A Book That Combines Self-Discipline With Self-Reflection
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results is a step by step guide to incorporating tiny changes into our everyday lives, ultimately leading to life changing results. James Clear gives practical and usable advice to create new habits and stop others.
This personal development book also inspires introspection about our identities and what kind of people we are and who we want to become.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.
Organize Your Life By Managing Your Habits
My thoughts: Atomic Habits is extremely readable and usable. I read one chapter per day to allow the information to sink in before I moved on, and I am really glad that I did. There is so much here, and so much to consider about our lives and our habits that I feel that this was a book that I just could not binge. I needed to take my time.
Surprisingly, Mr. Clear helped me to gain some insight into who I am today and where I want to be. I immediately connected with this book when he explained the idea of looking at our habits vs. our identities.
Clear explains that in order to choose the habits that we want to incorporate (or the ones we want to stop), we have to take an honest look at who we are now and decide whether our habits support this person.
Shoot for 1% Better Every Day
Clear emphasizes getting 1% better every day, that we aren’t supposed to change everything at once. See the video above for more on that.
For example, when I was in my early twenties I was completely broke (who wasn’t?), always working multiple jobs. In a constant state of motion, I taught, tutored, bartended, and camp counseled my way through those early adult years; hustling my way to pay my rent and my car payment.
I was ALWAYS working, and because of that I developed habits for a person who was broke, stressed, and trying to make ends meet: obsessively looking at my bank account to be sure my checks wouldn’t bounce, searching for creative ways to make more money, and spending my “free” time running from place to place at the speed of light with very little downtime.
Do My Habits Match My Desired Outcomes? (Hint: NO)
For years, I have continued these habits in various ways, but when I look at who I am/want to be now these habits no longer make any sense. My goals are very different now. I want to be a person who is able to unwind. I want to identify as a calm and relaxed person, but my habits do not support that version of myself.
Who knew that looking at my habits (boring) would send me into a personal growth spiral (exciting!)?!
An Excellent Resource for Teachers (especially English teachers!)
“If you are having trouble changing your habits, the trouble isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change” (Clear 27).
I literally almost cried when I read this quote. It was like someone just set me free from my negative thinking – that I will never be able to change because I am doing something really wrong, but I have no idea what. “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results” (Clear 23).
These ideas of identities and systems are the basis of everything that comes after in Clear’s easily understandable explanation of habits. If you like these ideas, this book is for you. The majority of the book has useful information, tips, and real life examples that support changing your systems.
As English teachers, we have to manage so much: our classrooms and lessons, but the paper load is where it really gets crazy, amiright?! The systems that we put in place at the beginning of our careers may not continue to be as successful today.
Like so many of us early in our careers I was able to throw myself into my work. I was single and carefree (besides my four jobs!). I stayed at work to grade as late as I liked, sometimes procrastinating until report cards were due and then pulling all-nighters.
Do your Systems Make Sense Today?
My outdated systems no longer work for me. I have more responsibilities now outside of school that fight to be priorities. There are those pesky significant others, kids, houses, friends, parents, etc. who also need attention. I HAVE to look at my identity and my systems and decide what is working and what needs to change. Then, I will work to improve by 1% every day. Not only will I benefit, but so will my students.
I know so many other teachers can relate. The years go by and we change and our students change, but our habits don’t.
Thankfully, James Clear gives us more than enough practical tips to consider in the book. He also produces a personal development podcast, linked here.
Sometimes the right book crosses your path at the right time
I am so grateful that this book found me when it did. I was ready for the information and find myself making small changes in all areas of my life. Like many of you, January for me is a time of reflection and change.
Check out this New York Times article that discusses New Year’s resolutions which references Atomic Habits and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, which is taught at my high school.
Who this book is for: people who have some changes that they want to make
My recommendations: I don’t know that the majority of students would relate to this book in its entirety, but there are certainly excerpts that might strike a chord with them.
As a teacher, I found it enlightening and it made me rethink how I structure my work day. There are a couple of mentions (nothing even close to graphic) of sex and porn, so be aware of that if you have students read it.
If any of this resonates with you, read this book! Let me know if it changes your life, too!
Check out the lesson planning template that I use for creating and organizing my lessons here!
Purchase Atomic Habits here.
If you are interested in fiction choices for your high school students, check out my site here!