Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book…man, it’s packed full of realistic habit changing fuel that you can apply to your life today. Seriously. It’s almost a reference manual in that there are so many good ideas and tactics that are explained in a simple and clear manner. Here are some of the most salient points that stuck out to me:

Scale down your habits

I’ve heard James mention this on quite a few podcasts but when building a habit it’s important to break it down into the smallest repeatable element to instill the habit. From a Christian perspective; if you’re trying to read your Bible everyday don’t set up a habit like “I’m going to read my Bible every day for 30 MINUTES.” It’s way too big. Make it super tiny so that executing the habit is almost effortless. Just read a page, or a paragraph, or even a sentence. Just make it tiny enough that you won’t fail to do it. Then track it.

Systems not Goals

I loved this point so much because as we’re told many times over to set goals (SMART,BHAG, and other such goals-type acronyms come to mind) if we fail to design the systems to accomplish those goals we are taking a shot in the dark. As James writes; “Winners and Losers have the same goals.” Design your systems to achieve your goals!

Your Habits are your Identity

This one is deep. It’s one of those phrases that appears obvious but when you really look at it; we don’t really believe it on some level. When someone states “I want to be X” our response should be “Are you doing X?” I concede that this falls down a little bit when someone says “I want to perform brain surgery!” But for every person who has ever said that they want to be a writer, or a dancer, or an artist (ahem) they just need to write, dance, and make art. You ARE what you DO. If someone wants to be a better Christian, are they doing the things that a “better Christian” would do?

To summarize, this book is one of the better ones I’ve read on habit change. The tactics that James lays out here are actionable and something that anyone could start doing immediately. Whether we are aware of it or not, habits are a major part of our functioning life; understanding why we do them and learning how to manipulate them can aid us in doing whatever it is we set out to do. Buy this book, don’t wait for a discount, it’ll be the best twenty bucks that you’ll spend today. Thanks James!

Discipline Equals Freedom

*Quick note: This is a diversion from the kind of content I usually post here but here’s what I’m thinking. I like books but I tend to buy more than I read (this book came out in 2017)- I don’t want to have a big library so I’m going to read the books, summarize and sketch them out, then post the sketch and give away the books. The theme of most of the books I buy are books about Christianity, self-help, and creativity so that’s mostly what you’ll see when I do this. I’ll compare them to the ultimate word on Christianity, self-help, and creativity: the Bible. Don’t expect long exposition here, a paragraph or two and that’s it!

I like books that get to the point and “Discipline Equals Freedom” gets to the point immediately. There’s no meandering around the idea that discipline can be the ally in solving some of the problems you may be facing in your life. Jocko Willink (a retired Navy Seal) splits this book into two parts: how to think and what to do. The thinking part of the book reads more like a prescription; if you have problems with motivation, procrastination, waking up early, or what my brother-in-law eloquently describes as stinkin’ thinkin’ there’s a page to go to with simple idea of how you can change your mind. The second part of the book is a literal manual: how to eat, how to work out, etc.

The Bible has a lot to say about the virtue of self-discipline. I could list a dozen or so verses like Proverbs 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:27, and practically the entire book of James that all speak to the idea of self-discipline. I love the idea of taking control of your life and your body; it’s an empowering notion and when guided by the love and direction of a God who has a plan for our lives it’s literally a prescription for living a purposeful life.

Personally, I love it. It’s best used as a quick shot of motivation and as a..well…a field manual. I will say, the book design makes this one of the manliest books I’ve ever held. No dust cover, all black (including the pages that are black with white text) and so many pictures of sweaty concrete. It’s super masculine but I’m sure the words could apply to woman just as well. The picture I drew is a little more abstract because like I said, there’s not a narrative. It’s a tool, packed with a lifetime of knowledge, pressed into a book that looks like a brick.

Get the book here: Discipline Equals Freedom