My Rating: 2.5 or 3 stars out of 5 stars
I'm torn over this one. There was a lot good here, but something fell flat for me.
In the plus column, I like and agree with much of the message and the tactics. The book was structured well, flowed pretty easily, and I didn't have trouble skipping past the parts I didn't care about (of which there were many; more on this below).
All that said, this book didn't really click with me. I think it's because I've got fatigue from this genre of popular self-help books that try to weave narratives into a review of cutting-edge science. With a book like this, I don't care that much about the stories. I'm more interested in the advice than another collection of Malcolm Gladwell slice of life tales. The problem, as this book demonstrates, is that if you only got to the advice, you'd have an extended blog post. (That sounds harsher than I mean it to be.)
The practical suggestions themselves are pretty good. If you follow the four-step system, you will probably be better off, which is why I'm not too harsh on the overall message. But, as with most books in this genre, citations of published research in psychology and social science end up being more for social proof than the legitimacy of the ideas.
Since the general public doesn't really get the difference, this kind of work runs the risk of offering conflicting advice. At the bottom of that slippery slope is a bunch of confused people throwing up their hands and yelling to all that "you can find a study to prove anything!" This is already the status-quo in chatter about health and medicine, and now it's creeping its way into sciences of mind.
Worse, I have some reasons to be skeptical of the model of habits and the underlying psychology that Clear builds the book around. As I said, most of the practical implications won't be affected by this. But it still left me feeling like something wasn't quite right.
Still, that's mostly me griping about my own white whale. As a recommendation for others, the book is a good collection of actionable advice, it's an easy read, and it's a good place to dig in if you're new or just want a convenient action-plan to start making changes.
Approach habit-change systematically, whether you're building a new good habit or getting rid of an old bad habit. Obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying activities are more likely to become habitual.
Build systems and structure your environment to create change. Automatic behavior beats good intentions and positive motivation.
Consistency with incremental process wins the race.
BOOK Most liked posts in thread: Atomic Habits, by James Clear (Review & Discussion)
Page 1 of 2
My rating: 3.99* / 5
Atomic Habits is a phenomenal read if you want to change something about your life.
(Hopefully, everybody reading this does...)
This book has it all:
- Actionable advice for changing your habits
- Pragmatic applications to business, fitness, addiction, parenting, reading, writing, meditation... at least part of this book will resonate with you, guaranteed
- Well-crafted stories about the author's own life and others'
- Science and statistics to back his claims up
To get the most out of this book, you obviously need to implement what you learn. So, I am going to start a daily meditation habit as per the guidelines in the book.
- Make it obvious. After I brush my teeth, in the morning and in the evening, I will meditate in my bedroom. (2x per day)
- Make it attractive. Meditation is seen as a positive and attractive habit on this forum and in other self-improvement communities.
- Make it easy. At first, I will only meditate for 1 minute per session. Hardly a challenge, but I want to have a foundation before I expand.
- Make it satisfying. If you've ever meditated before, you know that serene feeling right after. I will also implement habit tracking to make this more satisfying so I'm more likely to repeat it.
Simply put, I some of the concepts already.
Kaizen principle, action taking vs action faking, event vs process, habits dictate lifestyle, and other topics found in Atomic Habits are nothing new to me.
If I hadn't read UNSCRIPTED and TMF already, Atomic Habits would have been much more earth-shattering. And definitely five stars out of five.
Yet, I still recommend this book to everybody. Even if you don't benefit whatsoever from the advice, the book itself is pleasant and entertaining.
Favorite chapter: Chapter 13, Procrastination and the 2-Minute Rule (Make it easy)
- Success, change, and growth result from small, repeated daily habits. Not large one-time events.
- Over time, small habits accumulate compound into grand results. Your current results reflect your past habits. Your current habits indicate your future results. Good habits -> good results. Bad habits -> bad results.
- 1% daily improvement leaves you 3778% better after one year.
- Rather than setting goals, implement habit systems that will get you the results you want.
- When implementing habits, focus on what you want to become instead of focusing on what you want to achieve. We don't stick to habits for the sake of doing them, we do them for how they will change our lives.
- Any habitual human behavior can be simplified to the following feedback loop:
- Cue - Your mind is constantly looking for triggers that it associates with a certain action. "I just got home for work" is the cue for "turn on the TV." The action has to be associated with something positive (e.g. "entertainment") otherwise you will avoid it.
- Craving - Now you are considering the cued action. You grow a desire for the rewards that certain action will bring you.
- Response - Doing the action.
- Reward - We chase rewards because they satisfy our cravings and they teach our ape brains about which actions lead to the best rewards.
- Start searching for the next cue...
- Based on these above four steps, James has developed four rules for building better habits.
