Atomic Habits By James Clear Book Review

Today I am reviewing a book written by James Clear called “Atomic Habits”.  #AtomicHabits has been on the best seller list for years and is an excellent #productivity book.  By implementing tiny changes into our daily lives leads to major changes in our lives.  This is especially true when developing good #habits.

Hello and welcome to my channel.  Thanks for stopping by.  This week’s video is a review of James Clear book called “Atomic Habits“. Have you ever flown from Los Angeles to New York?  What would happen if the pilot, upon take-off, was off course by 4 degrees?  Would you notice?  Most likely, you would not see, but the impact of being off 4 degrees would be huge.  The plane would be somewhere around Washington DC, not New York.

The reason we do not notice tiny changes is because the immediate impact is insignificant.  For instance, if you go for a 30-minute jog today and you are out of shape, you will still be out of shape tomorrow. 

So, if you want to make a positive change in your life, you must recognize that change requires patience, as well as confidence that these new habits will make a difference in your life.  James Clearly suggests that the key to making significant changes is to make tiny changes to your behavior which, when repeated, will become habits that lead to substantial results.

How Are Habits Formed?

When you walk into a dark room, what do you do?  You automatically reach for a light switch! But why?  Because it is a habit or a behavior that you have repeated thousands of times.

How are habits formed? Well, our brain figures out what works and what does not work through a process of trial and error.  A nineteen-century psychologist named Edward Thorndike demonstrated this theory when he experimented with cats. He would place the cats in a black box.  Naturally, the cats wanted to escape and searched the box for an exit.  Eventually, the cats found a lever that, when pressed on, would provide a way to get out of the box. As he continued to place the cats in the box, the cats would get out of the box quickly because they remembered where the lever was.  After running this experiment 30 times, the cats would eventually get out of the box in less than six seconds.

Edward Thorndike concluded that these cats have just developed a habit of getting out of the box.  He concluded that the cats’ habits began with a cue or trigger to act.  Then came the craving for a change.  In this case, the cats wanted out of the box. The final result was the reward which for the cats was escaping the box.

Every habit goes through this same process.  For instance, when you wake up in the morning, do you automatically get a cup of coffee?  Your waking up is your cue or craving to feel alert.  Therefore, your response is to get out of bed and start the coffee pot.  Drinking the coffee is your reward or alert and signals that you are ready to concur the world.

Building New Habits Requires hard-to-miss cues and an action plan.

We all have cues that trigger a habit.  For instance, when the phone rings, we answer it.  Once you understand how certain stimuli affect your behavior, you can then work on changing it.  How?  One way is to change your surroundings and general environment to include better habits.  For instance, if you no longer want to drink soda, you will remove the soda from the fridge or place it out of easy reach.  For instance, store it in your basement.

Not Being Specific in Your Attentions

A lot of times, we are too vague with our intentions.  For instance, we say “I’m going to eat better,” and hope that I follow through.  This is where implementation intentions come into play.  Implementation intentions introduces a plan of action which sets out when and where you will carry out the habit that you want to build.  Best of all research shows that this works.

For example, say you want to run more often.  Instead of saying “I’ll run more often.”  You would say “On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will run three miles first thing in the morning after my alarm goes off.  Make sure to leave your running shoes out where you will see them.  This is giving yourself both a clear plan and an obvious cue.

Reward Yourself for Sticking to a Habit

Our brains release dopamine, which is a hormone that makes us feel good when we do pleasurable things.  We can also get a hit of feeling good dopamine when we simply anticipate pleasurable activities.  It is a way that our brain drives us onward and encouraging us to do things.  For instance, when you run a few miles you no longer feel like it is a chore.  This is the dopamine kicking in and making this habit pleasurable. 

Ronan Byrne, an engineering student in Ireland wanted to exercise more but he got little enjoyment from working out.  However, he loved watching Netflix.  So, he put together an exercise bike and connected it to his laptop and writing code that would only allow Netflix to run if he were cycling at a certain speed.  By linking exercise to a behavior, he enjoys he was able to turn a not so pleasant activity into a pleasurable one.

Make the Habit Easy to adopt

We spend a ton of time on behaviors that are easy.  For instance, scrolling through social media takes no effort and as a result it fills up lots of our time.  However, doing a hundred push-ups requires a lot of effort.  Repeating these behaviors daily until such time as they have become a habit is tough.

The goal here is to make the behaviors as easy as possible so they quickly turn into habits.  There are a few tricks that we can use to accomplish this.  The first is to focus on reducing friction.

James Clear has never developed a habit of sending greeting cards, while his wife always does so.  Why? His wife has learned to keep a box of greeting cards at home and has sorted them by occasion.  This makes it easier to send congratulations or condolences to someone.  Since she does not have to go to the store to buy a card when someone graduates or is sick, there is no friction involved in sending a greeting card.

This same principle works if you want to eliminate a bad habit.  For instance, if you waste a lot of time in from of the TV, unplug it and take the batteries out of the remote.  This will help introduce friction to ensure you only watch TV when you really want to.

2 Minute Rule

Another trick you can use when developing a habit is called the two-minute rule.  If the activity can be accomplished within two minutes, then it is doable.  For instance, you want to read more.  You do not commit to reading one book every week. You simple, make a habit of reading two pages per night.

The two-minute rule is an excellent way to build achievable habits that can go on to greater things.  For instance, once you put on your running shoes you are more likely to go out on a run.  Once you have read two pages, you are more likely to continue reading.  This rule recognizes that simply getting started is the first and most important step in developing a habit.

Immediately satisfying habits

The final rule is to make your habits satisfying.  Now this can be difficult for many reasons.  We live in a delayed-return environment.  For instance, you go to work today but you do not receive a check until the end of the week, two weeks or sometimes even monthly.  Another example is that you go to the gym today, but you do not lose weight the next day.

Our brains are seeking the immediate-return environment.  We want an immediate reward. Here is an example, say you want to eat heathier and go on a trip to Europe.  Each time you avoid a fast-food meal you transfer that cost to your savings account.  The short immediate gratification is given because you can see your savings account grow for your trip to Europe.

Every Habit needs a Framework.

Habit tracking is an effective technique and is quite simple to use.  You can develop a habit tracker by simply using a calendar or diary and crossing off every day that you stick with the habit.  The anticipation of checking off that habit on your habit tracker is very satisfying and helps keep you motivated.

Another technique is to develop a habit contract that imposes negative consequences if you fail to stay on track.  For instance, you can write up a contract and have it signed by people that matter to you.  Say you want to lose weight and if you fail to track your food each day and weigh yourself each week.  You can setup penalties if you fail to do these things.  Your fear of losing face to the people who signed the contract will help motivate you to stay on track.


A tiny change does not transform your life overnight.  But if you turn that behavior into a habit that is performed daily it can lead to big changes.  You need to build a positive system of habits that when combined will deliver remarkable results.

Actionable Advice

If you want to build a new habit you should stack it on top of an existing habit.  For instance, if you wanted to start meditating you can signal it to start after your first cup of coffee. Place your mat in the kitchen so that it triggers a reminder.

That is, it for this week.  Please be sure to subscribe to the channel, click the notification bell so that YouTube let us you know when I release a new video and click that like button.  Leave me a comment down below and tell me if you use a habit tracker. Until next week, please be safe.

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