James Clear On Why Habits Are The Compound Interest of Self-Improvement

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“True behavior change is really identity change.”

James Clear


What stands in the way of becoming the person you aspire to be?

Maybe it’s circumstances. Access or opportunity. For many its bad habits, exacerbated by the unsuccessful war waged to replace them with good habits — a rinse and repeat process that generally leads to failure and discouragement.

Why is it so hard to overcome negative patterns?

Today’s guest contends the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system.

Evolving from stuck and unsatisfied into the person you wish to become is equal parts art and science. Science helps explain the root causes of our behaviors and how to modify them. But the application of said principles into practice is very much an art.

Today we explore the often misunderstood terrain of behavior change with author James Clear, a man who has spent the better part of his career attempting to understand and master the art and science of human habit formation and decision-making,

A regular speaker at Fortune 500 companies, James’ work is used by teams in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Time, and on CBS This Morning. His website jamesclear.com receives millions of visitors each month. Hundreds of thousands subscribe to his popular e-mail newsletter. And over 10,000 leaders, managers, coaches, and teachers have built better habits in life and work via his Habits Academy online program.

James recently penned Atomic Habits, a New York Times bestselling deep dive into evidence-based self-improvement. A comprehensive primer on what actually works when it comes to behavior change, it zeroes in on the transformative power of making small changes. Packed with implementable takeaways (including many strategies I have myself employed with great success), it’s a must read for anyone looking to take their life to the next level.

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This is a highly practical conversation that explores the psychology and neuroscience behind behavior change.

Specific topics include the problem with goals. We discuss the relationship between overly ambitious goals and failure — why most people make the mistake of optimizing for the finish line when we should instead focus on getting to the starting line.

James explains why establishing systems are critical; and why focus should be placed on practice over performance.

We also cover why it’s important to move beyond temporal, emotional drivers like motivation into practical action. Why you’re more likely to act yourself into feeling rather than feel yourself into action.

Or, as I like to say, mood follows action.

My biggest takeaway from this exchange is James’ compelling dissertation on why we are best served by concentrating on identity. In other words, long-term results are best derived not from achieving the goals we set for ourselves, but instead by slowly adopting and inhabiting the daily practices and characteristics of the person we aspire to become.

Powerful and potentially game-changing, this conversation will reframe how you contemplate and act upon your ambitions. So break out the pen and paper and please enjoy

Peace + Plants,

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SHOW NOTES

Check out James’ book: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones*

Background, Context & Reference

Notable People Discussed

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering, interstitial music and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics. Portraits by Reece Robinson. Theme music by Ana Leimma.

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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