The power of creating Atomic Habits

Cover of Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’ve been having the idea of starting a blog webpage since, at least, as far as September 2020. I would tell myself that I would start “next week”. And then “next month”. And then “well, I’ll play it safe and ensure that I start in the Christmas break”. And then by March… 

I finally wrote and published my first blog right before my 20th birthday, which was in mid-May 2021. 

I bet that you felt identified with this story, and I also bet that you have been delaying some plans, projects, dreams such as travelling, visiting someone, studying, working, learning, creating… and the list just goes on and on. 

Let me tell you that I am not a fortune teller or a sociology expert. I have just realised that everyone struggles with this kind of issues. 

It’s all about habits 

As mentioned, my first blog came in May. Around that time, I had started to read Atomic Habits, by James Clear. While reading it, I felt a combination of “I could have written these chapters”, and “wow, this is actually a game-changer” when the author explained in greater detail the power and the psychology behind habits. 

I enjoy sharing with friends some of the case studies read in this book, like, for instance, Laszlo Polgar, who demonstrated that talent is not innate by raised three chess player prodigies himself! (Chapter 9). 

“Don’t set goals, but systems” 

Being told that you should forget about setting your goals is quite shocking. What if I wanted to finish my degree? How should I start a YouTube channel then? 

The problem with setting big goals is simple: you just don’t get started. I am obsessed with “enjoying the process that gets you closer to a goal” and not just “enjoying the second you achieve your goal”. This is simply because once you reach your goal, you will have another one to achieve. It is almost what the author means by “creating a system and not goals”. 

For example, setting the goal of reading one book per week might be quite overwhelming for someone that hasn’t read a book in his/her entire life. Even though it would be a great challenge for this person, it is not impossible, but it’s just too daunting. In this case, one could opt for creating a system instead. This could be “reading every day” and not “reading a book a week”. Reading literally one chapter and not two; five pages and not a chapter; just a page a day; or just even opening the book! But it is all about being consistent. If the criteria are just reading every day, it is easier to make the habit stick.  

This sounds like if you were almost not doing any progress at all. However, I really have to emphasise that what’s important here is not the fact that you have read five pages in a month, but rather that you are now used to read every day for one month. The rest is just scaling up. 

Back in 2020, I got onto a point in which I’d do +450 push-ups a day in sets of 150 repetitions (one in the morning, during midday, and at night), but I started with 20 and it took me months to get there. I grew quicker than I could have imagined, and the only difference is that I went from saying “come on, only two more push-ups” to “come on, only 20 more push-ups”. The best part of not having strict goals is that you can’t be afraid of not reaching them and, thus, you won’t blame yourself and feel like giving up. 

Most of our actions are made unconsciously

Most of the time I don’t consciously think that “I’m walking” when I walk. I wouldn’t even realise that I’ve spent 10, 30, or 60 minutes on social media when all I wanted to do was sending a message. We don’t really think “oh, I have to tilt the wheel to the left” after driving for three hours on the road. I also have this weird habit of double-checking the table of the café before leaving. This is because I’ve repeated it so many times that I need no more focus. It’s just automatic. 

As the author said, “We must begin the process of behaviour change with awareness”. Thus, we can create habits that will eventually be performed automatically, and they can be positive or negative. For example, 

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”.

– Carl Jung (also quoted in the book)

Having that said, the best way to create habits is to force yourself to start small and consistent, letting the daily compound interest grow your inner self in the long term. 

  • I want to be a polyglot: start by learning three words a week of a new language. Start by texting someone that can speak the language you want to learn. Seek cool music in that language. Start by learning how to say “hello” or learning the numbers from one to ten. But start now. 
  • I want to be an entrepreneur: start brainstorming ideas. Start thinking about what/who/when you will need to get started. Do an online course about entrepreneurship. Attend an event. Speak to entrepreneurs! But start now.
  • I want to be an athlete: start by putting your shoes on. By doing a rep of squats, abs, or push-ups. By learning new techniques. Walk, jog, then sprint. But start now.
  • I want to be a writer: start writing. Start writing literally anything. Get yourself a notebook and a pen. Start creating a Word document. Start reading other authors. But start right now, start small.

Now I ought you to do the same with something you want to become. If it is not in the list, just think about 3-5 ridicule tiny acts to get started and, most importantly: 

Start right now, start small. You can control your habits. Don’t be afraid of failing. Literally, please just leave your device somewhere safe and stop reading this.

Atomic Habits provided a theory-based methodology of the concept of effectively creating habits with a practical approach. The highly insightful examples used are the clear evidence of that, through methodological constant practice, almost anyone can thrive in reaching their desired goals systems. It is one of those in which I felt I know 80% of what I read, but somehow the remainder served as a catalyser of my own. 

The best habit that one can create is the habit of building habits; good habits. 

You don’t really need motivation, nor inspiration. You just have to start at this very end of the blog. I cannot emphasise it enough: close all your tabs and do what you have to do. 

Now let’s see if I get to write blogs habitually. 

What are your thoughts? 

5 thoughts on “The power of creating Atomic Habits

  1. Couldn’t agree more with you! Setting big goals always made me feel really overwhelmed. When I started to swap goals for daily habits I started to fall in love with the process and the learning. 🙂 Which habits brought the biggest change for you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that! A quote that I really like is “you have to climb the mountain step by step to get to the top”, meaning that any goal needs a minimum of progress and constancy. Breaking goals down is incredibly effective as they might seem too overwhelming!

      That’s a big question – it might sound silly, but creating the habit of creating habits is perhaps the most notable because your performance increases exponentially. What I mean is having that mindset of 1) identifying bad habits, 2) acknowledging that I should change them, and most importantly, 3) being bothered to change them!

      A more specific habit that I could think of is questioning what I really want in life. For example, asking simple questions such as “why do I want to go to the university?”, “do I really want to read this book or go to that party?”, or “why would/n’t I do this for that person?”. The right silly questions in the right moments can make things clearer.

      And finally, a less common one could be talking to strangers. Or even to friends that I haven’t talked to for a long time. When we are young we are told to not speak to strangers – and that’s fair enough when you’re a child walking alone in the street – but you never know who you end up meeting and where that can take you. I feel as if in the UK it’s more awkward to do this – or it’s just me moving to a medium city for my first time -, but during one of my first days at uni, for instance, I decided to sit beside a guy who was literally alone in the 200+ seat-hall. I must admit that I thought about not doing so, but I just told him “Hi! I’m Carlos, what’s your name?”. Turns out that he was a really nice student. Then we became friends. Then we looked for a shared flat. He introduced me to some other students that became good friends of mine. A year later, we were travelling together, around Turkey and Kurdish Iraq. And the story just goes on… imagine if one just did that regularly!

      I’ll leave it here – I’m almost starting a whole blog in the comment section! Many thanks for your comment :))
      Feel free to answer the same question: what are your most remarkable habits?


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