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Review of Atomic Habits by James Clear

Reviewed by Karen Wilson

If your 2023 resolutions to exercise more, smoke less and eat better are already looking somewhat shaky, then James Clear’s Atomic Habits may well be the book that gets you back on track.

Clear shares a simple four-step model (Cue, Craving, Response, Reward) to describe how habits, both good and bad, are formed – and our brains follow this pattern every time. He also explains in uncomplicated terms how human nature, as well as culture, values, personality, and environment all come into play. The book is interspersed with fascinating stories of individuals, sports teams, and companies that have harnessed the power of great habits.

Based on his four laws of behaviour change (Make it Obvious, Make It Attractive, Make It Easy, Make It Satisfying), the author then guides you through setting up effective systems to build good habits and break bad ones. These include tools like habit stacking, motivation rituals, the two-minute rule and reinforcement for creating good habits, along with some inverse strategies for banishing the bad ones.

Clear firmly believes that setting up sustainable good habits is not about giant shifts, getting mired in too much detail or aiming for perfection. It all comes down to small actions that compound over time. If you’re just not getting to those one-hour three-times-a-week French lessons that you’ve been planning since you went to Paris five years ago, start by spending just two minutes daily on a language app. Ditto for an exercise programme – even if all you do for a while is roll out a yoga mat and take a deep breath every day. Frequency makes the difference and will fuel the habit.

The book is practical and an easy read, with a summary at the end of each chapter and a handy ‘cheat sheet’ grid of his four laws of behaviour, which he updates as the book progresses.

A copy of James Clear’s bestseller Atomic Habits is available in our Chartered client library for short-term loan.

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