- Make it obvious - Fill your environment with cues to perform the action. Associate the habit with a certain time or location. Or, do habit-stacking: "After I do [current habit], I will [new habit]." Environment matters more than motivation.
- Make it attractive - The anticipation of a reward and a dopamine spike is what drives us to act. Your habit must be attractive so that you want to do it. Use temptation bunding, in which you pair an action you want to do with a new habit you are building.
- Make it easy - Humans like to take the course of action which promise the most reward for the least effort. Reduce the friction for habits you are trying to build.
- A foundation for a habit must be established before you improve it.
- When you are starting a new habit, make sure it is something that can be completed in under 2 minutes.
- Ritualize your habit.
- Make it satisfying - Without a satisfying reward, you will not have any craving to complete the action in the future. An easy way to make any habit satisfying is to track and measure your habit. The feeling of making progress is very satisfying and habit tracking will give clear evidence of that progress.
- To break or avoid bad habits, invert the four rules. 1) Make it invisible, 2) Make it unattractive, 3) Make it difficult, and 4) Make it unsatisfying.
- Motivation is highest when we are working at the very edge of our current abilities.
- Once habits are in place, regularly reflect and review your progress and make changes to your systems if you see fit.
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars
This is one of my favorite books that I read last year. Even though there were some concepts inside that I was already aware of, it still felt like a brand new take on everything. If you've read the Power of Habit, then this feels like it supercharges the idea of habit creation. It is well put together, and it flows nicely. I was not familiar with the author before this book but after reading it I had to check him out. Definitely worth a read.
1. Build systems, not goals.
2. The mind is countinuosly analyzing our internal and external enviroment for hints of where rewards are located. After you get the reward it analyzes the preceding actions.
3. Each habit can be learned by taking it down to two minutes. You can also stack habits together.
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars
I loved this book, and I would highly recommend it for a number of reasons.
The message of the book has been delivered in a variety of ways in different books. However that is not a problem, if there was only one way to learn something, then there would be about fifty books in the world and that would be that.
The author is clearly very knowledgeable about habit forming and passes on this knowledge in an easy to digest format. The best thing about the book is the practical advice it gives, so it doesn't just bang on about the theoretical side of habit formation, it gives you easy-to-replicate tools which will help build good habits and break bad ones.
Quite often when I read a book like this I am very enthused as I read it, however am left at a bit of a loss once finished, only to have the information disappear from my head within weeks of reading it.
Habits is different because it gives you techniques that are extremely easy to replicate and tailor to your own needs. For instance Clear talks about a technique called Habit Stacking, whereby you put a habit that you want to engage in, on top of one you already do. In order to do this, you need to list all of the habits you have. This simple exercise has changed my mornings, and I have now incorporated a couple of habits that I've been trying to get started for a while now.
Favourite chapter:- Motivation Is Overrated: Environment Often Matters More
It's hard to pick out a favourite chapter because they're all so great. However I've gone with this one because it had some pretty big revelations for me. The first being that people whom I look up to as having laser like focus and bags of motivation, don't have any more reserves of will power than me!
In fact, these people have simply learned how to control and manipulate their environment so that they don't have to use willpower. In fact, Clear tells us that willpower is not a long-term strategy, rather it is a short-term solution.
Understanding how to manipulate an environment to suit your needs is key to becoming really successful, and until James Clear put it in that way, I hadn't really got it.
- Key takeaway #1 - The habit process can be hijacked and bent to my will.
- Key takeaway #2 - Willpower is a short-term strategy and should not be relied upon to help you carry out the tasks you need to get done.
- Key takeaway #3 - Habits form your identity, we are all essentially products of our habits. Therefore when changing a habit, or creating a new one, we are changing our identity.
- Key takeaway #4 - It is possible to build a whole new suite of habits using very simple techniques.
- Key takeaway #5 - There is a "valley of disappointment" that we all go through when starting a new habit. This is whereby our expected progress does not match our actual progress, therefore this is where most people give up. Clear gives us mental tricks to help navigate this valley and thus achieve success.
If you are the sort of person that naturally finds it easy to motivate themselves, then you will probably not get as much out of this book as I did.
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
(Removed a star because of bad behavior, explained towards the end in review)
It's hard to give atomic habits a bad rating when it does deliver on a discussion of habits, and it made me think.
The book uses a kitchen sink approach to cover the topic of habits from many angles.
I do feel the book way too long in some places and not nearly enough in others.
Over half the book was devoted to fleshing out the statements made in this published cheat sheet.
Read the cheat sheet for yourself, do you really need a chapter dedicated to each strategy? They're not very complex to understand.
Maybe my viewpoint is skewed because I've been actively working on my lifestyle for years now in pursuit of health and the fastlane. Through that experience you naturally come across these strategies.
