Last week, I was lucky enough to listen to and meet James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. The book’s become a global phenomenon. He joined us at Thought Leaders Business School in Sydney to share some of the core ideas in his book.

Here are three messages from James that stuck with me. And I reckon they’re relevant to anyone who wants to improve how they make change happen:


1.  You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your system.

Goals matter. And, they’re not enough. If your goals and your daily habits are out of alignment, there’s too much friction to sustain momentum.

It took me over two years to complete my book, Change Makers. I kept on setting a really clear goal e.g. complete it by 30 June. 30 June would come and go. No book. Shift it to 31 December. Then New Years Day arrived – no book in sight.

The problem was, I didn’t have a system that allowed me to exercise the habits I needed to complete the book i.e. write. Other stuff got in the way – client work, family commitments, good days in the surf. I eventually did two things to help me: 1) I did Kelly Irving’s brilliant online course on how to structure my book (and then structured my book), and 2) I arranged things so that I could write every day in January this year. Those two things were about me creating a system that removed the friction and upped the production.


2.  Master the art of showing up.

Showing up is about persistence. When you show up, you’re in the arena and you’ve got a shot. If you don’t show up, your chances of making any change happen are zero. Simple.

As you might know, I’m a keen windsurfer. When I moved to Wellington 11 years ago, the local windsurfing community was pretty tight. They were nice enough, but a little aloof to an Aussie stranger. Every day it was windy, I kept on showing up at the beach, being friendly chatting to the guys who were there. It took me almost a year to get an invitation to join them for a beer. And it would have taken a lot longer if I didn’t show up at all!

By showing up, and showing up again, and again, your identity evolves to become the ‘person who does ‘that type of thing’. And when that identity shift happens, you can’t help but take the actions that will eventually get you to where you want to go.


3.  Join a community where your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour.

We often work in organisational and societal cultures that suck our energy rather than grow it. In these contexts, if you want to shine, willpower alone won’t do it. Social norms are a big influence. Surround yourself with people who act and think in ways that you want to be more like.

One of the most powerful things about communities that I am a part of, like Change Makers, are the social norms we have established. Everyone shows up to stretch, to share and to support each other in doing the same. When you’re in a group of people with shared norms that stand for who you want to become, you can’t help but accelerate your development.

Reduce your reliance on willpower. Up your reliance on a community.

Three questions to go with these three messages:

  • What systems can you create to make change easier?
  • What type of person do you want to show up as?
  • What community can help you to shine?

Food for thought.


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