reaching toward flowers

Self-help books are a dime a dozen—sometimes literally—but this one is special. James Clear has written a book that, true to his last name, is remarkably clear, in the senses of well written and insightful. If you’ve been wanting to make a change, and you’re wondering how to get what you want, this book is for you.

There are so many helpful hints packed into this book that I’m not surprised Clear is such a star. He is a wild success (an auspicious sign in a person who makes a living teaching others how to be successful). I’d hereby like to give my usual caveat that, unfortunately, I don’t have space in these blog posts to share with you all of the wisdom in this book. But I will share with you a few choice tidbits.

Clear’s book, published in 2018, is called Atomic Habits. He defines atomic as small and powerful. So this is a guide to using small and powerful habits to move toward getting what you want.

How to Get What You Want: Results vs. Trajectory

Here’s one of the choice tidbits I promised you:

“It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”

That last sentence is the kicker. As someone who’s personally getting poor results but who’s on a good trajectory, this last sentence brings me great comfort.

For example, I can currently run 1 mile per day. I used to be able to run 5 miles per day, so on the face of it, 1 mile seems measly to my exacting mind. Such poor results I’m getting! Why bother even getting out of bed in the morning?

Ah, but look at my trajectory over the past couple weeks. I’ve been running 1 minute more every day. A week ago, I couldn’t run a mile. My trajectory is awesome! At this rate, I’ll be up to 2 miles before I know it; and I’ll be able to increase my mileage from there.

How to Get What You Want: The Learning Curve

Lucky you, I’m giving you a second choice tidbit within a single blog post! And that’s this: don’t forget about the learning curve. The learning curve means that in the beginning phases of establishing a new habit, progress will be slow. But eventually, progress will be fast. It’s an exponential thing. Clear includes a diagram of the learning curve (though he calls it something different) in the book.

exponential curve
The learning curve looks something like this.

The lesson is that learning a new habit may seem like slow going at first, but if you keep at it, you will rapidly improve. For example, when I progress to a certain point, I will be able to increase my running by 2 minutes per day instead of 1 minute per day.

What Do You Want?

Forget about your current results. Are you on a good trajectory to getting what you want?