Take implementation intention and habit stacking for example. This is obvious stuff.
My implementation intention is basically when I wake up I will immediately do some breath yoga. The "Cue" for the habit is waking up.
My habit stacking is that after the breath yoga, i will do some meditation, then i will do some calisthenics, then some cardio, then ill take a shower.
I mean this stuff is just common sense, of course it's easier to do some cardio after calisthenics, and then hop in the shower. It's simply logical.
It makes sense to get this stuff done upon waking up so it doesn't hang over your head the rest of the day.
Anyways... moving on.
He uses a ton of anecdotes in every chapter as a real world example for each strategy in the cheat sheet. It's all padding for sure, but I am a sucker for cool stories so I don't mind and i can only imagine how much drier the book would be without the stories.
After the cheat sheet portion of the book, it delves into an "Advanced" discussion.
In this advanced section the author leaves the cheat sheet framework and the book opens up a bit to cover concepts ranging from the Lakers coach's "Career Best Effort" strategy for his team, all the way to some quotations of Tao Te Ching.
He also throws in a bit of the David Goggins mentality in there just in case all else fails, like "Fall in love with boredom", "accept suffering", that type of deal.
I feel like the advanced section should have been the meat of the book, and the cheat sheet portion should have stayed short.
How are you gonna have a whole chapter about habit stacking, and only like a page about Tao Te Ching.
The author clearly mentions that self awareness and identity are a crucial aspect in habit development. This is the first big point he makes in the book, but he barely mentions it again until far later in the book, and only briefly.
I wish the whole book was about how self awareness and desired identity influences lifestyle. That would have been more interesting to me.
Anyways... moving on.
At the very end of the book there was an Appendix section, where he went over random "wisdom like" statements and a paragraph or 2 explaining them to further fill in the cracks so to speak. I feel like this entire section should have just been integrated into the rest of the book.
For every statement, i kept thinking where in the cheat sheet it would fit.
Here's a few of them:
1)Awareness comes before desire.
2)Happiness is simply the absence of desire.
3)It is the idea of pleasure that we chase.
4)Emotions drive behavior.
5)Suffering drives progress.
I THINK YOU GET THE IDEA...
All in all i think there's a cognitive dissonance type of issue at play here.
The cheat sheet strategies for forming habits are all about making it obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying. But later the author concedes that sometimes inevitably you hit a point where it's not attractive, easy, satisfying, and not very obvious how to proceed. And that's where you just push through anyway, push through to greatness.
Towards the end in the "advanced" portion of the book, the author talks about the "Downsides of creating good habits", and that you must reflect periodically to see where you're at as a person overall.
So wouldn't it be better to cultivate an identity based on constant reflection and self awareness to achieve your goals versus implementing various strategies.
Maybe that was the author's ultimate message, i honestly don't know.
I'm gonna provide my own anecdote which made me start questioning the "easiness" approach to habit forming.
Whenever i do my 40 minute meditation, I set the timer on my phone to 40 minutes and put an ambient music track on youtube that plays a bell sound every 10 minutes.
I've found the 10 minute bell sound was very helpful in motivating me to stay meditating, and even though i've planned to eventually wean myself off that and meditate in silence, it wasn't a priority.
This time though, my phone battery was almost dead, it would be enough for the timer, but not enough for streaming the youtube video.
So i was like okay, no problem, ill charge the phone for an hour or 2 and read atomic habits for now.
While reading, i get to the section on motivation rituals.
In this chapter the author discusses an anecdote, in which some guy always put on headphones with music before focusing on work. Eventually the ritual of putting on headphones alone conditioned him to crave focused work.
So my phone was charged and I went back to my meditation activity. I put on the youtube video, set the timer, and began meditating.
5 minutes into it, my wifi signal bugged out the music suddenly stopped.
At that point the first though in my head was to stop meditating, fix the music and restart the timer.
Then i suddenly realized how absurd my behavior was for the past 2 hours. Because i conditioned myself to meditate with the ambient music and 10 minute bell, as soon as that was unavailable my whole habit collapsed on itself.
I immediately decided to continue meditating in silence, and although my brain was getting distracted more than usual with thoughts of how long i've been meditating, I pushed through and hit the 40 minute mark when my brain thought i was still at 25 minutes.
The next day i meditated again in silence, and always will from now on.
Maybe i feel so strongly about this because my epiphany came during meditation lol
This experience really made me wary of all these habit strategies in the book. All the tricks to make a habit obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying are also CRUTCHES. As soon as you lose the crutch, get ready to suffer.
Maybe it's better not to learn the crutch in the first place?
I don't know for sure, and neither does the book...
FINALLY, why did i remove a star?
