Atomic Habits by James Clear Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Listed under the self-help section of Amazon, I was unsure of what to expect here. Is this business self-help? Or just regurgitated workings from similar theories?

On the whole, this book is a must-read for anybody looking to improve their lives, one step at a time.

Easy to read, with clear diagrams all the way through, making this a read that will last long in the mind way after finishing.


The book aims to give the reader the foundations needed to create small daily habits. These daily habits gradually add up over time and will cause huge change over time.

Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.


James focuses his book around the 1% rule, introduced by Dave Brailsford, who improved British cycling 1% at a time in every aspect of their routines. This led a team that had never won a medal since 1908, to go onto win 60% of available medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Four years later, in London, the team set nine Olympic records and seven world records.

You can read more about this story here.

The Compound Effect

The Compound effect, which is referenced continuously throughout, is the small daily changes we can make to our habits, which will build to a noteworthy shift in the long-term.

Atomic Habits - 1% each day
1% Improvement vs !% Decline each day for a year

Changes in habits work both ways, developing new good habits and bad or lazy habits.

Coming home from work and putting on your running clothes or coming home and putting on the TV. They are both small habits that can have a significant impact on your life.

James Clear digs deep into these moments, the motivations behind each, and how we can change them. The key is not making too many substantial changes at once. This can become overwhelming and cause the individual to revert to old ways when results are not immediately seen.

Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Immediate results are also another key milestone of this book.

An example would be joining a gym and expecting to get a six-pack within the week. It doesn’t happen. Saying that aloud sounds ridiculous, but we all do this to ourselves throughout many aspects of life.

We don’t look at the long-term goal. It’s the same reason people struggle to give up cigarettes or lower their drinking habit. The result is ‘so-far’ into the future that we don’t need to worry about it.

Small Steps

James suggests creating more short-term goals that will give you the motivation to continue.

Instead of trying to run a marathon in a week, try going for a short walk every day when you come home from work. Sure, it will take a vast amount of time before you’re running races, but that’s always better than quitting after two weeks because it’s too tough.

It was Carl Jung who said, ‘until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate’.

Here’s the author, James Clear, discussing his ideas further;

Habits are the cornerstone to a great life.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve taken a lot from this book and have already begun to see small changes take effect in my own life. After two weeks I’ve been more consistent with my running by following James’s advice of bringing in competition, in my case, time and distance.

As times passed, I’ve always had general ideas on these numbers but bringing in precise measurements allows for me to see incidental improvements all the time, rather than waiting to shave off five minutes here and there.

The final few chapters could have been significantly shorter as they don’t add a great deal to what is learnt in the first two-thirds of the book. This would have made the overall length shorter, which would have countered the fatigue that starts to set in towards the end.

Still, there is a lot in this book about daily habits, especially how they help to build the foundations for the bigger picture. The main point is; this book will give you the confidence to make a change.

Have you read Atomic Habits? How has it changed your daily habits?

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