James Clear is a thought leader, photographer, and the author of Atomic Habits. His writing is focused on how we can create better habits, make better decisions, and live better lives — combining ideas from a wide range of disciplines including biology, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy.
What activity makes you feel alive?
Travel and lifting weights. When traveling, I experience awe and wonder. I’m continuously excited by visiting new places, tasting new foods, and experiencing new things. When lifting weights, I get to engage both my body and mind.
What is the first thing you do when starting a new habit?
If I had to pick one place to start, I would suggest using the “Two-Minute Rule,” which states that you should scale your habit it down until it only takes two minutes or less to perform.
There are many ways to apply this idea. Read 30 books per year becomes “read one page.” Do yoga four days a week becomes “take out my yoga mat.” And so on.
Sometimes doing something so small sound silly to people. But the key insight is that a habit must be established before it can be improved. You have to master the art of showing up. Once you become the type of person who meditates each day or writes consistently or goes to the gym without fail, then you can worry about optimizing and improving your habits.
But if you don’t master the art of showing up (even in a small way), then there is nothing to optimize later.
"First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do" — James ClearTweet It!
What new habit has had the greatest impact on your life?
Writing. I started writing consistently only a few years ago (2012), but it is the one habit that led to the growth of my business, an email list with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and a best-selling book. The habit of writing is what transformed my business (and it’s the reason we’re doing this interview!).
If you could only accomplish one goal this year, what would it be?
Write one article per week. That might sound simple, but there are a lot of things that need to happen for me to accomplish that. If I get to the end of the year and I’ve written one article per week, then it means I will have done a great job managing my time, saying no to distractions, clearing space to read and think, and planning ahead. Lots of challenges for such a simple outcome.
How do you want to be remembered?
Questions like these are always hard to answer, but I'll tell you a story that my dad once told me. I'm not sure if it's true, but it offers a good answer for these "what do you want to be known for" type of questions. George Brett, the Hall of Fame baseball player, played for over twenty years in the Big Leagues.
During his final season, it was known that he would retire at the end of the year and at some point a journalist asked him if he had given any thought to what he would like his final at-bat to be like.
"Do you dream about hitting a home run?" he asked.
Brett responded with the opposite answer.
"I'll take a hard ground ball to second and me running like hell."
I always loved that answer. There's nothing sexy about grounding out to second in your final at-bat. There's nothing memorable about it. But that's baseball. All he wanted was one more hard sprint down the baseline. Just one more chance to play the game the right way. A final moment to be in the fight and give it your all. The real reward wasn’t hitting home runs or capturing glory. The real reward was getting to play in the first place.
Who knows what I’ll be remembered for, but I like that idea: That when I got to play, I gave it my all whether it was sexy or not.
Begin your day feeling grounded and inspired.
A free 30-day email series where we share the most impactful stories and ideas that have helped us on our journey to live a more meaningful life.
✌️ Free. Unsubscribe anytime.
“I’m in the midst of big life transitions at the moment, chasing book deals, relocating, taking risks, carving out a life that feels honest, so your emails have been a perfectly timed source of inspiration and reassurance.” Jo in London, Great Britain
"Love the emails! They are a great reset or what I would call mindful chiropractic adjustment to approaching the day. Thank you!" Laurie in Albuquerque, New Mexico
"I love the emails. They give me a new perspective and things to think about and apply in my life." Monica in Johannesburg, South Africa
"It's food for the soul and sets my spiritual compass in the right direction." Farahdiva Samsul in Assam, India
"Absolutely LOVE the daily emails. One of the only email subscriptions I read daily. Keep them coming!!" Adriana in New York, New York
"The emails are thought-provoking and uplifting. A little pause from the crazy happenings of modern life. A quick chance to reflect, smile, and think about a life lived mindfully." Pharan in Queensland, Australia
"I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mindfully Mailed series. Daily I await this little nugget of goodness to hit my inbox each day." Tambria in Shreveport, Louisiana
Welcome to Holstee
Living with intention is an ongoing practice, not a destination. Inspired by this, we’ve created a range of products to help you on your journey to live both fully and mindfully, including the Holstee Membership, Reflection Cards, and our recently-launched Reflection.app.
This article is part of our series on the theme of Intention.EXPLORE Intention →
Inspiration and tools to help you live a more meaningful life.VISIT THE SHOP →