James Clear

James Clear quotes on decision making

Author of the #1 NYT bestseller Atomic Habits. I write about building better habits.

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Your actions are a consequence of your thoughts. Your thoughts are a consequence of what you consume. And in the modern age, what you consume is largely a consequence of how you select and refine your social media feed. Choose better inputs. Get better outputs.


Wealth is the power to choose. Financial wealth is the power to choose how to spend money. Social wealth is the power to choose who to hang out with. Calendar wealth is the power to choose how to spend your time. Mental wealth is the power to choose your thoughts.


If a decision is reversible, the biggest risk is moving too slow. If a decision is irreversible, the biggest risk is moving too fast.


Good decision making has surprisingly little to do with the moment of decision. At that point, it's too late. Your brain makes choices rapidly and automatically based on experience. Good decision making is determined by what you have learned before the moment of decision.


Successful outcomes are built up through good choices over time. A profitable business is never a choice, it is a series of choices. A fit body is never a choice, it is a series of choices. A strong relationship is never a choice, it is a series of choices.


You need focus to become exceptional at anything. You have to be great at saying no. Massive amounts of time and energy are wasted optimizing things that should be left undone.


Time is the most powerful force in the universe. Nobody controls it. Nobody can stop it. If you make choices that make time your ally on a daily basis, then nobody can prevent the trajectory of time from benefitting you in the long-run.


You choose the future with your actions each day.


Each day is a new battle to say yes to what matters and say no to what doesn’t. Focus is a practice.


Whenever you see an overnight success, your eyes deceive you. What you are witnessing is the hour of opportunity unleashing the potential energy of previous choices. It was not one decision, but the accumulated power of all that came before. The fuse was lit on a loaded cannon.


Major life changes—moving to a new city, starting a new job, ending a relationship, getting married, having kids, etc—will often make life harder for the first 100 days before improving. Not always true, but it’s a reminder that early struggle doesn’t mean it was a bad choice.


A good choice may go unrewarded for a long time. The best choices tend to provide exponential returns and a hallmark of any compounding process is that the greatest rewards are delayed. Things don't really take off until years later. Keep working. Be patient.


When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility. Be careful what (and who) you say yes to. It will shape your day, your career, your family, your life.


Here's a simple decision making strategy I've found useful: Brainstorm at least 3 options before deciding. Many decisions seem like a choice between A or B, but there is always a third way. Listing at least three options forces you to get creative.


The most practical decision making skill is not making better choices. It is learning how to design your choices so they are cheap, fast, and easy to reverse. The person who does this well learns faster, and the person who learns faster finds the right answer.


Highly focused people do not leave their options open. They make choices. If you commit to nothing, you’ll be distracted by everything.


The more reversible decisions you make, the fewer perfect decisions you need.


A simple way to ensure you are focused on what matters: Imagine everything gets wiped. You inherit no tasks or responsibilities from your past or present. Then, add back only what you miss. Choose what to add to a blank slate, not what to keep from a full plate.


The 2 Keys to Elite Results 1) Make great choices 2) Build great habits Your choices—what you work on, who you work with—create leverage. A good initial choice can deliver 100x payoff. Your habits unleash leverage. Without great habits, great choices are just potential energy.


People discuss the importance of choosing the right city to live in, but it’s even more granular than that: choose the right neighborhood. In my case, I didn’t appreciate how much living in a walkable neighborhood with many trees would impact my day-to-day happiness. It’s huge.


If you're broke, you want the get-rich-quick scheme to be true. If you run a startup, you want the questionable growth metrics to be true. It's easy to fool yourself when you want to be fooled.


Your habits are often a byproduct of friction and convenience. Humans are wired to seek the path of least resistance, which means the most convenient option is often the winning option. Make good choices more convenient and bad choices less so. Behavior will improve naturally.


Step 1: Life is a series of games. Carefully choose which games you want to play. Step 2: Each game has a set of rules. Develop a deep understanding of them. Step 3: Master a niche within the rules. Play to your strengths. Step 4: Step outside the rules. Create your own game.


While results matter (and are what most people ultimately strive for), it’s better to focus on inputs over outputs because the world is complex and any single instance of success can be random. What you want is many shots on goal. Focusing on inputs means taking lots of shots.


Gut reactions are usually very wrong or very right. Wrong when they are based purely on emotion and in domains where you lack experience. Right when they are rooted in deep understanding and well-developed taste. Trust your gut when you have the experience to back it up.


The quality of your life is a product of the habits you build and the choices you make, plus or minus the luck you encounter along the way. You can't control luck, but you can control your habits and your choices. Direct your focus there.


Each day creates surface area for new opportunities. The longer you live, the more ideas, people, and options you encounter. Without active pruning, the natural path of any to-do list is to grow. As a result, a key skill in life is deciding what shouldn’t be done.


Habits account for 40-50% of your daily actions, but their true impact is even greater because your habits shape the conscious choices that follow. Ex: opening YouTube out of habit can lead to an hour of procrastination. Control that small habit and you regain the entire hour.


Kindness is a way to avoid expensive decisions. At a deep level, many choices we make—buying nice cars, big houses, luxury clothes—are an attempt to feel good about ourselves. Being kind to others also makes you feel great... and it’s cheap. No need to pay for self-respect.


Momentum is a double-edged sword. It can propel you to new heights or keep you locked into previous choices and old habits. Years are wasted for no other reason than we tend to continue doing what we are already doing. Inertia eats opportunity.


Freedom is the power to say no.


Optionality increases freedom, but decreases focus. When you have options, you can more easily switch to an alternative when things get difficult. This is optimal in matters of money, but suboptimal in matters of creativity. Be diversified financially, but “all in” creatively.


Nobody is going to give you permission. Don't wait to be tapped, chosen, appointed, or nominated. The chosen ones choose themselves.


Good choices create leverage. Good habits capitalize on it.


Good choices are how you create opportunities. Good habits are how you make the most of them.


Good decision making determines the amount of leverage in your life. Good habits determine how well you capitalize on that leverage. Said another way, your decisions determine your trajectory. Your habits determine how far you travel along that path.


Every creator has a choice: You can either be judged because you created something or ignored because you left your greatness inside of you.


It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.


Make the choices that are right for you. People will criticize you either way.


It's so easy to overestimate the importance of a single event. Your results—good or bad—are the outcome of many small decisions over time.


Making remarkable progress is not about doing more with what you have. It's about choosing to do less and mastering what remains.

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