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Atomic Habit – book review

Stuart bush studio, atomic habits, book review

Atomic habits, an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones by James Clear – Book review

Writing an artist statement or a blog post can feel daunting for a painter.  However, I realised several years ago that not much is going to change if I don’t communicate my story. The solution to my procrastination was breaking free of limiting beliefs, broaden my abilities and work towards the identity I want.  This is clearly explained in James Clear’s stimulating book, ‘Atomic Habits.’

James Clear discusses in his book that to become the best version of yourself and become the person who you believe you are capable of being, you first need to decide what you want your new identity to be.  James clarifies that identity means repeated being-ness and letting this new identity drive your behaviour.  Establishing tiny tiny ‘atomic habits’ that can be built on. The outcome then becomes the by-product of that identity.

James Clear’s crystallises the idea of starting with tiny improvements by working towards getting one per cent better each day.  Changes that seem so small at first and would be hard to notice, when practised regularly, one per cent today and one per cent tomorrow and one per cent the next day can lead to remarkable results.

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At first, it doesn’t seem like tiny habitual changes would make much of an impact.  However, James with his great skills as a writer uses stories throughout the book to explain and highlight his outlook.  Many of his interesting stories stand out, from David Brailsford and the British cycling team to Steve Martin’s journey to be a stand-up comic.

James tells a story about flying in a plane, travelling from Los Angles in California to New York City.  The pilot points the nose of the plane three and a half degrees, or ninety inches south.  Approximately one per cent of course.  The small change rather than taking you to New York would, in fact, take you to Washington DC.  Two hundred miles away.  The story helps the reader visualise how a one per cent change can make a difference over time.  After a year of focusing on good habits, rather than bad habits, it is interesting to think about where that change could lead you.  At first, it may be hardly noticeable, but what about after two years or five years or even ten years?

Atomic Habits – book review

atomic habits, staurtbush studio notes

Atomic habits, by James Clear, all rights remain with the author and publisher

Atomic Habit - Amazon UK

Atomic Habits - Amazon US

James uses another story to emphasise his point; the stone cutter’s toil.  The stonecutter hits a rock a hundred times.  But nothing happens.  Then suddenly after hitting the rock for the hundred and first time, it breaks.  The latent potential was slowly building and there was a long delay in the result.  This prolonged period is the reason why so many give up.  The constant and regular hits appeared to be making no difference.  It wasn’t until the last stroke that the stone broke in two.  We have all started something and given up too soon. Too impatient to wait for results.  This is what James calls the ‘Plateau of latent potential.’

Every day you are making a choice.  Are you making improvements and growing or are you repeating your past?  When I looked into trying to get attention for my artwork, I was encouraged to start writing a blog in 2016.  It was a task I really wasn’t keen on starting. I clearly remember disliking writing.  Being dyslexic I had developed all sorts of barriers and ways of avoidance.   In the past, I had convinced myself I would be a terrible failure.

This was all before I read this book.  Now I look back after reading this book and realized that James has clearly drawn attention to why my approach worked.  I focused on ignoring my doubts, making them invisible. Instead, I focused on what I would gain from the experience.  It would have been easy to judge those earlier attempts too soon, making it unattractive to continue before I really got going.  I thought about the positive effects of my new behaviour and I soon found I was enjoying the reading and learning and not looking at those early attempts too critically.

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I had no idea where some earlier dodgy blog posts would lead.  As James explains, I just got started by making it obvious.  Then I made it attractive by being clear about the benefits of the activity.  I set up a time every day to complete a blog first thing every morning.  This also made it easy.  Quickly over a few months, I felt myself growing and started to enjoy my regular routine.  I was growing one per cent better every day.  This method is clearly outlined in James’s book.  Now I regularly get praise for my interesting blog posts and I am now planning to write a book.  Something that would never have been possible before.

The trick is like when you’re playing sports, you need to stop looking at the score.  You need to have a goal in mind and continue without the ‘Plateau of latent potential’ getting in the way.  There may be a long delay in reaching your expectations. But day and after day, as James Clear, says “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

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James Clear tells us about the common excuses, “I’m not a morning person, I can’t remember people’s names, I’m not good at networking on social media.  When you tell yourself your failures for years, it is you”. It takes years, if not decades to change your story.

The four laws in Atomic Habit are: ‘make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy and make it satisfying’, it clearly remunerates.  Years of patient and diligent work later your new habits pay off.

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In conclusion, James discussing the ‘Sorites Paradox’. It is the idea that small gains on their own are not going to change your life. But what if you implemented this in all parts of your life?  When you aggregate and compound multiple improvements in multiple areas over an extended period of time it can lead to massive results.  Compounding into remarkable results changing the direction of your life.

‘Atomic Habit, an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.’ is a great guide to making small but powerful changes to your life and to your identity.  I highly recommend reading it and absorbing many of the engaging stories and learning points.

My review 5 out of 5.

Atomic habits – book review

One of the great challenges today is that we often feel helpless.  We can feel a slave to life. In the flow of water in the centre of the river, we are not empowered or poised for action. We are being taken along for the ride and we have little control other our final destination.  This is where knowledge and art can make a difference, to see things from another perspective. 
Engaging with art and literature doesn’t tell you what to do, but instead connects you with your senses.  Enabling to use and trust your intuition.  Spurring thinking, engagement and action.  If you connect with my interest in painting and gaining knowledge, you’re welcome to join my artist’s newsletter to learn more.