After the appendix section, the author reveals that he wrote an extra short bonus chapter called "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", all you gotta do is go to Bonus Chapter: How to Apply These Ideas to Business | James Clear
to access it.
wow i thought, could be interesting, so i click on the link and... well see for yourself...
You gotta sign up for his email list first!!!
i bought ur damn book, now u gonna funnel me to your email newsletter? Put the chapter in the book!
lose a star.
All in all though, this book did make me think and it did provide some strategies whether you agree with them or not.
And it was only 15 bucks, so I'd probably give it around 4 stars, with 1 star off for that Appendix section that should have been spread out in the main book instead.
And 1 star off for that sleazy newsletter sign up bullshit.
I wish he talked more about identity, self awareness, self reflection, etc but oh well. maybe he just doesn't have the qualification to talk about that deeper stuff.
Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
Least favorite chapter was "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", cause it wasn't even in the book.
- find a balance between hard discipline and easy action?
Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Nothing new here that I had not read elsewhere but it is always good to have a reminder, and the book is very easy to read. Includes practical advice that you can implement right away.
It reminded me the importance of doing something continously rather than sporadically. For example I used to meditate for 30 minutes every single day. Then for a brief period i completely stopped, and then recently I was doing it sporadically whenever i remembered to. Now I "habit stacked" both reading and meditation before bed + I don't pressure myself to do either activity for a long time, as long as I start, it is a win for me.
Also recently Ive been binge watching too much TV/social media. I've now unplugged the TV after every use and put a website blocker on my browser (it's actually crazy the habit I have of visiting this forum when I'm supposed to be working. At least every 30 minutes I would click on the fastlane forum bookmark without realizing what I was doing until the blocked site message popups).
Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
Favorite chapter is Make It Easy. All you have to do is the habit for 2 minutes at the very least which doesn't take much will power.
Least favorite chapter is actually a sub heading called "How To Find A Game Where The Odds Are In Your Favor". He talks about how some people are genetically better at certain areas and how you should pick something that you are strong at. While there is truth to this, I don't see the need to talk about it. Its not something you should think about much because its very easy to get into a trap of "oh this activity is hard, maybe I wasn't born for it".
Last edited: Jan 16, 2019
- Small habits have a compounding effect
- Focus more on the process
- Important to be aware of negative habits
- Don't rely on willpower alone
When I was younger I would always say to myself and others "I'm just a shy person". This seemingly harmless speech led me to reinforce that identity and continue acting like a "shy person"...not speaking up for myself, and being afraid to draw attention to myself.
Another example is how I identify as a "fit & strong" person, but not really a "healthy" person. That's why I have no trouble going the gym and lifting hard but I won't mind scarfing down McDonalds right afterwards.
One that has had a positive impact is how I identify myself as someone who isn't in their own "bubble" & who is not afraid of making their presence known. This simple thought has created a habit that I haven't realized until I sat down and though about it. I noticed that every time I walk in the street I look at everyone in their eyes.
This is also why I don't really like the part where he talks about genetics and how you're bad at certain things. I get that part of it is important to know, but I worry about people having negative self talk that reinforces an identity where there doesn't need to be one.
Okay, here's my second pass at this review...
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars
Format: Audible & Hardcover
I listen to audio books more than I read physical books, at about a 4:1 ratio. If an audio book is good enough or if I want to dig more deeply into the material, I’ll read the physical version. This is what I did with Atomic Habits, both because we’re discussing it and also because I found the content valuable. In short, I think Clear provides plenty of actionable advice.
Although the book is derivative of other works, like Charles Douhigg’s The Power of Habit and Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect, I felt that Clear does make new contributions to the subject of habits, which is a well-trodden arena.
I think it's true that there are no new ideas, and the book calls to mind a favorite quote of mine, which has been attributed to various people, from Gandhi to Emerson:
Sow a thought and reap a word;
sow a word and reap an action;
sow an action and reap a habit;
sow a habit and reap a character;
sow a character and reap a destiny.
These are words I try to live by since I first read them years ago, "try" being the operative word.
Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
I found good content in every chapter and there wasn’t a particular chapter I didn’t care for. The introduction was slightly annoying, only because origin stories seem self-serving and set off my “marketer detector."
At times I became annoyed while reading Atomic Habits, and I’m trying to sort out if it’s Clear or it's just the cynicism I’ve developed from reading a lot of self-help, marketing, and non-academic work lightly grounded in science. I'm wary of any author whose work has an underpinning of self-promotion; someone who has self-branded website or blog, a paid program, coaching or more.
I realize I should differentiate the product from the packaging, but there's a sameness to this stuff, and I'll call it the "Brunson Effect." I’m tiring of authors who use their books as a lead magnet to enter a funnel which leads to an entire (paid) platform or “system” of doing things.
