No need to ask why habits are important in one’s life. If you see it closely and observe it carefully, it is all about habits. If you succeed in this game of developing small and good habits, then you will win the big game that eventually translates into a good and healthy Life. And if you lose the game, life will be full of physical, mental and social problems. Whether you admit it or not, it is up to you. But, this is a tried and tested fact! Habits do make a man! And therefore, we must be in control of our habits rather than letting our habits control us. If you wondering how to control your habits, you may start practising right now. However, if you also want to understand the science and philosophy behind habits and their importance in your life, you better read this one by James Clear – Atomic Habits. In this article, I will be reviewing this bestselling self-help book, bringing the highs and lows of it to you. Nevertheless, overall, the book is readable and very helpful.
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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear is all about tiny changes, small improvements – unnoticeable on a day-to-day basis but far more meaningful in the long run. As soon as I finished this book, I was fully charged up to turn my life into an easy, attractive, and more satisfying life following James’ suggestions. Well, I am not exaggerating at all! Though we all know that small changes lead to big impacts, we seldom know the path. How to begin? What changes to start with? How to get into the groove of these changes? How to make sure that nothing goes out of the way? There are many big and small things that we need to take care of when we begin such lifestyle changes in our lives. Well, that’s where this book comes to help. It is not that I have not read any book before this book about the concerned topic. However, I was much impressed by James’ techniques, explanations, and scientific proofs. Before going into a detailed analysis of this superpower book, l will like to start with its structure. So, let’s begin with it.
The Basic Structure:
The book is interestingly and logically divided into six parts – why tiny changes make a big difference (The Fundamentals), how to make it obvious (The 1st Law), how to make it attractive (The 2nd Law), how to make it easy ( The 3rd Law), how to make it satisfying (The 4th Law), and how to go from being merely good to being truly great (Advanced Tactics). If you observe all six parts closely, you will get the gist of the book. In fact, there is nothing more in the book that runs beyond these parts. As far as the content goes, James Clear has kept it clean and clear… literally and metaphorically. For instance, if you want to develop a new habit then you need to do just three simple things – first – make it obvious, second – make it attractive and third – make it easy then it will offer you immense inner satisfaction. Eventually, you will find yourself as a more responsible, sorted, successful and happy person. This seems to be so so simple that it is hard to be believed, right? Don’t get scared guys! This is actually as simple as it feels. You just need to take the first step and you are on the track of transformation. Many readers believe that the book has an easy-to-follow structure. However, there are readers who believe that the book lacks a spread beyond the straight-line skeleton… it has a single branch that goes to the top rather than many branches that spread in different directions. Is it good? Is it worth it? You decide.
Arguing from one side, what sets Atomic Habits apart from other self-help books is its well-researched and profound content. The author has deeply explored human psychology, neuroscience and behavioural science to provide a comprehensive understanding of habit formation, breaking down its fundamental components. He introduces the concept of “Habit Stacking” inspired by the Diderot Effect. James Clear explains that one of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behaviour on top. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. Wow! Build a chain of habits and without even your knowledge this chain of small habits will lead you to great success. This simple explanation of habits, building a habit and adding more to it just as we make a chain – I guess is wonderful! One has to give it to the author. He further explains the significance of cues, cravings, responses, and rewards in habit development. The book also delves into the impact of environment, identity, and social influence on habit formation, ensuring a comprehensive exploration of the subject matter. In short, the book explores various dimensions of the human psyche, aspirations, inspirations, vision and ambition. Instead of being a linear moving line of thought, the book explores many different dimensions of habit, habit-building consciousness, and the impacts of habits on human lives.
James Clear’s clear narration style is both captivating and relatable. The author navigates through the narrow and broad lanes of the self-help psyche with unmatched and excellent skills. You will find that the author tries his best to make the readers understand his points by referring to his personal life, stories from the collective public memory and some interesting (and perhaps life-changing) instances from the historical records that we seldom cared to remember for the purposes the author tries to communicate. For example, he has highlighted two renowned personalities – Michael Phelps, a multi-medalist Olympics swimmer and Hicham El Guerrouj, a middle-distance runner, to explain to us the secret to maximising our odds of success by choosing the right field of competition. And embracing this strategy requires the acceptance of the simple truth that people are born with different abilities. We cannot do everything at once – even Microsoft could not do it since the days of Windows 8… despite so much emphasis on their skills and adaptability promises. Another interesting example that the author has included in the book is Japan’s Pinting-and-Calling method. Known in Japanese as ‘Shisa Kanko’, pointing-and-calling works on the principle of associating one’s tasks with physical movements and vocalisations to prevent errors. He has associated this unique method with our routine lives to raise the level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level. Throughout the length of the book, the narrative is sharp, pointed and almost always useful. Nowhere in the book, perhaps, it seems that the author has not found the most effective words to communicate his ideas.
