Read Like A Gent:  Atomic Habits by James Clear

This is a guest post from Michael Denmon.  Michael is a Dad who is working on being a better man, one project at a time. Catch up with his latest attempts at Dad Level Viking.

Countless books in the world are advertised to help you improve your life. Most of them do better at getting you to buy their books than they do at delivering on their promises. However, some books in the personal development genre provide a guide path for you to get moving towards your goals or dreams. So, if there are helpful books on the shelves of bookstores, why are so many people still looking for the answers? I think that human psychology is at fault, and that is where the book Atomic Habits comes across as refreshingly helpful at getting us to understand how we can overcome our faults and build lasting change

Atomic Habits is a book about getting back to basics in life. The author utilizes a modern-day understanding of human behavior and provides an easy-to-follow roadmap for reaching your goal of self-improvement. He shows you how to simplify your actions and focus on everyday growth as opposed to the imagined dreams of a one-day goal. He uses his own experience to anchor his beliefs and brings focus to all the little adjustments that helped him find success. 

My Experience

My first involvement with Atomic Habits was as a suggested book of the month from a group I was a member of. The focus of that particular month was on building better habits, and as you may have guessed, that month was January. January is all about resolutions and who wouldn’t want to resolve to have better habits in the new year? So, I bought the book and gave it a read, unsure of what I would find within the pages. 

My first impression was that James Clear was no snake oil salesman. I was immediately captivated by the simplicity of what the author lays out for us to understand and employ in our lives. This was a man who had genuinely put much thought and effort into why he was successful in his life, and how he could convey that information to his audience. He wasn’t selling his secret to getting rich or winning adulation. He was sharing his own habits that helped him become a best-seller and noted success story.

The Fundamentals

The real highlight of this book is the basic understanding that small habits grow your capacity for change, much like compounding interest in your bank account. As you grow your base of successful and small habits, your results will increase. You will find even better ways to improve, and it won’t involve getting exasperated like you may feel when you try to make just one monumental life change. If you build a base through small changes, you can expect to grow into significant changes. If you build a base on only one extreme change, you are much more likely to find that your base is shakier than you would like when faced with real adversity.

The Laws

Clear breaks his book into multiple sections, with each section focusing on what he calls the Four Laws of Behavior Change. These Laws are meant to help you focus on the things that you can do that will not only help you to create better habits but also eliminate bad habits. 

First of all, he asks that you make your new habits obvious and clear. With clarity and understanding, you can develop a pathway toward your goals that will be clear to you even when things get difficult. This is critical to not allowing confusion to derail your motion when you are trying to establish a habit.

Secondly, Clear asks that you make your habit attractive. He relies on actual scientific research to illustrate the power behind making a habit attractive. He discusses the primal programming that helps your own mind adapt to a habit through cues and rewards, and how you can utilize your friends and family to help aid you in your pursuit of improvement.

The third law of Atomic Habits is to make the habit easy. If you over-complicate your habit, then you will fight stronger urges to disengage from that new habit. You will allow surface-level excuses to work their way in and break your resolve for this new habit. When building a new habit, you must have the proper amount of uninterrupted time involved in setting the new habit as a repeatable action. If things get hard, you are more likely to break a string of successful habit performances, and it is all downhill from there.

The fourth law of habit building is the most critical law, and that is to make your habit satisfying. If you build a habit that ticks all the boxes for the other three laws, but you don’t get a sense of satisfaction from achieving your routine, then why do it? I think that the most critical aspect of this law is to understand what satisfaction is for you, personally. For example, very few people on Earth enjoy doing ab exercises. So, if your habit is improving your abs, you are going to want to know why you will be satisfied at the end of your habit pursuit.

The final section of Atomic Habits is labeled Advanced Tactics, but honestly, it is more of a defense against losing your newly won discipline. The section covers what it takes to stay on top once you get there, and also does a good job of illustrating that you don’t have to be a superhero to change your life or reach your dreams. You just need to understand that small and fundamental improvements will trump grand and irregular improvements over time.

Overall, if you are looking to make a change in your life, this book will provide you with proven methods and tools to achieve your desired growth. Through the implementation of small changes, you can achieve real improvement that is sustainable and will form the bedrock for your future growth.

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