Afterthoughts: Atomic Habits by James Clear

On self discipline, an examination of popular ideas

Afterthoughts: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

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Atomic Habits by James Clear was a book that I had heard referenced on numerous occasions. I had never read it until now because I thought these sort of books were a scam. Probably a shaky framework about how to change your habits held up by shoddy scientific evidence. How wrong I was!

The non-fiction book that has had the biggest impact on my thinking, is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It laid the seed of statistical thinking and reasoning. It eventually led me towards specialising in Statistics at University. come University. Atomic Habits, I think, will become second on that list.

I recalled so many instances where I could have benefited from the wisdom provided while reading. In the time since I’ve finished, I see myself recalling the ideas in the book to evaluate things I read online. The framework offers a new lens through which to analyse behaviour which is applicable in to some degree if you read anything concerning people.

I wouldn’t say any of the ideas Clear mentions are ground-breaking in their own right. It is the way he is able to package everything together that sets this book apart. In the introduction, Clear frames the book as a practical guide, a manual of sorts, to differentiate from the wildly popular Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg which came out in 2012. As a manual for creating good habits and breaking bad ones, it gets 5/5 from me.

Since it is a manual, there is not pressure or need to read through the book in its entirety. Clear provides a table, which is available to download on his website, that concisely sums up his main points for each of the four phases described in his habit-formation framework: cue, craving, response, and reward. It is something that you could laminate and put in your room, useful to have around as a reminder of what actions you can take to snub out a bad habit or build a good one.

The book is split up into the four phases. He goes through each in turn offering anecdotes that support his claims while briefly highlighting what the research says. This makes it easy to dive in and out of sections. If you feel like you understand the point he is trying to make, you can move ahead at not cost.

While it is easy to read. I found that Clear repeated himself quite a bit across the different chapters in his book. Whether this was intentional on his part to reinforce his main argument, or not, it added meant that there was more to get through.

If you are someone who is clued up on habit-formation this book may not add anything new. But for those who are not, will find a lot of value in it.


Highly recommended. A practical and well-researched book that synthesizes thinking in the area of habit-formation. Great to pick up and have on the shelf as a reference manual for when you want to build good habits and break bad ones.


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