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Atomic Habits by James Clear

Habits are the things that create our lives. It’s the little things we do every day. Brush our teeth, eat breakfast, watch television. Our lives are basically just the amalgam of our habits. Atomic Habits is a book about the small changes we can make in our lives that will compound and influence our lives in a big way. We are all the things we do. So, if we do good things, we’ll be good as well. It’s as Aristotle has said that virtue is achieved through repetition.

            In this new year, I wanted to put some more effort in my habits. I have always been a quite chaotic person, trying to fit the whole schedule of my day in my head. This never worked out. The things that I wanted to do didn’t get done and the things that I know I shouldn’t do I did. So, I started writing things down in a bullet journal and this helped a lot. But I still slacked at the things that I wanted to do. I didn’t start my new drawing project, or I didn’t consistently write on novel material. It just happened whenever I felt like it, which was almost never. So, creating habits was fundamental in changing the way I behaved.

            James Clear talks about atomic habits, which are those habits that are immensely small but have a huge impact in the long run. Things you only need 5 minutes to do. Draw one line a day. Read one page a day. Those sorts of things. The thing is that it doesn’t matter how long you do something; the important thing is that you do it. I felt this for myself in my reading habit. In 2019 I read 38 books. That’s a decent number, but my reading goal that year was 50 and I didn’t get it. I was bumped out. So, I decided to just at least read one page a day. I could manage that, I thought. It worked out for the better and by the end of 2020 I had read 101 books. Fifty of which were in the last 4 months. Creating that particular habit had skyrocketed my reading without much effort on my part. The hard part is mostly just starting to do something. Once you get over that, the doing is easier.

            Now James Clear gives some tips on how to start good habits and how to stop with bad ones. The first thing to do is to make it obvious. The thing you need to do should be clear. If you need to read a book, put the book somewhere where you always see it, not somewhere deep on a shelf where you have to search for it in order to read it. If you need to run, put your running shoes in front of your door, that way you’ll always be reminded that you need to run.

            The second thing is to make it attractive. Sometimes habits suck. Everyone who has gone for a run for the first time can acknowledge this. But if you try to link it with something attractive, then it might be easier to do. For example, if I run for 10 minutes now, I’m allowed to play video games afterwards. That way you’ll be motivated to do the habit and you’ll be rewarded.

            The third thing is to make it easy. The example of one page a day is applicable here. If you make it easy to do then you’ll do it every day. Set the bar low enough. It’s like when you need to clean your room. It might be total garbage. But if you take away one piece of trash every day, then before you know it you will have a clean room. Making it easy, makes sure the habits are done.

            The last thing is to make it satisfying. If you like doing the thing, then you’ll keep doing it. That’s pretty much a no brainer. Link good things with habits you don’t want to do. That way you can reward yourself for doing a thing you don’t like doing. It builds character.

            Nearly all of these things are kind of obvious when you think about it. There isn’t that much information that is brand new. It’s as if you knew everything already in a certain way, but sometimes you just need someone to say it. You might know something is off in the meal you have made, but it isn’t until someone says what’s wrong with it that you’ll actually understand it. I have the same feeling with this book. And for that, this book was a hugely impactful book. It made me more aware of my habits and how I should change them and use them to improve my life. I can highly recommend this book to those wanting to have a better hold on their lives.

By elenchusphilosophy

I'm a Philosophy student in Belgium, trying to talk and write about ideas of all kinds of sorts.

One reply on “Atomic Habits by James Clear”

I’ve learned to read Chinese and to juggle the Atomic Habits way, and that’s by doing small steps every day—so small that I don’t feel the resistance in starting.

But it all adds up, and now I can read pretty decently, as well as juggle too! So yeah, this has worked for me more than any ‘intense training style’ ever did.

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