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Atomic Habits by James Clear Summary and thoughts
“Time will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” This is an insightful way of looking at how life and time and energy work together. What if we were to use this thought and begin feeding Time Itself with powerful small habits? And what if we also stopped feeding Time with bad habits? The good would be multiplied, the bad would be diminished, and your life would look quite different in a year – and unrecognizable in 5 years. The author writes, “If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line.”
[[[What is Book Jams?]]]
You can't do everything you learn in every book, all at one time. But you can focus on a few important things. Book Jams breaks down books, classes, or seminars into 7 digestible, actionable points:
3 things I learned
3 things I'll change in my life as a result of reading the book
1 most important sentence in the book
James Clear, Atomic Habits
Voice-in: I’ve decided to do something new on Thursdays, mostly because I’ve been asked, and told, to add book reviews to my podcast. I procrastinated because of the work involved, and because I had no system to do book reviews. A couple weeks ago, on another hike, I came up with a different way to do things that is more personal, and less of a review, but I still get to talk about the books I’ve read and the classes I’ve taken. I’m starting today with the book that helped me come up with this system – Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
Intro – Welcome to Second Mix Thursday where I talk about my canon – the books that I will read more than once so the information sticks. My name is Matthew Bennett, I try to read about 100 books a year, and there are some that I want to read again and again to absorb the lessons and make them a part of myself. Since we can’t do everything in every book, I pick three things I learned, and three things I’m going to change about my life as a result of reading it. Seminars, classes, and books are still transforming my life, and they always will be. Let’s get to it.
Jim Rohn said something once in a seminar I listened to, and it is quite possibly the idea that dramatically turned me around and got me going in the right direction. Rohn said, “Failure is a few small errors in judgement repeated every day, and success is a few simple disciplines repeated every day.” The day I heard this I became full of hope that I could really change – I could really do this. I could really become something more, and my hope was strong enough that I began to do something about it that very day.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear teaches us that our goals are not going to bring about the success we want. Although it sounds like this flies in the face of all we have learned, don’t go anywhere, because the two go hand in hand. When you set a goal, that doesn’t mean it’s said and done. It’s just a goal. Until you start taking steps to reach the goal, it will not be achieved. The argument James makes here is that too many people focus on the goal, instead of the steps. After reading the book, I’m excited to start creating systems so that my small steps will compound over time – with minimal effort – because habits will be formed. Atomic Habits that lead to huge changes. As James clear writes, “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
Three things I learned:
1. “Time will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” This is an insightful way of looking at how life and time and energy work together. What if we were to use this thought and begin feeding Time Itself with powerful small habits? And what if we also stopped feeding Time with bad habits? The good would be multiplied, the bad would be diminished, and your life would look quite different in a year – and unrecognizable in 5 years. The author writes, “If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line.”
2. “If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.” “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” I have been fixated on setting goals for the last couple of years so this was a tough pill to swallow. However, with a little consideration I was able to work it out in my mind – From the top down, you have to have goals to know which habits will get you there, if there’s no direction there is nothing to work on. From the bottom up, you don’t achieve goals, you take steps – and you have to create systems to make sure that you consistently take those steps in order to reach your goals. Once you’ve broken down the goals into steps, and the steps into systems, it’s time to focus on the systems. If you need some inspiration or wonder why you’re doing something, look to your goals – but if you’re wondering what action to take, look at your steps and systems, and focus on those.
3. It is seriously difficult to pick just three, because I learned so much from my reading. But the top AHA moment was probably when I read this: “Most people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.” This knocked my socks off. If you don’t know what you want to do, or you don’t know how to get it done, then it’s just a confusing mix of emotions. Try as you might to get motivated, if you don’t know what to do, you just can’t get there. If you don’t trust the steps you are taking will get you where you want to be, you just can’t get there. A clear plan that you have faith in to get something you really want is probably the most motivating thing that exists. Let me say that again in a different way. If you really want something, and you know the steps it will take to get it, and you have faith those steps will get it, you will be motivated to begin taking the steps.
Three things that I’m going to change about my life as a result of reading this book.
1. Chapter 6 is about forming habits, good or bad, and habits are triggered by cues. If I take a nap in the afternoon, when I wake up I am craving something sugary – probably because I had a healthy salad for lunch. That’s a cue. When I don’t take a nap, the temptation isn’t there. I am going to begin looking for the cues that trigger any bad habits, and find ways to change them, and also begin looking for cues that will trigger good habits, and start putting myself in environments that trigger good habits.
2. In chapter 11 I learned that “The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.” This being the case, if I don’t feel like exercising that day, I will tell myself to do it for at least 5 minutes – if frequency matters more than the amount of time spent exercising, a good habit will be formed and my chances of continuing will be better, and I will have more chances to keep going for a full 60 minutes.
3. I’m going to follow the recommendation in chapter 16 and begin tracking my habits again. A checkmark on the calendar in positive reinforcement, and I’m going to do it with the commitment to “never miss twice” – if I miss a day of a habit, I will push harder to make sure I don’t miss twice.
Atomic Habits is a game changer for the person who absorbs the information and puts it into action. It’s part of my canon, and I want to read it at least once a year.
I’m paraphrasing here, but the most important sentence in the book is “Every action you take is a vote for or against the type of person you wish to become.”
Get out there today and start voting for your best self!
Thank you for listening to the Second Mix Podcast, once again I am Matthew Bennett. If you are on Apple please give me five stars and leave a review – whatever platform you use you can subscribe to hear the latest episodes of the show. I answer every email sent to Matt@SecondMix.net and I love to hear from listeners. If you know of anyone who will find this show helpful or useful, please share this with them – I can’t reach them without your help. Take steps that will make your week incredible – and keep reflecting, revising, and remixing your life. I’ll see you soon.