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Atomic Habits Book Review

Author: James Clear

Book Review by: Gretchen Lohmann

Initially I thought this book was going to be very transactional about setting goals but was pleasantly surprised that beneath the transactional information was the transformational work that can be nurtured in coaching. Most of our clients are looking to make a change and establish goals in order to achieve that desired change or transformation. This book provides a good blueprint for making successful changes which is fertile ground for coaching questions to clients.

James Clear talks about the need to develop habits that support the change that you are looking to make. He connects how our daily habits reflect our identity and the importance of looking at who we are trying to become and therefore stepping into that identity now. He writes, “Each habit not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start of believe you can actually accomplish these things. When the votes mount up and the evidence begins to change, the story you tell yourself begins to change as well.” I love how he incorporates the need to trust yourself which leads to gathering the evidence to support your new story which is who you are becoming. In coaching, there is opportunity to ask clients questions surrounding their current awareness of themselves and how and when they trust themselves. In addition, clients can start to track the evidence of what habits they are doing which is leading them towards their goal. It is the little everyday changes and as James Clear writes, just “showing up” that creates the snowball effect into making change.

Another important area of the book which I personally resonated with is the difference of being in motion versus taking action. James Clear notes that when you are in motion you are doing the planning and strategy for your action but this does not produce results. When you are in action you are working towards the result you are looking for. A passage from page 142 states, “motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen. And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure.” Personally, getting to the end of the coaching program and looking at starting my coaching practice I can see I am spending more time in motion versus action. This awareness for myself as well as for coaching clients can help emphasize the current truth and to look deeper into their fears and where they are getting stuck in order to help move forward.

Using the tool of inviting your fears to the table could be a good exercise for a client in this space. Looking into the Stages of Change and asking questions around which area they are in and how they would know when they would be ready to move to the action stage may be helpful. Many other tools could be applied depending on the individual client. As coaches we need to be listening to our clients and if they are in this space help guide them through it.

A passage I keep thinking about in this book that will be important with some coaching clients is on page 227, “People get so caught up in the fact that they have limits that they rarely exert the effort required to get close to them.” As coaches we can explore these limits with our clients to help them get as close as possible to their limits if this is on their path to fulfillment. Such a large part of working with a coach is having someone help you become aware of your true self, who you are becoming, and what fulfillment looks like for your unique life. Through this process and the partnership of a coach, clients are able to push farther into their preconceived idea of their limits to create the life they crave.

And the final quote I want to mention from the book is on page 248. James Clear writes, “Habits deliver numerous benefits, but the downside is that they can lock us into our previous patterns of thinking and acting – even when the world is shifting around us. Everything is impermanent. Life is constantly changing, so you need to periodically check in to see if your old habits and beliefs are still serving you. A lack of self-awareness is poison. Refection and review is the antidote.” As life coaches, we need to be curious with our clients and ask questions about how their current habits are supporting their values and goals. It is important for clients to reflect on current values and review what values hold true for who they are today and what values may have held true in the past but no longer serve them. This awareness of self and values helps shape the habits and goals for clients in the journey of creating a fulfilling life. This process, however, has no end so we must have grace with ourselves and others as we continually reflect and review throughout our lives.

Some coaching questions inspired by this book include:

1. Who is the type of person you want to be?

2. What does being that person open up for you?

3. What habits would support you being that person?

4. How will you know that you are becoming that person?

5. What do you believe is possible?

6. If there were no limits, what would you want to be possible?

7. What small step can you take towards making what’s possible a reality?

8. How can you reward yourself and celebrate small wins as you work towards who you want to become?

9. What changes in your environment would support you? How could you make these changes?

10. What evidence do you need to support the truth of who you are becoming?

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