With that being said I can forgive Clear for his approach because his content is pretty damn good, unlike many authors in this genre.
Key takeaway #1: Forget about Goals and Focus on Systems
Clear admonishes the reader to focus on identity-based habits, rather than outcome-based habits. As a recovering wantrapreneur, this was huge for me. I wasted many years and lots of money being event driven, yet failing to understand why I never reached my goals. Clear’s advice also parallels MJ’s advice to be process-driven, rather than event-driven. (I think that was in MJ’s writing. Perhaps I remember it wrong. In any case it’s time for me to reread Unscripted. And yes, I am shamelessly kissing a$$.)
"The real reason habits matter is not because they can get you better results (although they can do that), but because they can change your beliefs about yourself."
This is powerful stuff, and I think it reiterates the importance of having a growth mindset (vs. a fixed mindset), a key predictor of success (Google Mindset, by Carol Dweck).
Key takeaway #2: Environment Trumps Willpower
I agree with the four laws of behavior change, and I like the actionable advice Clear gives on how to change one’s environment to facilitate change, rather than relying on willpower or motivation. This isn’t new advice, but I’ve tried it and it works. If you want to stop eating sweets, don’t buy them and don’t have them in your house, period. Motivation and willpower may work short term, but in the long haul environment trumps them both.
Key takeaway #3: Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop
Having dealt with depression most my life, the dopamine / neurotransmitter research is very interesting to me. I find it fascinating that the anticipation of a dopamine hit is a stronger driver than the hit itself, due to the tolerance we develop over time. Temptation bundling is an interesting concept, and although I'm skeptical I'll give it a try.
Key takeaway #4:The mismatch between immediate and delayed rewards
"What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided." Turning instant gratification to one's advantage seems to be the cornerstone of success. This concept is so obvious and simple, yet SO hard to put into practice, as evidenced by all the overweight and poor Americans.Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars
I was afraid that this book would be a rehash of personal development stuff.
I was wrong....
This is like One Simple Thing/Slight Edge/The Magic of Thinking Big/Miracle Morning presented holistically. Very comprehensive book on habits, why what,how, when. It's that comprehensive- I'd laugh at anyone who had to pay for a $5k self development course.
In all my life, I've only been to one study habits course during high school, and even then, it skimmed the surface. It never explained how our minds perceive the world around us, the rise and fall of dopamine, as well as classical psychology links. Never!
What school and most camps, especially youth ones, leave us with, are just some steps that we just stick to, without knowing how to adapt or change whenever the environment or context of new habits move on.
I guess this is why ALL, if not most of us, fall to pieces when we stepped away from the Slowlane/Sidewalk to Fastlane.
We have to find NEW habits and supporting rewards/environments/cues, but of course, when we don't know what's what, the chain of action breaks.
There's another thing I realized as well after reading the book.
Too many of us dream of the passive income machine that churns in money during our sleep. And thus, we work hard to master the making and maintaining of the passive income business.
What MANY of us don't think of is the 'passive' machine closest to us, or rather, US. Yes, our BODIES and MIND are the best passive machines in nature.
Think of it.
- Our hair, skin and nails grow without us thinking.
- Activities like bathing, eating, sleeping and walking just 'happen'. It's just done like that.
- In writing and editing emails, copywriting, speeches, we come back after a break, only to turn the written work into something much more concise and elaborate.
- When we used to spend 10 hours to reach a sale on foot, we might just spend 2 hours, as we know very well what to say, what not to say, and how to deal with objections (depending on your market).
Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
I don't have any least favourite chapter. Even commonly known concepts like the Identity chapter was presented through a good diagram, although I was surprised that the author didn't use the Be-To-Have dichotomy. Perhaps its already heavily overused by the gurus.
My favourite chapter would be the one on the 4 Steps to Habits (Cue, craving, Response, Reward), and their related chapters after. The chapters on Making it Easy and Making it Attractive popped out from the pages, as I'm struggling at those stages to enact multiple new habits at the moment. I was so focused on the doing, rather than sustaining it for the long run.
1. Doing a Habits Scorecard to audit ALL activities related to daily routines. The author was pretty clever to point out the Japanese train conductors' practice of verbally calling out the train signals.
I should add the Point-and-Call system to my habits. My 100 Headlines a Day challenge actually fell apart a few days ago, so I will need this to pull me back to action.
It might be strange of me to have people around me hear me mutter stuff about doing this stuff and that like a soldier on a march lol...but eventually I think it'll become automatic.
I think this is what @LordPhenny (when he was still here) was trying to do with his askholing thread haha...but of course, he didn't follow up with the next 50% of the work to truly better himself.
I also now fully understand another reason WHY many of the more successful Fastlaners have extremely long progress threads on TFLF. It wasn't just to get feedback or teach others. It was for their OWN success, to point and call their activities and build them into recurring, repeatable patterns.
