Atomic Habits, by James Clear (Summary, Book Review and PDF)


Atomic Habits Book review, summary and PDF

Warren Buffet once advised graduating students at the University of Florida’s school of Business to learn and practice good habits early in life. According to him, "the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."

In our dogged pursuit of progress, we are constantly faced with choices that determine our trajectory. Usually, our habits inform these choices; as such, we are forever trapped in an unending game of habit change – sometimes we win; most times we lose. That's how complicated the concept of habit is.

This complication is what forms the core of James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. With convincing arguments that span over 200 pages, he points out key things that contribute to habit failure. He preaches a one-step-at-a-time approach to habit formation, as opposed to a quick-fix approach that focuses solely on goals.

Tackling bad habits and/or nurturing good ones should be more about the how than the what – and rightly so. We should not focus so much on what we want to achieve that we pay little or no attention to how we are going to achieve it. In Clear’s words, the purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.”

It is this system-focused approach that gives birth to atomic habits the little changes that contribute to our overall improvement. This idea is also at the center of Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habits. And given their publication dates, one could say that James Clear repeats the words of Charles Duhigg in a systematic, concise yet comprehensive way. The references, stories and analogies used in these books are a testament to the workability and authenticity of their arguments and approaches.

Atomic Habits explains how habits are formed, the converse relationship between habits and Identity, and the concept of building or breaking any habit in 4 simple yet difficult steps. The book brings your problems right before your eyes, shows you the role(s) your habits play in them, and teaches you what to do to overcome them. For anyone who needs a guide in their ‘habit journey,’ here is a good one.

Although helpful and practical, there are some things James Clear may not have gotten right in Atomic Habits:

1. Two-minute rule and habit Shaping Technique: Usually, when we get high on making remarkable changes in our lives, we end up trying to do much too soon, and this wears us out easily. In a bid to counter this tendency, James suggests that we get into the habit by mastering the first two minutes of it.

For example, if the goal is to run a marathon, then focus on putting on your running shoes first. Once you have mastered that, walk ten minutes. Once you have mastered walking ten minutes, then walk ten thousand steps, and so on until you find yourself running a marathon.

The idea is to make the habit as easy as possible to start. A new habit, he says, should not feel like a challenge.

But this approach seems flawed. 

Spending time mastering the first two minutes of a habit clearly suggests that the habit isn’t for you; it should be dropped. Moreover, if forming/breaking habits isn’t a challenge, then maybe there is no need for this book in the first place.

Towards the end of Atomic Habits, James advises readers to choose a habit that comes naturally: for one, habits only come naturally once we have mastered them. Two, this contradicts the two-minute rule and the technique of habit shaping (because you don't have to master the first two minutes of a habit that comes naturally to you). 

But then, James offers a better approach in form of tweaking the environment to encourage habit formation.

2. Identity and habit: In the first part of the book, James explains that habits help shape our identity and vice versa. However, towards the end, James reverses the principle by recommending readers to pick a habit that fits their personality. This leaves room to wonder if James’ theory of identity is a myth. What if your personality doesn’t suit any habit?


In any case, Atomic Habits provides the in-depth knowledge required to drive a massive habit change. It is one of those books to carry on your journey to greatness.


Click download to get Atomic Habits in PDF format.


Author: James Clear.

Genre: Self-help book.

Publication date: Atomic Habits was originally published on 16 October 2018.

Number of pages:  306 pages long.

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Akinyemi's Journal rating: 4 out of 5 


Is Atomic Habits worth reading?

Yes, Atomic Habits is worth reading. The book is probably the most comprehensive and practical guide on how to create good habits and break bad ones. However, there are certain things in the book that are not true or helpful for that matter.

Does Atomic Habits work for ADHD?

People with ADHD may have trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviours, as such, Atomic Habits does not work entirely for them. Parents/guardians will however benefit from the tips in Atomic Habits to help people with ADHD manage symptoms effectively.

What are atomic habits?

Atomic habits are the little changes/improvements that contribute to our overall improvement. They are a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power.

Who should read Atomic Habits?

The book is not age restricted. It is for anyone who is willing to pick up some good habits and discard bad ones. 

Atomic Habits quotes

While reading, I highlighted certain areas of the book, which I believe to be a summary of the most important messages of Atomic Habits. This, I compiled in 71 life-changing quotesHowever concise, these quotes may not provide the in-depth knowledge required to drive a massive and sustainable habit change; as such, reading the book is still very much important.

Recommended reading: How to write a book review in 6 simple steps

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