How James Clear’s Atomic Habits rocked my world
This is going to sound wanky, and I don’t care: Atomic Habits changed my life. Yeah yeah, I know it’s cheesy, but here’s the thing — the book didn’t just change my life in an insubstantial airy-fairy internet motivational meme kind of way.
It changed my life in a practical, solid, “oh look my life is actually materially different” kind of way.
I want to be as good a writer as I can possibly be. I want to get better at everything I do — including being a human bean — every day. And I want a better quality of life. I suspect it’s similar for you, right?
Which is why this quote from the book jumped out at me:
“The quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.”
I DO NOT WANT TO BE A COLLECTION OF BAD HABITS.
Sometime last year, I took a good long look at myself. I’d made a big decision back in September 2018 about where I wanted to take my business and what I wanted to achieve.
Summer 2019 rolled around and I didn’t seem to be much further along. I was too comfortable. And that made me furious.
If I wanted my life and business to change, I’d have to damn well do something about it, and little gestures here and there weren’t getting it done.
Then I read Atomic Habits and everything changed. In this article, I’ll share some of the key ideas that are making a difference in my life and my business right now — and how I’m using them to change.
8 Great Ideas from my 2019 Book of the Year
- “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become.” This idea floored me; it’s so simple, yet so obvious. What type of person do I want to be? What type of person do you want to be? Every time you’re tempted to skip a good habit or do something counterproductive, ask yourself: ‘What would a real writer do?’ ‘What would the type of person who can write a great book do?’ ‘What would a good cook do?’ (Insert appropriate person into your question.) Then do what they’d do.
- “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Carl Jung said this and he’s right. Want the power to direct your own life? Take it. Take control of your habits, your thoughts, your actions — or we’re all just drifting along waiting for other people to push us. And guess what plans other people have for us? None.
- Winners and losers have the same goals. This blew my tiny mind: the goals aren’t the point. The actions we take to get there are. Set a goal, then forget it — focus on the actions and the system.
- Achieving a goal is a fleeting change. You achieve it, then what? Go back to how things were? Changing your habits is lasting.
- Goals restrict happiness. It’s not that goals are bad; they aren’t. But focusing on them constantly makes us unhappy and leads to ideas like, ‘I’ll be happy when I’ve written my book.’ Okay, but then what? Tying our happiness into stuff that’s outside our control is crazy. Don’t wait to be happy. Be happy now, in the journey (sorry, more cheesy cliches. But it’s true).
- Goals work counter to lasting change: I won a trapeze competition in September. I’d trained like a mo-fo for it — in the studio six days out of seven. Then I won, and… I’ve slipped back into my old training habits. Achieved my goal and then fell off the wagon. Don’t aim to write your book; aim to write every day and enjoy it. Your book will come.
- If you want to change your behaviour, obey James Clear’s 4 laws of behaviour change (read the book to find out what they are). I did this, and I now get up at 6.30 am every day — have done for the past three months — without fail. I used to be terrible at getting out of bed. What would a morning person do?
- And finally, something I’ve been doing for years, and was delighted to find in Atomic Habits: reframe negatives into positives. Instead of thinking ‘ugh, I have to do this’ change your thoughts to ‘yay, I get to do this now!’ Sounds like woo-bullshit, I know — but it works. Try it next time you’re feeling like you don’t want to do something.
Atomic Habits is a wonderful book. Easy to read, full of practical ideas to implement, and James Clear provides a bunch of free resources to those why buy the book — including a habit tracker I have stuck up on my wall right now.
I recommend all my coaching clients and authors in training buy and read this book because writing a book isn’t about making some grand gesture and locking yourself in a room with no clothes like Victor Hugo (although that can help).
Writing a book is about taking Tiny Beetle Steps. It’s about building habits that serve you and creating an environment conducive to writing a book. And it’s about deciding what type of person you want to be, then casting votes for yourself.
p.s. Grab yourself a copy of James Clear’s Atomic Habits on Amazon. (This is an affiliate link — if you buy through it, I’ll make a few pennies. If you don’t want me to, that’s cool, simply type “Atomic Habits” into Amazon and grab a copy that way.)
For more free advice on how to write a book, grab a cuppa and dig into these:
Resistance Is Futile, Or, The War Of Art
Stuck in procrastination hell? Feeling the resistance? Read this…
Writer’s Block Is A Big Hairy LIE
Why the phrase “writer’s block” is holding you back, and what to do about it