finish a chain of tasks. And so far, they’ve shown tremendous results. But as James Clear says, there’s no finish line. There’s just continuous improvements done incrementally, that leads to lasting change.
This review, in no way, is a comprehensive summary. The book has so much more to offer, and is one you would keep returning to, to tweak, readjust, and fine-tune your habits, your very lifestyle. I wholeheartedly recommend you read the book as well, and not use this article as a substitute.
Five stars! Definitely a book you can get a lot out of, and recommend you read at least once in your life.