Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits was apparently the very best-selling book of 2021.

I don’t re-read books often, but James Clear’s entry is short and tactical, and it makes for a nice “get your head in the game” reset prior to a new effort (such as new year’s resolutions if that’s something you typically enjoy planning and then not doing).

Clear isn’t a scientist, but he did a nice job summarizing the work of others, particularly Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits (though the latter’s popular book came later). It’s an example, like Yuval Harari’s wildly popular Sapiens, that synthesis, packaging, and storytelling are all considered valuable and certainly rewarded by the market (much more so than rigor).

Clear had a pretty solid newsletter for many years prior to the book, so he put in the time to generate some great quotes.

My two favorites:

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

I love the idea of identity-based habits. People love goals and are obsessed with outcomes. But not hitting your goals isn’t always a failure, and outcomes are often not within your locus of control. The inversion here we are affirming is of course the classic, “it’s the journey, not the destination.”

Habits are an effort to be the kind of person we want to be–internal validation–and not focused on outcomes that might happen as a result–external validation. That identity is more who we are and less exactly what we do.

From a post about residency interviews last year:

So much of your identity feels tied to your success in school, the match, and your developing career as a physician. But internal validation is always superior to external validation. You don’t and can’t control outcomes. You–at best–control yourself and your approach.

Perhaps we would do better to think of ourselves foremost as listeners or healers and less as a specific role like trauma surgeon or dermatologist.

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