2. The Problems with Goals
- Winners and losers have the same goals
- Goals are momentary
- Goals restrict happiness
Process vs Events, again.
3. Bundling temptation with habit stacking. I remember MJ putting Reward as a stage of encouraging progress at the end of the UNSCRIPTION process, but I didn't really consider strongly that I should do it for even the little activities in daily life.
He gives some great examples such as 'I will watch ESPN for 3 mins after I call three potential clients'. But I wonder about the scenerio where the temptation is actually NEGATIVE, such as 'I will watch porn for 5 mins after I do X stuff.'
4. I was astounded at how the author, James, broke down supporting and breaking habits into really succinct terms. Especially breaking bad habits- exactly the reverse of forming good habits. He couldn't get any better than these:
To break a bad habit, make it: invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying.
My Review: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars
(The STAR/X emojis are under the emoji icon, under "commenting icons.")
Although much of the stuff here isn't new to me (much of it I talk about in Unscripted and/or read in other books) I thought James did a great job of tying a lot of psychological topics together, from the event/process dichotomy to the desire for shortcuts, to the feedback loop, to proving identity. He also did a fantastic job of tying a story to each concept.
Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
I didn't have a "favorite" chapter as I found all the chapters equally valuable. I enjoyed the part about habit stacking, and habit recording; two things I already do. The habit contract concept (a signed document) was probably the most notable to me as that type of thing is very actionable and can be implemented by anyone, it also is a great motivator. (Go to the gym or have your shirtless pic posted to IG!)
Didn't really have a "key takeaway" as much of this was just validating what I already knew from prior work as well as prior practice. I found the the structure of your habits (cue, reward, etc) and important reminder that I recently forgot as I myself, sunk into some bad habits.
The 1/2 star loss is simply because the material is already very familiar to me and probably isn't new to many avid readers. Otherwise, 5 stars.
I feel that the more you understand the habit process and its structure, the better armed you are to change them. Reading stuff like this never gets old because it reinforces our knowledge and causes us to become observers of how we think. Think how you think -- another concept in Unscripted -- is fundamental to becoming someone who questions everything.
A friend got me this book for Christmas. I have read some of it so far - the gripping opening was awesome. I think it's very useful content and a reminder of the importance of consistency and an ability to toggle between tactical and long-term thinking.
So if your goal is to be an NBA player, focus on the amount of 3 pointers you're taking each week. Focus on how much you practice. In fact focus on how early you get to practice, then focus on trying to get 1% better everyday.
So it ends up being the small parts of the process you become obsessed with. Like say if your goal is to have a super fit, gym body. Then focus on getting your gym bag ready each night and leaving it by the door.
This triggers a habit and before you know it, you don't need willpower because you're doing things automatically.
To be blunt about it, pop psychology is a mess...because psychology itself is a mess. I don't even mean the empirical sciences, I mean the words and the concepts we use for talking about the mind. The field is caught between two inconsistent extremes.
On one side, there's the tendency to be good materialists, to make psychology into a respectable science like physics and chemistry. To pull this off, you've got to ultimately talk about behaviors and brains. You can't really talk about stuff like mind, experience, feeling, desire, belief, etc., because these aren't observable in a lab.
This is how Skinnerian behaviorism found it's way into Atomic Habits. No psychologist has taken behaviorism (the operant conditioning stuff) seriously since the early 1960s. You get a lot of goofy results when you approach human behaviors as stimulus-response loops. In the end everybody dropped it because it wasn't a useful way to understand people.
That's bad enough, but things get even fuzzier with more recent work. After cognitive science took over in the 60s and 70s, everyone was treating the mind like a computer. Now with the neuro-fever going around, a lot of folks figure they can combine the cognitive program with basic neurology... so all the talk of neurotransmitters creeps into the lingo, and we can slide effortlessly from talk of serotonin neurochemistry to cognitive functioning to high-level behaviors.
You just model the brain as a kind of information-processor and bingo! Two thousand years of mind-body problem solved, just like that.
If only it were that easy.
Which brings us to the other extreme. Cognitive science and neurology aren't really equipped to deal with psychological concepts. You wind up with people saying things like "your brain wants...", "your brain makes you...", "you brain sees..." without realizing the absurdity of it.
Your brain is a three-pound lump of fatty tissue. Brains don't want, see, feel, experience, believe, or anything else. These are things that whole, living human beings do. (And if you are your brain, and "your brain makes you do..." then what exactly is the "you" that both is your brain and is not your brain?)
