Converge: The Business of Creativity Podcast with Dane Sanders

James Clear on Forming Small Habits to Achieve Meaningful Results

Episode Summary

Do you ever find yourself making fake deadlines only to push your endless to-do list off to the next day? You’re not alone. But, as James Clear explains, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Episode Notes

Change your habits and Get 1% Better Every Day

Do you ever find yourself making fake deadlines only to push your endless to-do list off to the next day? You’re not alone. But, as James Clear explains, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Becoming an Expert

James studied biomechanics as an undergrad and business in grad school. Growing up, he played baseball competitively and even became an Academic/All American his senior year of college. He eventually started studying consumer and behavioral psychology before becoming an entrepreneur. His first book - Atomic Habits - has sold millions of copies in multiple languages around the world.

Before all the accolades though, James experienced a near fatal traumatic injury in his sophomore year of high school when he was hit by a bat in the head.

James was forced to start small with his recovery just to regain basic motor skills. It was his injury and agonizing efforts to get better that revealed the one thing he needed to understand most to succeed in life: There is rarely an epiphany or overnight transformation in life. Most of the time, real substantive transformation comes from thousands of atomic-level decisions.

Going from traumatic injury to recovery is never an easy process. For James, it looked like becoming 1% better each day. Slowly, he created healthy mental habits while trying to also become healthy physically. James knows that none of those habits are really remarkable, but they gave him an aspect of control over his life when so much felt beyond his control.

More Than Results

James holds that if we always measure the success our efforts by the result, we will put off happiness until the next milestone. If you do, you create a situation where you cannot reach happiness without accomplishing your goal. By focusing only on the result, you are also not allowing yourself to enjoy the process. In contrast, by focusing on fundamental habits and their inherent value, you can be happy every single time you work your system.

When you want to make a change, ask yourself, “Who is the kind of person you would like to become?” You have to get yourself to a place where a habit becomes part of your identity. The repetition of experiences is what gives you data-driven proof that your identity is changing.

Thus, success isn’t when you finally lose the metaphorical 30 lbs, but instead by becoming the kind of person who never misses the workout. When that’s true, the pounds take care of themselves.

Whether you are trying to break bad habits or take on good ones at work or in life, I promise you James Clear can help. Gain access to all his great work at his website, and at


[01:33] James Clear Welcome to Converge

[04:15] How did James become an expert on the subject of habits and behavior change?

[05:20] Often, people pay more attention to the idea of habits than the habit itself. 

[07:55] The cognitive psychology movement in conglomeration with the behavior psychology movement were factors in the research done for his book. 

[08:53] James had an applied reality of habit change that he had to navigate. 

[08:58] A traumatic injury led to a loss of basic motor skills for James. 

[10:20] The process of going from injury to recovery

[12:20] Does success happen overnight and out of the blue? Or is there more to it?

[15:58 ]There is always a before to something happening. It does not happen overnight. You cannot make a leap without first making a running start.

[17:26]  Systems over goals versus process over outcomes. 

[18:00 ]You must increase your surface area for luck or something good happening to you. Richard Hamming’s idea on this is, “That something happens to you is not luck, but what happens to you is luck.”

[18:50] Why should we focus on the inherit value of habits over the instrumental value?

[23:37] True behavior change is identity change. How do I change my identity and how I look at myself?

[25:40] “Every action that you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become.”

[26:56] What happens when we believes something about our identity that has no evidence to it? How do we solve this delusion?

[28:25] How do we create and push change without having an identity crisis? How do we from a flatlined life find a catalytic movement?

[31:14] Reading and education can be used to create a new narrative of yourself. 

[35:20] Why did you learn the beliefs you have about yourself?

[37:39] The benefits of a fresh start. 

[37:59] The two ways to combat a destructive narrative.

[40:05] Culture building in a company environment. 

[41:09] The two different habits of a workplace are habits of energy and habits of focus