Book Review: James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” – Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna

Imagine a young boy in a race. He is taking quick strides, his heart pulsating more than normal, air beating against his face. His eyes are fixed only on the finished line. He cares about nothing else, not even the loose laces of his boots. His face drips with perspiration, blood warms under his skin, as he strives to win.

One would think that the boy winning is a perfect end to this story—and a lesson as to how focus always pays off. But this is not how James Clear thinks it would end. And through his book, Atomic Habits, he shows why.

“His eyes are fixed only on the finished line.”

Atomic Habits, a book I will like to call, A Messianic Text for Forming Habits and Attaining Goals, hinges on reductionism as a veritable way for building the bigger picture. It’s an admonition for you to remove the speck in your eyes before focusing on the log.

Opening the book with a story of himself, Clear doesn’t aim for the sensationalism typical with many motivational speakers whose words have a temporary feel-good effect that wears off as soon as you realize the vagueness and impossibility of their message. The practicality of Clear’s words is palpable. Methods outlined in the book create a hunger in you—you find yourself gunning to test these methods. And discover, to your amazement, they work.

In his book, Clear doesn’t downplay the herculean nature of goal setting and attainment, or how tough life can be, however, he lets you know that by seeking a 1% improvement each day, our dreams unfold in full panoramic view. With Atomic Habits, there is a tendency for you to feel silly: through Clear’s many anecdotal references you suddenly realize that all the little things you’ve ignored and have taken for granted are what you really need to win.

Fraught with witty expressions and one-liners—envoys delivering many epiphanies—one cannot miss how the book communicates with all simplicity, eschewing flowery language. Atomic Habits is easy to read (with a highlighter in hand, of course). Obviously, Clear employed one of his laws of behaviour change to write the book: make it easy.

This is because (and this is a personal opinion) for him, Atomic Habits is a perpetual guide—the reader’s foray into his vast knowledge on habits and human behaviour. Therefore, it is necessary to present the book in a way that the reader wouldn’t hesitate to come back for more. The evidence of Clear’s belief in this perpetuity is seen in the extra resources—videos, bonus chapters, newsletters—he showers the reader with.

So for James Clear, the story ends like this: the boy wouldn’t win, unless he retraces his step and fastens the laces of his boots.

Rating: 5/5

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