What Is the Book Atomic Habits About?

Updated on February 18, 2020
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I love to read & write about what I read. Since Atomic Habits is one of my favorite self-help books, I just had to share it to the world.

Book cover of Atomic Habits
Book cover of Atomic Habits

When we see or hear the word atomic, it often brings about mental images of a giant mushroom cloud, and that is one of the meanings of the word. However, the book Atomic Habits by James Clear isn’t a book about how to make an atomic bomb, or anything related to this. This is a book with tons of intriguing strategies about making or breaking a habit.

You could say this essentially drops the bomb on all your bad habits to make way for the new, but this is not where the title comes from. Atomic can also mean related to or consisting of atoms. We all know that atoms are the building blocks of all matter, and are inconceivably small. So speaking of habits, consistently making tiny changes throughout our lives can add up into great things. Whether they add up to devastating consequences or great achievements is of our own choosing, since the tiny habits we create will eventually reflect back on our lives.

Statistics of Atomic Habits

Author
James Clear
Pages
319
Time to Read
5 hours 30 minutes
Published
Oct 16, 2018
Quote from Naval Ravikant
Quote from Naval Ravikant

Who is this James Clear?

Now that we know the basic premise of Atomic Habits, you may be wondering what the author’s story is. What lead up to him writing a book on habits? While I have left many of the details out, here is a summary of the introductory story James gives in his book.

The Accident

It was the last day of his sophomore year. They were playing baseball when he was accidentally struck in the face by a flying bat. At the nurse’s office, they began asking him basic questions, like what year it was. He couldn’t answer them all correctly and soon lost consciousness.

James was taken to a local hospital, and soon thereafter began struggling to breathe and having seizures. The doctors soon decided they had to transfer him to a better hospital, and once there, James was put into a coma and onto a ventilator.

His Recovery

After going through 8 months of hardships, including his left eyeball bulging out of his socket and weeks of double vision, James finally could drive again. It seemed, however, that his dreams of becoming a pro baseball player was at it end when he became the only junior to not make it on the varsity baseball team. In his senior year, he did make the varsity but played only a total of eleven innings. Then came what James Clear calls his turning point. He earned a spot on the Denison University baseball team.

While he never did make it to the minors, his college years had taught him valuable lessons. Many of his tiny habits like going to bed early instead of playing video games, keeping his room tidy and lifting weight several times a week added up, and in his junior year, he was voted team captain. In his senior year, among other awards, James Clear earned something that only 32 other players across the country were given, the ESPN Academic All-American Team.

The author doesn’t give credit to his accomplishments to one defining moment. Instead, he says it was more like a journey. His achievements were the result of starting small, and, bit by bit, through his consistent establishments of positive habits, accumulated into great things!

His blog

The story about his accident and subsequent accomplishments at Denison is very interesting, and a lot of life lessons had been learned there. He started writing about said lessons on November 2012, when he started his blog, jamesclear.com . Again he started small, and consistently wrote 2 articles a week. His popularity grew rapidly, and by the end of 2013, he had 30,000 email subscribers. By the next year he tripled this number.

In 2015, he signed the book deal for Atomic Habits and was asked to speak at various top companies. His articles began appearing in Time and other major publications, and in 2017, began a training platform, Habits Academy. 10,000 graduates later, he had learned a ton about habit forming. By 2018 he had almost reached 500,000 subscribers and was just finishing up his book.

James Clear had he first learned about the importance of small habits because he had to. I must agree, because he never would have gotten where he is today. Thousands of people have benefited from hi blog and his training platform. That is why he has written Atomic Habits, to create an accumulation of all he has learned into one big “owner’s manual”.

Quote from James Clear's book, Atomic Habits.
Quote from James Clear's book, Atomic Habits.

What does Atomic Habits Teach?

While I obviously can’t reveal everything this book teaches without creating a book myself and ruining it for potential readers, I can touch base on the basics. James Clear says every habit can be divided into 4 steps – cue, craving, response, reward. An example that comes off the top of my head is spending too much when online.

  • The cue could be seeing a brand new Phone at half the price on amazon.
  • Even though you already have a phone that’s working fine, you have to buy it. It’s loaded with awesome new features and you’ve never seen this particular model so cheap. So now you’re craving it.
  • You’ve got the credit card in your account. It’s too easy to respond to the craving by immediately hitting the Buy With One Click button.
  • What’s the reward? Well, you’ve saved 50% on a phone you don’t need.

Next day you’re on amazon again…

Now, my example may not apply to you personally, but everybody has some habit they can relate to. Whether it’s drinking, smoking, video gaming, etc., every habit can be divided into the aforementioned four-step model, including good ones.

I don’t have this habit, and I’m glad I don’t. If I did, however, I’d know what to do, and what not to. I would not try to resist the temptation directly. If I could resist a temptation, it would not have become a habit in the first place. I would start small habits like these…

  • Get a good ad blocker.
  • Check the balance of my bank account before doing anything online.
  • I would likely remove my credit card from an account after each purchase.
  • Give the credit card to someone trustworthy, this way every time I’d buy something I’d have to ask them for the credit card,.
  • After (or before) making a purchase, subtract the total from the bank balance.

All of these small habits are easy, and will continually make the bad habit of overspending quite hard and unrewarding. These ideas are based off of the 4 laws of behavior change. In the next section I’ll give a brief overview of what these laws are.

What Are the Four Laws of Behavior Change?