However, the narrative of the book is not untouched by criticism… Many critics have argued that factors such as motivation, willpower, self-compassion, and dealing with setbacks could have been explored more extensively to provide a more holistic understanding of habit development. However, the author has not been able to manage these issues as well as could have been excepted by the author of this repute. At the same time, it is also worth noting that many readers were not able to fully appreciate the stories that have been picked up by the author to make his points. Though it is essential that every author and his book leave some space for critical opinions, readers have criticised the book for not including a wide range of perspectives or stories from diverse backgrounds. This criticism suggests that the lack of representation may make it challenging for certain readers to fully relate to the examples and anecdotes provided in the book. A more diverse range of experiences and voices could have made the concepts more accessible and applicable to a broader audience. For instance, the author may have limited his examples and anecdotes to the American audience by picking his examples from that geographical location.
Like Diderot Effect and Pinting-and-Calling method, James has used The Two Minute Rule, the Goldilocks Rule, Cardinal Rule, and so on to support his ideas with evidence from a wide range of studies and experiments. He references numerous research papers and academic sources to substantiate his claims. However, at times, these mentions and over-emphasis on proving that the author is doing something scientific by exploring these psychological and philosophical aspects of life, the book tends to become jargon and boring. We cannot deny that aspect. On the other hand, at the same time, a reader may also argue in favour of the author. Indeed, this scientific rigour lends credibility to the book’s assertions and fosters trust in the author’s expertise. By blending scientific proof with practical strategies, James strikes a balance that enables readers to understand the mechanisms behind habit formation and make informed choices. Nevertheless, once again, the critic in me asks – could we not have read scientific papers and journals first-hand rather than picking this book? Think! 🙂
Language and Writing Style:
James’ writing style is clear, concise, and highly accessible even for the common readers (except for the scientific parts where it becomes jargon, largely). He effortlessly communicates complex concepts with simplicity, ensuring that readers of all backgrounds can grasp the ideas presented. The author’s use of analogies, metaphors, and vivid language adds depth and richness to the text. Each chapter is well-structured, with concise summaries and actionable takeaways that make it easy for readers to implement the suggested strategies in their lives. So, even if it is least possible for you to give a thorough read to this wonderful book, you can be benefited by just reading Chapter Summary, given at the end of each chapter. Well, to critique this tendency, does the author not have confidence in his writing style and the content of the book? Why do you leave the chance for the reader to skip the queue and cut the corners if you are certain of the track you developed? These questions may be raised if you want to do so. On the other hand, we can say that not only those who want things in shortcuts but anyone who wants to be reminded of the major points raised in the chapters can make use of those pointed and bulleted summaries that the author has added at the end of every chapter. The author has summarised each chapter in five to seven points in such a way that you can easily hold on to his points and suggestions. The writing style maintains a perfect balance between being informative, engaging, and inspiring.
To conclude my review, I would say that this book is like a real energy drink (with some unneeded sugar and other stuff that might make you fat and dizzy if you are not careful) to make the summer days of your life cool and relaxing. And by summer days of life, I mean all those habits or things which bother us like scorching heat and then we find ways to get some relief. So, this is the best way. If you are struggling to understand your lifestyle and get rid of some habits while wanting to add some healthy ones at the same time, you might get some much-needed motivation by reading this book. Get the book and read it and you will certainly feel energised as Atomic Habits is a remarkable self-help book. It stands out in the genre due to its exceptional narration, unique focus on atomic habits, in-depth content, scientific underpinnings, and accessible language. James Clear has successfully crafted a guidebook for personal and professional growth that empowers readers to make small changes that yield significant results. Though I cannot go gaga and vouch for the book as such, I can certainly say that it has something to offer to everyone. And, after all, there are some classics in the self-help genre that command wide respect in the hearts of readers.
Review by Parakashtha for ReadByCritics
Atomic Habits by James Clear – Book Review
The book has many pros – not boring, not so long, interesting, largely convincing, and perhaps life-changing!