But you can't get rid of belief-talk, feeling-talk, desire-talk, and still make sense of human behaviors. It doesn't work. If you're talking about identity, meaning, and purpose, these have no candidates in the physical world. Talking about brains, as a neuroscientist or a cognitive psychologist, tells you interesting things, but not much about how real live people live and act.
Clear couldn't talk more about identity and purpose because these aren't concepts you can explain with studies about dopamine neurotransmission in the pleasure/reward centers (or whatever). This is why so much writing in this genre sounds confused.
If all human behavior bubbles up from hidden machinery in the brain, that's fine, but identity talk is basically a superstition. If you want to talk about purpose and meaning, great (and you should want this), but the brain's functioning is not the primary thing you're interested in.
I don't think most writers in this genre are out to fool you. They just aren't aware of the problems. The confusion between brain-talk and people-talk is practically built into the culture (thanks, social media!) Even many of the scientists working within their tiny little silos aren't always aware of the tangles.
They wind up joining a strict materialist or naturalist approach to the mind with a spooky kind of mysticism, which is the only way they can still talk about purpose and meaning.
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5 stars
In UNSCRIPTED, MJ says that to implement new habits & processes long term, we cannot solely rely on our limited willpower:
It is also necessary to align our beliefs at the identity level.
But the notion of "changing beliefs at the identity level" was not clear to me.
So I bought “Atomic Habits” because, on his blog, James Clear writes that his book will describe in more details how to implement habits by working at the identity level!
But... the book does not deliver in this respect.
At least not in a satisfactory way
- The first 2 chapters are great (p.10 to p.41)
- The 3rd chapter is ok (p.43-55)
1) The remaining 250 pages get 1 star out of 5
Those 250 pages are mostly a collection of vaguely relevant anecdotes and studies (and, way too often, unnecessary personal anecdotes)
And sometimes, "information bias" seems to creep in the conclusions drawn from the results of the studies mentioned.
Marketing-wise, a 300 pages-book is more reassuring for a prospective buyer than a 50 pages book.
But those 250 (mostly) unnecessary pages are a disservice to the reader:
They make it harder to identify the useful tips hidden in the midst of unnecessary stories.
…until we discover that most of those remaining “spread nuggets” are brought back together in his “Habits Cheat Sheet” (p. 212-213).
2) And to make matters worst, key topics (that I know of) are missing (meaning more can be missing):
a) E.g. James Clear coins the term “atomic habit” to refer to a habit that is small and mighty. But then he doesn’t expand on what makes a habit mighty.
It would have been the right place to mention the “20/80” Pareto principle to first select the 20% of habits that produce 80% of results.
Especially if we plan to rely on those habits to get the promised compound effect over time
b) In his blog, James mentions that his book will contain tools to implement new habits by working at the identity level.
Indeed he says in chapter 2 how important it is to work at the identity level and he gives a few examples, but he barely touches the topic (in chapter 2 and p.130-133).
There are good ideas in the first 3 chapters (out of 20 chapters).
But that doesn’t compensate the waste of time spent reading the rest of the book
It gave me the impression that what mattered most to James was to reach his goal of delivering 300 pages for a certain deadline, not to deliver the outstanding book that it could have been on this interesting topic, and also not to give the reader the best reading experience and the best information possible.
Favourite chapter: Chapter 2
Although it’s not new (cf. MJ’s book UNSCRIPTED), it says that if we want to get different results in our life, the most efficient way is to:
first, modify our "identity" so that it supports the habits/processes that are more likely to lead to the desired outcome
Key takeaway 1:
His explanations around « identity-level beliefs », p.30.
It improved my understanding of what it is (and thus, what I can do to change them).
In my own words:
Our identity is what we believe (the story we tell ourselves) about who we are, what we think of the external world, of others, what we value, etc…
=> such an encompassing definition of our identity gives several points of leverage to change our identity (by changing the limiting beliefs), and so change our habits, processes and results
=> Btw, with that definition of "identity-level beliefs", it turns out that MJ already used various techniques throughout his whole book UNSCRIPTED to help us change our limiting beliefs at the identity level, to make it easier for us to put in place the right habits/processes (e.g. by changing what we believe about events vs processes, money vs “value vouchers”, etc…).
Key takeaway 2:
James' 4 « laws », i.e. the 4 elements that create and keep (good and bad) habits in place: obvious, attractive, easy, satisfyingLast edited: Jan 30, 2019
Normally i avoid these type of books, a name like James Clear with a blog site called jamesclear.com gives me guru vibes.
But i bought the book cause i promise id commit to the book club lol
about 50 pages into it so far and I feel like there's value here.
Some things Im already familiar with but im sure most of us here are.
Any source of knowledge that can help crystallize concepts in my mind is good in my book.
Will review asap once i finish.
