On habits, and hating books about habits

There are some things in life that I’ve always avoided because I’m scared of them.

Specifically, goals and habits, as these two things are hard af. It’s easy for me to visualize my future and know that’s what I’m working to achieve, but setting hardline goals has never been my favorite activity.

While I like to think I have decent ability to build habits—get to bed on time, exercise regularly, eat healthy, live a sustainable life, etc—there are some that just elude me.

Meditation is something that comes and goes regularly: sometimes I find long, unbroken chains of practice, while other times I go months without anything. Same with stretching and core work.

The frustrating thing is…I have chronic back pain and depression, and these two things—core work and meditation—might be exactly what I need to live better with those two ailments, yet for some reason they are the two habits that forever escape me as pillars of my lifestyle.

Even when I work hard and focus on doing one of them in a simple manner—such as making sure to sit for five minutes every morning for a week—eventually it’ll go away.

And that’s insanely frustrating, because I know the benefits of meditation are astounding, and the same can be said for core work. I don’t need to be overly ripped or the strongest guy out there—I simply want to have less back pain. Yet getting myself to do core work three times per week, consistently, for months and years on end, is another habit that comes and goes as it pleases.

So, with these challenges in mind, I picked up a book so many people in my circles have been talking about forever, and committed to reading as much of it as I could.

It’s written by James Clear and it’s called Atomic Habits.

And truth be told, I flew through it!

The whole thing was fantastic.

I didn’t get the sense of bullshit that’s so frequently found in self-help books, nor did I get the sense of “this stuff is impossible” either.

What I actually got most frequently was “omg I DO THIS!!!”.

The way he talked about building and maintaining habits is literally the way that I’ve built and maintained my habits over the years, but he helped put some language to the mindsets and behaviors I’ve become accustomed to, while also teaching me some new foundational practices along the way. The book was insanely validating and a reminder that I’m probably doing better than I think I am, despite my focus on the negative of not building meditation and core work habits.

As I was flipping through the pages and typing up lines I want to remember in the future, I was once again impressed with all the wisdom I found within the book. It felt like every other page had underlines and highlights with simple, intuitive, and actionable advice, along with some life wisdom and philosophy to boot.

After revisiting the book and being injected with motivation and inspiration to focus on the habits I believe might be most transformational for me, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite lines from within the book, and hope they might help you the way they’re now helping me.

There’s a lot you can do with each of these statements on their own, so be sure to sit with each for some time and think about how it might apply to you. Read the whole list, then revisit them one at a time and consider what it might mean for you and your life.

I cannot recommend this book enough, to be honest, so if anything speaks to you, definitely grab yourself a copy.

Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite lines from James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

In the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits

Makes perfect sense. What’s that famous line? How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Or something like that…

Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformation

A great reminder that small changes are often the most impactful.

Progress requires unlearning

This is hard but critical. It involves admitting that we might be wrong about something we wholeheartedly believe we’re right about. And honestly, who wants to do that?!

It’s important to let your values, principles, and identity drive the loop rather than your results.

Process over outcome. Build the system, improve the system, put the system to work.

It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action

Use this to tap into your motivation. The book does a great job breaking this down.

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.

Just start. Do the thing, then do it again. Consistency is truly key.

A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy.

By reducing the barrier to entry, you’re much more likely to do the thing you want to do. Put your gym shoes by the door and grab them every morning. That starts your habit of showing up at the gym. Build that habit, consistently, and the rest will follow.

The point is to master the habit of showing up.

Did I mention consistency? It’s key. The difference between those who do and those who don’t? Those who do are those who show up.

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

Be kind to yourself. Life got in the way and you didn’t do your thing? That’s OK, there’s always tomorrow. Not worth beating yourself up over. Skip it again? You’re building a new habit. That is such a powerful line he wrote, I just had to include it.

Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you

Don’t break the chain!

Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.

The journey is the destination, and blah blah blah cliche. But seriously, we’re all works in progress and don’t really have an endpoint. Remember that, and think about how you can build a lifestyle that’s supportive of what it is you’re after.

I hope something in here helps you in some way.

If this intrigues you, go buy a copy of Atomic Habits and read the whole thing. It’s truly fantastic.