James Clear

James Clear quotes on systems thinking

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

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New goals don't deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results.


There are 3 primary drivers of results in life: 1) Your luck (randomness). 2) Your strategy (choices). 3) Your actions (habits). Only 2 of the 3 are under your control. But if you master those 2, you can improve the odds that luck will work for you rather than against you.


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.


The 3 Levels of Employees: Level 1 — You do what you are asked to do. Level 2 — Level 1 + You think ahead and solve problems before they happen. Level 3 — Level 2 + You proactively look for areas of opportunity and growth in the business, and figure out how to tap into them.


The most powerful force in the universe is compounded attention. Anyone can focus on meaningful actions every now and then, but hammering away on what matters day after day is what delivers exceptional results. What you focus on becomes your life.


Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. You get what you repeat.


As best I can tell, to achieve exceptional results you need 4 things: (1) Quantity: You take lots of shots. (2) Quality: You take thoughtful shots. (3) Consistency: You keep shooting for a long time. (4) Luck: You get a few favorable bounces.


Systems are for people who care about winning repeatedly. Goals are for people who care about winning once.


Your current habits are perfectly designed to deliver your current results.


Anticipate, but don’t expect. Anticipation: You’re excited for what the future holds, but you don’t try to control it. Expectation: You try to predict the future and restrict your happiness to one outcome. Always be excited about the possibilities. Never be entitled to them.


If you... 1) develop a bias for moving fast 2) consistently ask, “What’s the real goal here and is there a better way to accomplish it?” ... you can accomplish a lot in one life.


The most overlooked and underappreciated growth strategy is patience. (More specifically, consistently producing great work over a long time horizon.)


We want solutions, but what we really need are attitudes. You don't need abs, but rather an attitude of training. You don't need the answer, but rather an attitude of curiosity. You don't need an easier life, but rather an attitude of perseverance. Attitude precedes outcome.


The fastest way to raise your level of performance: Cut your number of commitments in half.


Don’t write to sound smart. Write to be useful. If you’re useful over a long time period, you will end up looking smart anyway.


A goal is a desired outcome. A strategy is a desired outcome combined with a plan for achieving it. Create strategies, not goals.


If you haven’t started, then taking action is more important than finding the best strategy. If you’re already taking action, then ensuring you’re working on the right thing is more important than working harder. Your effort sets your floor. Your strategy sets your ceiling.


Whenever there is a gap between your habits and your goals, your habits will always win.


In the long-run, the people who succeed are the ones who want to live the lifestyle that precedes the results. Stop asking, "What results do I want to have?" Start asking, "What lifestyle do I want to live?" It's common to want results. It's rare to want the lifestyle.


Results = (Hard Work*Time)^Strategy Working hard is important, but working on the right thing is more important. A great strategy can deliver exponential results. Of course, the best strategy is worth nothing if you never get to work. Zero to the millionth power is still zero.


Leadership is: 1) Getting results 2) Making people feel good 3) Connecting each person to a bigger mission The good leaders do one. The great leaders do two. The best leaders do all three.


Why focus on the process when the world is outcome driven? Don’t results matter? Yes, results do matter. But if you optimize for the outcome, you win one time. If you optimize for a process that leads to great outcomes, you can win again and again.


What you do on your ordinary days determines what you can achieve on your extraordinary days.


New goals don't deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is not an outcome, it is a process. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better rituals, not chasing better results.


The climb to the top is better than the view from the peak. It’s progress, not perfection, that we really crave.


In many cases, the bottleneck to achieving results is simply making the time to do the work.


Life gets easier when you don’t blame other people and focus on what you can control.


A small difference in your daily habits early on results in a wide gap in your outcomes over time.


The tension of life: Thinking only of today degrades the experience of tomorrow. Delay gratification. Thinking only of tomorrow degrades the experience of today. Don’t wait to begin living. Invest in your tomorrows and savor your todays. A delicate balance.


The best work resists compression. The best explanations are short, but potent. The best software delivers the same outcome in fewer clicks. The best manufacturing processes create products in less time and with less waste. The shape of genius is simplicity.


You always hold the rights to your effort, but never to your results. Results are entitled to no one. At best, they are on loan and must be renewed each day. All you own is the right to try.


Mastery requires both impatience and patience. The impatience to have a bias toward action, to not waste time, and to work with a sense of urgency each day. The patience to delay gratification, to wait for your actions to accumulate, and to trust the process.


Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.


Getting exceptional outcomes in life is often about knowing when to turn it on and when to turn it off. When to rest v. when to train hard. When to save v. when to invest. When to talk v. when to listen. When to act v. when to wait. It’s not the act, but the timing of the act.


Desiring results without considering the lifestyle is chasing a false summit. Do not ask, “What do I want my best day to look like?" But rather, “What do I want my normal day to look like?" It’s easy to chase results without realizing you would hate the lifestyle.


There are two ways to achieve extraordinary outcomes: 1) Be lucky. 2) Be obsessed. Most people need some combination of both. However, only one of those factors is within your control. Work hard, stay focused, and let the chips fall where they may.


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


Don’t put in average effort and claim that you want exceptional results.


There are 3 ways to break a bad habit. 1. Elimination - cut it off entirely. 2. Reduction - drop to the desired level. 3. Substitution - replace the bad habit with a good one. All three can work. It just depends on what you want to achieve.


If two people have the same goal, you know nothing about the similarity of their results. But if two people have the same daily habits, you can infer quite a bit about the similarity of their results. Your results are largely a byproduct of your habits.


If you do not like your results in a particular area it is rarely your intellect that deserves the blame, but rather where you have directed your intellect. Results are purchased by how you spend your attention.


The odds of success increase if: -you get more shots on goal -there is more than one way success can occur -there is a long time frame in which things can go right -you pursue a subset of strategies where the typical performance is better than the overall average.


Work on things that you care about getting right. It is nearly impossible to become exceptional in any field if you do not genuinely care about "getting it right."


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.


Merely believing you deserve something doesn’t make it a reality. But believing you *don’t* deserve something will prevent you from trying. Most people are capable of more than they believe. Confidence won’t automatically get you results, but self-doubt sets your ceiling.


A beginner’s mind + an expert’s grind. Potent combination.


Options reveal themselves after starting. If you feel uncertain in the beginning—join the club. Nobody starts with all the answers. The path to the summit is not fully visible from base camp.


The advice to “focus on the process, not the outcome” is only partially correct. Life is certainly not about any single outcome, but good processes are those that increase your winning percentage. If your outcomes aren’t improving, the process needs to change.


Results have little to do with the goals we set and nearly everything to do with the systems we follow. Goals are the results we want to achieve. Systems are the processes that lead to those results. If you want results, forget goals. Focus on your system.


It costs nothing to ask a successful person how they succeeded, but it may deliver more value than 1,000 hours of hard work. Others are under no obligation to tell you their secrets, but it is surprising how much you can learn from sincere, direct, and thoughtful questions.

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