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James Clear

Our favourite quotes from Atomic Habits by James Clear

Our best quotes from James Clear's bestseller Atomic Habits

James Clear

Struggling to make habits stick? You will find inspiration from the many great quotes from Atomic Habits. The best Atomic Habits quotes from author James Clear's #1 New York Times bestseller are set out below, and deal with building good habits and breaking bad ones. As well, there are his top quotes on his personal journey of coming back from injury to become a high achiever.


Quick backgrounder on James Clear

James Clear knows that with better habits anything is possible. At high school he suffered a horrific baseball injury that took a year of recovery. He began implementing small daily habits and the Atomic Habits system for change was born. Now millions of people use his quotes and methods to form meaningful habits that elevate motivation, attitude and goal-setting through simple, everyday tasks. Atomic Habits builds upon psychology, neuroscience and our innate biology to teach us the power of good habit-making and discarding our bad habits.  

Growth Faculty was privileged to host James Clear's Atomic Habits masterclass, and many our favourite quotes about habits will appeal to leaders.


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Our favourite 3 Atomic Habits quotes

Below we list dozens of top quotes from author James Clear, but there are three that stand out for us.

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

This quote shows why James Clear has become the world expert in habit-making and habit-breaking. In just 14 words he shows us what is possible. This quote drives home that the actions we take in this moment have the potential to shape our future. Key takeaway: Look at your actions, not your best intentions. What can you do right now that will move you to a better place?

"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement."

A popular quote for fans of James Clear the world over, this made the top 3 favourite quote for our team because it sends a clear message that seemingly small changes add up to create extraordinary results. Key takeaway: Keep making the small changes. They will add up over time.

"Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits." 

Below we have dozens more great quotes from James Clear, but rounding out a top three of our favourite quotes from Atomic Habits are these words about identity. If you describe yourself as a 'non-smoker', a 'learner', a 'leader', a 'reader', then you are part-way to becoming exactly that person. Key takeaway: Begin with describing yourself as how you would like to be, and choose the small, regular actions that will help create the habits to get you there.


Seriously, how quoteable is James Clear? Here are plenty more Atomic Habits quotes that make our list of favourites:

"I knew that if things were going to improve, I was the one responsible for making it happen."

"A habit is a routine or behaviour that is performed regularly and, in many cases, automatically."

"These improvements were minor, but they gave me a sense of control over my life."

"By the time I graduated I was listed in the school record books in 8 different categories."

"Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound and turn into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years."

"We all deal with setbacks but in the long run the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits."

"With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible."

"Maybe there are people who can achieve incredible success overnight. I don’t know any of them and I’m certainly not one of them."

"There wasn’t one defining moment in my journey from medically induced coma to academic all-American. It was a gradual evolution."

"The only way to make progress, the only choice I had, was to start small."

"Small habits helped me fill my potential."

"Why do small improvements accumulate into remarkable results?"

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis."

"Too often we convince ourselves that massive results require massive action."

"We put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about."

"Improving by 1% isn’t particularly notable, sometimes it isn’t even noticeable, but it can be far more meaningful – especially in the long run."

"If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done."

"It is only when looking back 2, 5, or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones become strikingly apparent."

"We often seem to dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment."

"Unfortunately, the slow pace of transformation also makes it easy to let a bad habit slide."

"A single decision is easy to dismiss, but when we repeat 1% errors day after day by replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes, and rationalising little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results." 

Scroll down for more quotes from James Clear's Atomic Habits, and a friendly reminder to download our leadership qualities monograph mentioned earlier.


"It’s the accumulation of many missteps, a 1% decline here and there, that eventually leads to a problem."

"The impact created by changing your habits is similar to the effect of shifting the route of an aeroplane by just a few degrees."

"A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a different destination."

"Making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse is insignificant in the moment. But over the span of moments that make up a lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be."

"Success is the product of daily habits not once-in-a-lifetime transformation."

"You get what you repeat."

"If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses and see how your daily choices will compound 10 or 20 years down the line."

"Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it."

"Good habits make time your ally, bad habits make time your enemy."

"Your habits can compound for you, or against you."

"Learning one new idea won’t make you a genius but committing to lifelong learning can be transformative."

"People reflect your behaviour back to you."

"The more you think of yourself as worthless or stupid or ugly, the more you condition yourself to interpret life that way."

"Bad habits can cut you down just as easily as good habits can build you up."

"Habits appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold."

"In the early and middle stages of any quest, there’s often a valley of disappointment."

"The outside world only sees the most dramatic event, rather than all the work that preceded it."

"Change can take years before it happens all at once."

"Mastery requires patience."

"The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision."

"The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. The task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower."

"Forget about goals and focus on systems instead."

"Goals are good for setting a direction but systems are best for making progress."

"For years, happiness was something for my future self to enjoy."

"True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking."

"Ultimately, it’s your commitment to the process that will determine your progress."

"If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you, the problem is your system."

"Bad habits repeat themselves again and again, not because you don’t want to change but because you have the wrong system for change."

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

"Atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results."

"Habits are like the atoms of our lives, each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement."

"Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe."

"Once your pride is involved you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits."

"The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader."

"When working against you, identity change can be a curse."

"Good habits can make rational sense but if they conflict with your identity, you’ll fail to put them into action."

"Your identity emerges out of your habits."

"Your habits are how you embody your identity."

"The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself."

"Each habit is like a suggestion, 'Hey maybe this is who I am.'"

"The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do." 

work-team-at-office

"Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits."

"Identity is the north star of habit change."

"Habits matter because they help you become the person you wish to be."

"Quite literally, you become your habits."

"You’re exploring, exploring, exploring and then BAM! You get a reward."

"Habits are mental shortcuts learnt from experience."

"Building habits in the present allows you to do more of what you want in the future."

"What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers."


If you like these Atomic Habits quotes from author James Clear, we have a range of speakers who understand what it takes to become a great leader. Check out what our other favourite leaders have to say about listening skills, women in leadership, diversity, and being a CEO.

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To master the qualities of successful leaders, make learning a lifelong habit.

“You’d be surprised how small improvements can turn into major gains,” James Clear, author of Atomic Habits told us.

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Photo: James Clear

Photo of office team by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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