As mentioned in the previous section, the 4 steps of a habit are cue, craving, response, and reward. These four steps run parallel to the 4 laws of behavior change, which are:

Make it obvious – This law addresses the cue. As an example, if we wanted to take a multivitamin in the morning, we’d put the pill bottle where we drink coffee and eat breakfast, making it hard to forget. To quit a habit, we do the exact opposite. In the online shopping example above, we did this by using a simple ad blocker.

Make it attractive – If we make an action attractive, we develop a natural craving for it. Using the multivitamin example, we could make attractive by buying some that are chewable and taste great. Again, to quit a bad habit we do the opposite. By checking our bank balance, we’ve made it unattractive to spend to much money.

Make it easy – If the response step of a habit is easy, it’s much more apt that we can establish it as a habit. It isn’t as hard to take your vitamins when it’s within arm’s reach as it is when it’sstuck in the cupboard. Adding a credit card number every time you want to buy something requires extra effort, and in this way you’d make online spending harder.

Make it satisfying – The sweet taste of eating a chewy vitamin is rewarding. However, a big hard pill that gets stuck in your throat every morning isn’t exactly something you want to experience. Another thing that isn’t rewarding is having to telling someone you are buying something that you don’t need and can’t afford!

It’s very easy to take these four laws of behavior change and apply it to any habit, good or bad. I’ve personally applied it to my life quite often.


How Atomic Habits Has Helped Me

This book has helped me in many ways. While many of these habits are seemingly insignificant in the broader scheme of things, remember it’s the tiny things in life that make a big difference.

I read more. – I try to read at least a half hour every day. Beforehand, I’d read in spurts, some days I’d read for hours, and then I’d slack off. Since reading Atomic Habits, I’ve learned that keeping track of your habits can give extra incentive. Now my reading is much more regular.

My morning routine is more efficient. – I use something James Clear called habit stacking. Basically, it means taking an existing habit, and tying an additional habit on top. Here’s an example: I eat breakfast each morning, after this I take my pills, than I brush my teeth, and so on. While I still think I can refine it even more, this has improved the speed at which I go about my daily morning routine.

I take quicker showers. – My family have been constantly complaining about me taking way too long to shower and using all the hot water. If you’re laughing already, wait until you hear my solution. I don’t use any light to shower except the light from my kindle. My kindle eventually turns off when it’s not in use, and when it does, it’s so dark I can’t see which bottle is the shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. So automatically I tend to hurry more!

These 3 examples aren’t the only habits I’ve improved since reading James Clear’s book. Some of them are just essentially repeating the basic principles.

Who All Can Benefit From Reading Atomic Habits?

Atomic Habits is pretty much for anyone. Nobody is perfect, and since everyone has some area of their life they could improve, everybody can benefit from reading this book. The following are some examples of people who benefit from the establishment of good habits.

  • Athletes – A regular training regimen is important to any athlete, as anyone can see from the author’s own story. Also, during training and actual play habits are crucial to. Basic examples of this would be during lifting weights and dribbling a basketball. Every weightlifter knows if some exercises aren’t done properly, it can cause serious injuries. In basketball, you can be penalized by not dribbling properly.

  • Parents – There’s a special bonus chapter written specifically for parents and their children. Establishing good habits for yourself is one thing, but getting your unwilling child to do this is quite another thing.

  • Employers – with a business, whether or not the owner and his workers have good workplace habits can make or break it. This is why so many companies have turned to James Clear for advice. Drawing on what he’s learned from this, that is, what they need and commonly struggle with, James has also included a bonus chapter for businesses.

This particular list could go on and on. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, students and anyone else who is trying to reach their true potential should read and study this book. All habits eventually, no matter how insignificant, will eventually reflect back on our life’s picture.

Lao Tzu Quote
Lao Tzu Quote

Would I Recommend Atomic Habits to my Friends & Family?

Of course I would! Atomic Habits is like having an owner’s manual on habits. Also, unlike many other self-help authors, James Clear’s writing style isn’t dry. He keeps it interesting with real-examples and gives clear directions on how to apply it your own life. It’s a very enjoyable read.

Is The Clear Habit Journal needed to use Atomic Habits?

This journal is used to help you keep track of your habits and stay motivated. It’s laid out in a simple grid system, all that needs to be done to keep track of what habits are being established is to mark the corresponding box with an “x”.

It also has a one line per day section and great examples on how to use it effectively. You won’t necessarily need the Clear Journal to put the original Atomic Habits book to good use but it will definitely help you know which areas you’re improving and stagnating

Similar Books You Might Be Interested In

The Power of Habit By Charles Duhigg

In this book, Charles Duhigg talks about the science part of habits. Why they form and what we can do to change them. With many informative examples, Duhigg shows that in order to harness the power of habits, we must first understand them.

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

Written in 2019, this book by BJ Fogg reminds me very much of the tiny habits James Clear talks about. Perhaps they put their heads together! The main premise of this book is to start a habit small and gradually work your way up. According to Fogg, 2 pushups a day is not starting too small when starting to work out!

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Make a Big Difference

At 125 pages, this book is a relatively short read. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile read though. Based off of a graduation speech by Navy SEAL William H. McRaven at the University of Texas, a speech that went viral, he shares 10 principles that he’d learned throughout his life. If you want to see the speech, it’s directly below.


Graduation Speech by Navy SEAL William H. McRaven

© 2020 James Dean

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Quite interesting subject and notions. A pleasure to read and learn here. Thanks.

    • OGUNDARE OLUSEGUN profile image

      OLUSEGUN 

      5 months ago from NIGERIA

      Good summary. Enjoyed it.

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