My brother recently recommended I read Atomic Habits by James Clear. He said he uses it as a curriculum for the teams he manages at his job, and now I can see why. I checked out the book’s Goodreads page (Atomic Habits) and was astounded by the sheer volume of dynamic quotes. It is rare to see a lifetime of wisdom distilled on a single page. Instead of adding the quotes one by one, I figured it would be easier to dedicate an entire post to the theme.
The pursuit of sexual and moral integrity is about becoming a particular kind of person. It requires setting big goals but, more importantly, creating systems and environments that bring us closer to achieving them.
Let’s reflect on the wisdom of these quotes today.
Do let me know your favorites down below.
Mine are 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 20, 23, 27, 28, 30…
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.1
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.2
You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.3
When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running4
Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.5
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.6
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.7
All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.8
Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals.9
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.10
Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.11
The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it. If you’re proud of how your hair looks, you’ll develop all sorts of habits to care for and maintain it. If you’re proud of the size of your biceps, you’ll make sure you never skip an upper-body workout. If you’re proud of the scarves you knit, you’ll be more likely to spend hours knitting each week. Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.12
When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different.13
Professionals stick to the schedule;14
amateurs let life get in the way.
Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.15
Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.16
You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.17
If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.18
We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful.19
The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.20
The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty.21
With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become.22
When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.23
It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.”24
Over the long run, however, the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way. This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.25
Your actions reveal how badly you want something. If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it. It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself. Your actions reveal your true motivations.26
Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.27
Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change. This pattern shows up everywhere. Cancer spends 80 percent of its life undetectable, then takes over the body in months. Bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks. Similarly, habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance. In the early and middle stages of any quest, there is often a Valley of Disappointment. You expect to make progress in a linear fashion and it’s frustrating how ineffective changes can seem during the first days, weeks, and even months. It doesn’t feel like you are going anywhere. It’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed.28
The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom29
Focus on whether you are fulfilling your own potential than comparing yourself to someone else. The fact that you have a natural limit to any specific ability has nothing too do with whether you are reaching the ceiling of your capabilities. People get so caught up in the fact that they have limits that they rarely exert the effort required to get close to them.30
Genes can not make you successful if you’re not doing the work. Until you work as hard as those you admire, don’t explain away their success as luck.
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.