Key Takeaways from Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits - James Clear

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”, Aristotle

During the pandemic, like everyone I’ve had a lot more extra time on my hands. Initially, I tried to fill the time with some positive activities like re-learning how to play the guitar and going for regular runs.

However, I had a lot of extra time that I need to fill and some not-so-positive habits crept up on me.

A good friend of mine had mentioned Atomic Habits to me a few times. Just in passing really. He referred to parts of Atomic Habits in discussions. I had noticed over the last couple of years how he had grown as a person and seemed to very productive and well-read. So when I had recognised I had developed bad habits and I wanted to strip this away and build good habits, I thought of this book. Great decision.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is about breaking habits then building and maintaining good ones. For me, it has driven remarkable change. I had many aha moments and it has helped to transform me since initially listening to it back in August 2020.

The main takeaways:

To change habits, you need to change your identity

Don’t focus on the goal of what you want to achieve. Eg. I want to run a marathon. Instead, you need to build your identity into being a runner. This was the big aha for me.

We protect our identities

We’re funny creatures us humans. We are so protective of personalities we build that it will drive us much more than an actual goal.

Stack the habits

Again, for me another aha moment. If you want to create a new habit, tie it to an existing one.

Ie. If in the morning without fail, you have a coffee, then tie a habit to after you have the coffee.

Eg. After I have my coffee I will put on my running shoes, go to the door, open it and run my route.

Micro habits

Notice in the above example how the going for a run habit is built into micro targets. Like putting on the shoes.

Again a psychological trick is to lower the barrier to entry. Success breeds success. Each time you complete a habit you are more likely to carry on down your habit stack.

Change “I have to” to, “I get to”

I have a young family and I’ve got to tell you in my head I was thinking “I have to” a lot. I have to get the kids ready, I have to take the kids to football practice, I have to read. I run a business, there was a much longer list of “I have to….”

The simple technique of changing this to “I get to” changes your whole mindset. Try it, it works.

Start small

You do not have to start big, start small. If you want to start exercising, do not commit to 1 hour in the gym 5 times per week. Instead, commit to something you can easily complete.

Eg. I will go to the gym for 5-10 mins 5 times per week. It’s not the hard workout you need to build, it’s the habit of going to the gym.

Conclusion

For me, this book has put me on the road to massive change.

By the time I had finished, I wanted to be fitter, more well-read, and more focused on my wellbeing.

I committed in my head to become a learner and morning exerciser.

How it started:

When I get up on workdays I will out my shorts and gym t-shirt, read one page of the daily stoic and I will then out my gym mat and turn on Joe Wicks 7 minute abs.

That was it, that was my commitment. I did this, and I did it consistently. It was easy to do and hitting the target consistently made me build the personality I was then going to protect.

How it’s going:

Now, when I wake up I put on my cycle clothes, I read one page of the daily stoic, I then jump on my bike which is already set up the night before ready for my Zwift session. I listen to a thought-provoking audiobook while on the bike for between 1 – 1.5 hours while making notes in OneNote so I can review my book summaries in the future.

After I’m finished on the bike I go upstairs to my office and before checking any news, social media, or any electronic distractions I write my daily journal where I note how I am doing and how I can improve.

Following my journal, I do 10 minutes of meditation using the calm app.

When I have completed my meditation I check my daily schedule (learned from the book Deep Work), adapt, and move stuff to the days ahead.

I feel calm, my mind is quiet.

Now I am an everyday learner and an everyday exerciser and I self-reflect every day.

All of this started with this one book and less than a 10-minute daily habit.