How To Build Better Habits

Dave’s Book Summary


By James Clear

2018 – Avery – 319 pages

Developing good habits while shedding bad ones sounds like complex and challenging progress. James Clear makes it seem effortless in “Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.” While a bit repetitive and overwritten, Clear offers a pathway to setting a better life direction for yourself. “Goals are for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress,” he writes.

The premise of Clear’s book is that if you implement the right habits, your life will dramatically improve. The book then describes how habits are built, how they work, and how you can change them.

His focus is on small wins. Every small positive change you make builds on each other, and one good thing leads to another.

He describes three levels of habits:

Goal-Driven – You have a goal, and you do whatever it takes to achieve it. (studying more to ace an exam)

System Driven – You put a process in place to help you achieve your goal (developing a studying habit to pass a class)

Identify Driven – If we see ourselves as good students, self-awareness builds good habits.

Clear suggests the following changes in our behavior to help us build our habits.

1.         Making them obvious. If the action we need to take there is no friction to accomplishing the task, we will do it more automatically.

2.         Making them attractive. If it is something we want to do because it is appealing, we have a better chance of doing the activity.

3.         Making it easy. Any obstacle will allow us to skip the task.

4.         Making it satisfying. If we complete the task and feel good about it, the greater the chance we will do it again.

The author’s section on seeing your habits as part of your identity resonated well with me. If you tell yourself that you are not a morning person, you are less likely to set your alarm early for a morning exercise routine. If you say, “I’m always late,” you will be.

As Clear notes, “Decide the person you want to be. Prove it yourself with small wins.”

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