My Rating: 4 stars
This book didn't give me any new or earth-shattering information, but it does reinforce many ideas that have helped me recently and gives plenty of food for thought. I was a little put off by every extra bit of information pointing you to his website and no other sources, but it didn't detract from the overall message. This book will go into my rotation of the few books that I re-listen to between my bi-monthly credits.
Make it satisfying.
I tend to know what I should have been doing and then getting mad at myself for not being 100% into it. Now instead of being in a never-ending state of disappointed with myself, I now attach rewards to the behaviors that I want to encourage. My example: My boys and I enjoy playing our Nintendo Switch together but it would get in the way of progress sometimes. We now attach the reward to him having his homework reading done and me having completed at least two components or major fixes to my projects. This makes it more satisfying and we keep each other on task. My nine year old actually encourages me to stop messing around and get busy and he calls me out when I've drifted into other non qualifying tasks. Being explicit in our tasks and our rewards have helped both of us.
My Review: 4 stars out of 5 stars
I bought Atomic Habits a couple of months ago when it was on sale. I'm glad that it was picked up by the Fastlaners as it gave me an excuse to move it to the top of the queue.
Atomic Habits is a great book, and I think it earns a spot as one of the "Must Reads" for self-improvement. It's an easy read, so you don't get bogged down in overly-technical or scientific material. As Clear mentions, it has been written so that it is actionable/practical advice. The references are there if you want to do more research, but Atomic Habits is a lean, mean guidebook that you can reference to change your life.
Honestly, I think the book is strong enough that you're better off rereading it than reading a new piece on habits. Take in what Clear says, put it in action, and only pick up a new book on the subject when you need something Clear hasn't provided.
Fantastic read. Just overflowing with actionable info (the Cue-Craving-Response-Reward process is worth the price of admission alone).
Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
While all of the chapters were pretty solid, I would save my favorite was his discussion on identity. In this day and age, we tend to focus on what we 'really are' and that we need to dig deep to 'discover' what our identity is, but Clear paints our identity as something we can choose. And by adjusting our thoughts and habits towards that identity, we can change ourselves. +100 points for internal locus of control.
I didn't have any major paradigm shifts (the Identity one was actually just reinforcing the shift MJ caused when I read Unscripted), but this book is A+ for reference and practical tips.
There are other books that may 'shift your reality' and convince you to change your life. But Atomic Habits is what gives you the material to do so successfully. If building habits is something you struggle with or want to improve, it's the perfect read.
Now, I did dock it a star for one reason and maybe it isn't Clear's fault. But the book felt like it was still missing something. And, like the A-hole I am, I'm removing a star even though I can't quite pinpoint it.
I think it has to do with the layout of the book. It does feel like a series of blog posts that have been stitched together and fleshed out a bit. One particular thing that has irked me through reading it is that Clear continuously directs you to his website to learn more, get goodies, or even to read chapters. Put the goodies in the book with an option to get the downloadable PDF.
A book should be self-contained (in the majority of cases). If Clear provided links to extra information that wasn't relevant or was on a tangent, I don't think it would bother me. Instead, it seemed like you needed to use his website to get 100% of the book.
Atomic Habits felt like an extension of his blog. Something to be consumed in addition, rather than standing on its own merits. Unscripted doesn't feel like an extension of The Fastlane Forum (or even of The Millionaire Fastlane ), it feels like all the material I need is in the book with the option to pursue tangents or additional info at my own leisure.
Maybe Clear just didn't give the book enough space. A book should be as long as it needs to be. This means you shouldn't pad it, and if it ends up being shorter than the average, that's fine. If it means longer than the standard self-improvement piece, then that's fine too.
After reading, it felt like Clear had more he should have said.
All that being said, it doesn't change the fact that Clear's book is a fantastic, actionable, and easy-to-read piece. Want to change your habits? Buy it, read it, and take action!
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
This is a really good book for people who're fed up with their action-faking. Action fakers try to swallow an entire habit whole. That's like trying to swallow a prime rib whole. (painful and awkward.) Then, they gag and vomit their unchewed chunks back and blame it on the prime rib.
Atomic Habits shows you how to break your habits down into byte sized chunks for you to process more effectively.
Least favorite chapter:
The book starts to drag on as you get in. It could probably be more condensed. There is no single chapter that I didn't like. I just wish they were more to the point.
- 1% improvements a day compound
- design your environment to limit distractions and temptations
- stack your habits so they flow together.
- track your habits
- systems > goals
- 1% improvements a day compound
My best habit has been exercising or playing sports since I'm a kid. Now if I don't, after a few weeks I get antsy. It's wired in me.
I started creating new habits this year. Practicing my singing diligently, reading more books and taking notes too. I hear those negative voices (parents) criticizing my hobbies but I need to have those habits override them now so that I can be the person I wanted to be and have the identity that comes with it.
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