Sanjeev Kotnala: Reivew of Atomic Habit by James Clear

22 Jul,2020

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Every book has a story. My urge to read ‘ATOMIC HABIT; Tiny changes, Remarkable returns‘ by James Clear can be traced back to the article ‘Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds’, my IIMA batchmate Rajeev Kakar shared on LinkedIn.


Many people recommended me to read the book ‘Atomic Habits’. It was delivered in late June to at Indore. I read, one chapter at a time. After all, it is all about tiny progress leading to a final change and success.

I visited his website and was suitably impressed with James Clear, one of the experts in the field of Habit creation. James writes about habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Time, and on CBS This Morning. He is a regular speaker at Fortune 500 companies, and his work is used by teams in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. I subscribed to his Thursday newsletter after reading the first article full of actionable wisdom.


His book, Atomic Habits, is about how simple steps, surrounding and tiny changes can help build good habits that lead to a remarkable difference at a later stage. His focusses on making a 1 per cent change. Just a tiny change, without any high expectations. You repeat the move every day, irrespective of good or a bad day, results or no results, makes all the difference. Habit creation is about being loyal to the process rather than the outcome, and as results take a long time to materialise, it is important to not lose focus


This process focus also differentiates an amateur and a professional; the consistency of efforts, habit formation, and never giving up. ‘Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work towards it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life’. Professionals have been using limited resources and leveraging constraints to continue working to better their benchmarks. That is the power of Habit. Tiny Changes- remarkable results. It is all about the process- which is a Habit.


HABIT is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. They are simply reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment. Hence we all want to develop good habits.


You want to build on a habit or break one, Atomic Habits will definitely be of help. There is no scientifically researched and proven model in the book. It is the experience and observation simplified into simple four rules of Habit formation.

Some of the sections helped me understand myself. Hopefully, my learnings from Atomic Habits will nudge me to change for the better. Sometimes, it seemed James is only better articulating what I have shared time and again with my team members. 



‘If you keep saying something is a priority but ever act on it, then you don’t really want it. It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself. Your actions reveal your true motivations. Your actions reveal how badly you want something’.

Wanting and liking are two drivers of behaviour. If it is not desirable, you have no reason to do it. Desire and craving are what initiates behaviour. But if it is not enjoyable, you have no reason to repeat it. Pleasure and satisfaction are what sustains behaviour. Feeling motivated gets you to act. Feeling successful gets you to repeat. Desire Initiates. Pleasure sustains. 


James has used many well-known and some not-so-well stories of role models and successful people to bring alive the picture of consistency and being at it. He has also borrowed from various authors and intellectuals to make his point.

For example, to discuss happiness, he uses Seneca’s famous quote; ‘Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more’. At another place, there is an absolute gem of a definition of happiness. This time it is from Caed Budris; ‘Happiness is the space between one desire fulfilled and a new desire forming’.

And many times the difference between success and failure or giving up is all about boredom. In context to athletes, an elite coach shares with him; ‘At some point it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over’.

When I read his statement’ Emotions drive behaviour’, I smile as the thought is in sync with my thinking. He writes, ‘Every decision is an emotional decision at some level. Whatever your logical reasons are for taking action, you only feel compelled to act on them because of emotions… This is why craving comes before the response. The feeling comes first, and then the behaviour’. 


This supports James four-step model of human behaviour. And, the problem phase which is about the CUE and the CRAVING. And the solution phase about RESPONSE and REWARD. ( which also is something we talk in PARAM)

To make an action a habit, you have to make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying. 

Behaviours are effortless when they are obvious and difficult when invisible. Behaviours are effortless when they are attractive and difficult when unattractive. Behaviours are effortless when they are easy and difficult when they are hard. And finally, behaviours are effortless when they are satisfying and difficult when unsatisfying.

Lockdown must have shown you the importance of good habits in being productive while working from home. And you would have realised the need to do some inward thinking, re-search to determine what are good and bad habits. So you may now have a set of good habits to adopt. Well, what you waiting for. Good habits help create  Brand-i.

Do read the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear. I am sure it will help your habit management. And in case you are unable to read the book, just remember the four rules of behaviour shared above and the Goldilocks rule. ‘The human experience peak motivation when working on a task that is right on the edge of their current abilities ( scientifically 4% ahead)’.

Not too hard. Not too hard. Not too easy. And that is true about Atomic Habits.



by James Clear

Penguin Company

Price: Rs 699.



Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.