Book Review — Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear is the number one book on many booklists presently.  What does this book offer that has resonated with so many people?  Clear’s habit methodology provides a useful framework for routinizing small steps toward achieving greater goals.

Achieving goals

Habit formation supports the achievement of goals.  Change is supported by forming new habits or breaking old ones.  Goals are time-ended, but habits are not necessarily time-ended.  Progress is made in steps, and habits support taking steps.

Habit forming to support goals

“You do not rise to the level of your goals.  You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear

When I think about goals I’ve set and not achieved, I think about weight loss goals.  No matter how aspirational or specific I made the goal, I never achieved lasting weight loss.  As I look back, I realized that the diets I used as tools required gigantic steps and major changes in my lifestyle.  How much better off I might have been if I had focused on taking some smaller steps and building on them—creating habits that I could rely on.  I could have implemented habits for meal planning or worked to break habits like snacking on sweets.  Small steps over time might have resulted in my getting further toward achieving my goal.

Basic habit statement

To form a new habit, Clear suggests pairing it with a specific time and location.  Some examples are “I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my bedroom” or “I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. at my local gym.”

Stacking habits to support habit creation

One of Clear’s techniques is to stack habits—adding a new habit you’re trying to form to an existing habit.  If I already have the habit of making a cup of coffee in the morning, I could stack a new habit of taking my medicines on the first habit.  My habit-forming statement would read “after I make my cup of coffee in the morning, I will take my medicine.”  

Using the environment to support habit creation

Clear also suggests using your environment to help form desired habits.  I could place my medicines next to the coffee maker so that the environment I encounter in the morning supports my habit.  I will see the medicines sitting next to the coffee maker and be prompted to take them.

I highly recommend this book, especially for my coaching clients.  It provides an effective structure for forming lasting habits to support desired change.