Book review: Atomic Habits
What really fascinated me with the idea of a year of daily 1% improvements is the plot. I went deeper into the math to see detail. For example, how long does it take to get 100% (or 2X) improvement? If you start your daily 1% improvements on January 1, you’ll hit the 2X mark on March 11. You can get twice as good within a single quarter! By the end of Q2, you have 6X improvement. Whether or not you’re familiar with Grant Cardone and his 10X Rule, you’ll hit 10X improvement in you on August 20. A little more than a month later at the end of Q3, you hit 15X improvement. Now you really got momentum, and you fly in Q4, going from 15X to 38X better in just three months. It takes a while to build up, and much of that slow motion is in Q1. But if you can just keep going and build that foundation, you can achieve amazing results in the days to follow.
The other idea that captivated me related to identity. Often when working on improving, we focus on external behavior, because that’s what we really want to see change. I’ve certainly applied that approach religiously in the past. But Clear shows how that’s all backwards. Unless you change your identity to match the new behavior, you’ll sooner or later reject the new behavior because we all are hardwired to act consistently with who we really are. So instead of working from the outside in, we need to work from the inside out. We need to focus on adopting a new identity. So instead of saying, “I will read more,” say, “I am a reader.” Focus on changing the identity, and the behavior will naturally follow.
All throughout the book, Clear ties what modern neuroscience and psychology have to teach us into his approach, so not only is it practical, it leverages the science of your biological hardwiring to your advantage. By working with the way we are naturally designed to function, we can achieve more with doing less. I was so thrilled with what I learned from the book, that I made my own template to help me leverage his approach. Being an engineer, I of course put it into a spreadsheet so I can use it as a template. It’s pretty bare bones right now, and I anticipate the template will evolve as I use it more. But this seems like a good start. To be clear [pun intended], Clear includes all sorts of free materials on his website. I just thought to make my own material so I can adapt it as time goes on for my own use.
There’s more in the book that really opened my mind to a lot of wonderful thoughts, but overall, this book thrills me and fills me with possibilities of achieving all sorts of potential. If you have any interest in achieving goals or establishing any sort of different lifestyle than the one you currently have, pick this book up and read it. You won’t regret it. To the contrary, you’ll be taking a 1% step toward the changed self you want to become.
Goodbye, Amazon Prime
What drives my decision? The biggest reason is not getting what I’m paying for. The main point of Amazon Prime is 2-day shipping, which increasingly I have not been getting on what I’ve been purchasing on Amazon. Why would I give money for something I’m not getting? If the items simply aren’t available for 2-day shipping, that could be understood. But then what justifies paying for 2-day shipping? What they have available to buy with 2-day shipping means nothing. It’s about what I buy. Increasingly, what I buy isn’t getting to me in 2 days. I really don’t mind waiting longer, but why pay for 2-day shipping when I don’t get it?
I have other reasons for canceling. The largest of those is a desire to spend more time reading. I’ve certainly appreciated seeing a wide variety of films and other video content available through Amazon Prime. But I recently reflected on an awful truth. I have always imagined myself a lover of literature, and over the years I’ve collected my own personal library. And yet the majority of the tomes in that library I’ve never read.
In fact, yesterday I decided to put some numbers to it. I counted the books on each of my shelves and how many I’ve read all the way through. I didn’t include reference books in my count, because who reads the dictionary or the thesaurus? And what I found surprised me. I knew it was bad, just not how bad. Of the 614 non-reference books in my personal library, I’ve read only 211 of them. That’s 34.4%. I’ve watched 100% of my DVD collection and listened to 100% of my CD collection. Yet only about a third of my library I’ve actually read, and I’m a reader and lover of literature? Who am I fooling? Apparently myself, and for quite some time. Getting rid of Amazon Prime means forcing myself to satisfy any desires for entertainment in my library rather than some streaming content. Of course, I can still stream content online through free services. But I’m so sick of ads I’m far more likely to rediscover the love of reading I’ve always had within me.
My other reasons for cancelling are variations of a single theme: Some of these corporations have grown so big and powerful they need to be broken up, and Amazon is probably #1 on that list. Just like the trusts of a little more than a century ago, these companies have shown much more interest in amassing wealth and power than in treating people right, especially the ones who work for them and have made the wealth and power they have possible. How can the little people defend themselves against abuses of that power? Renewing my Amazon Prime subscription means supporting those abuses. Thank you, but no. I’d rather support local businesses. This doesn’t mean I’ll never buy from Amazon again. There may be times when I can’t find what I want anywhere else. But I guarantee I’ll be looking everywhere else before I give them any more of my money.
I remember a friend of mine who first introduced me to Amazon Prime years ago. At the time, she said she couldn’t live without it. As I think about whether or not I’ll be able to live without it going forward, I dare say I’ll manage just fine. In fact, I don’t think I’ll miss that much at all. And if I do end up spending more time reading instead of watching endless video content, I’ll be all the better for it.
A new year and a new me
In the past I always threw myself at my goals, and that was the problem. I was trying to make too much gain too quickly. I wanted to make huge changes at the level of my dreaming. But the new idea I encountered is that huge changes aren’t made in large steps but in small ones. It’s the aggregation of small wins that make large ones. And so my focus every day should be on doing the little things, achieving the small wins for that day and being patient in not seeing the results I want to see as quickly as I want. If I do that every day, in time I’ll have the large wins of my dreams.
And so this year I changed how I make my goals. I’m still a big dreamer; I can’t help but be anything else. But I decided that my goals for the year should represent just what I want to be at the end of the year. What portion of my big dream do I want to have on December 31? And then for that portion, every day I just focus on the small gain that needs to be made that day. And the next day just focus on the small gain for that day, and so on and so forth.
The idea comes ultimately from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which I’ll be reviewing later. He says making just a 1% improvement every day will result in being 37X better by the end of the year. I actually did the math and found the number is closer to 38X. I also found some other interesting tidbits. A 1% improvement every day starting on 1 January means that you’ll be 100% better (or have 2X improvement) on 11 March. A couple of more weeks, and that’s the first quarter. By the end of Q2, you have 6X improvement. Whether or not you’re familiar with the work of Grant Cardone and his 10X Rule, you’ll have 10X improvement on 20 August. Just 6 weeks later you have the end of Q3 and 15X improvement. Now you really have momentum, and by the end of Q4 you’re about 38X (or 37.78X) better than at the start of the year.
Having applied these ideas to making my goals for the new year, I already feel a surge of power within me. I feel incredibly encouraged by this new approach, and I anticipate this year to be my most productive year of growth and achievement ever. Here’s to a new year and a new me!
Here you can find news and announcements I want to share. In between I'll include reviews of the books I read. Find me on Goodreads.com for more book reviews.