Human beings have been blaming strange behavior on the full moon for centuries. In the Middle Ages, for example, people claimed that a full moon could turn humans into werewolves. In the 1700s, it was common to believe that a full moon could cause epilepsy or feverish temperatures. We even changed our language to match our beliefs. The word lunatic comes from the Latin root luna, which means moon. …
This article is an excerpt from Atomic Habits.
In the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the French author had promised his publisher a new book. But instead of writing, he spent that year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work. Frustrated, Hugo’s publisher responded by setting a deadline less than six months away. The book had to be finished by February 1831.
Each year, I conduct my Annual Review and share it publicly. I do this because I find it helpful to review the successes and failures of the previous 12 months, but also because I think it is important to hold myself publicly accountable.
Similar to my previous Annual Reviews, I will answer 3 questions in my 2015 Annual Review:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working toward?
2015 was an incredible year for me, but I also failed on several fronts. The good stuff is in Part I, the bad stuff is in Part II, and the future is Part III. I hope you find it useful and interesting.
What a year! After publishing many new articles during 2015, I'd like to share the 10 best articles of the year.
This is a tradition I started a few years ago when I published my list of the 10 Best Articles of 2013 and the 10 Best Articles of 2014. I love to look back on the work I've done for the year and reflect on why I missed the mark or hit the bullseye.
Here's the list.
Not all uses of time are equal, and this simple truth can make a big difference in life. People who spend their time doing more profitable work make more money. People who spend their time investing in others build better relationships. People who spend their time creating a flexible career enjoy more freedom. People who spend their time working on high-impact projects contribute more to society. Whether you want more wealth, more friendship, more freedom, or more impact, it all comes down to how you spend and value your time.
If you're like me, you probably want the things listed above (friendship, freedom, impact) and others too (health). But you can't have everything at once, so you need to understand how to effectively manage the tradeoffs that you face on a day-to-day basis.
This article explains how to figure out what your time is worth and use that information to spend your time more effectively. Understanding how to get the most out of your time starts with knowing—in exact terms—what your time is worth. …
Looking back, the most surprising thing about Robert Wadlow was his normal height and weight at birth. When he was born on February 22, 1918, Wadlow weighed 8 lbs 6 ounces (3.8 kg) and was 20 inches tall (0.51 m).
There was nothing normal about what happened next.
About twenty years ago, a group of college students at Stanford University headed home for winter break. While they were gone, they were given the task of keeping a daily journal.
In this journal, some of the students were asked to write about their most important personal values and then describe how the events of each day connected with those values.
Another group of students was simply asked to describe the positive events that happened throughout their day.
When the students returned to school after the break, the researchers discovered that those students who wrote about their personal values were healthier, experienced fewer illnesses, and had better energy and attitude than the students who merely wrote about the positive events in their lives.
The famous French philosopher Denis Diderot lived nearly his entire life in poverty, but that all changed in 1765.
Diderot was 52 years old and his daughter was about to be married, but he could not afford to provide a dowry. Despite his lack of wealth, Diderot’s name was well-known because he was the co-founder and writer of Encyclopédie, one of the most comprehensive encyclopedias of the time.
In 1666, one of the most influential scientists in history was strolling through a garden when he was struck with a flash of creative brilliance that would change the world.
My friend Scott Dinsmore died last week. He passed away during a tragic mountain climbing accident on Mount Kilimanjaro. He was 33 years old.
Scott is my first friend to die young and unexpectedly. One of the hardest parts of growing up is realizing that life is a race with a different finish line for each of us. We walk this journey together, but we all finish it separately.
This article is about Scott, about the lessons I learned from him, about the global movement he created, and about the incredible difference one person can make in the world. My words are a poor tribute to the life he lived, but they are the best I can offer.
For nearly three years, I have written a new article on JamesClear.com every Monday and every Thursday.
This twice-per-week pattern has changed my business and my life. When I started this habit on November 12, 2012, I had zero readers. Today, more than 200,000 people receive my email newsletter each week.
Along the way, I’ve met many of you at live events, heard from thousands of you via email, and enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that my writing is making some small difference in the world. I’m very thankful to have you reading each week.
But today marks the end of my Monday-Thursday streak and the beginning of something new. I will now be writing once per week. Every Monday, I’ll post a new article.
I like to think of myself as a rational person, but I’m not one. The good news is it’s not just me — or you. We are all irrational, and we all make mental errors.
For a long time, researchers and economists believed that humans made logical, well-considered decisions. In recent decades, however, researchers have uncovered a wide range of mental errors that derail our thinking. Sometimes we make logical decisions, but there are many times when we make emotional, irrational, and confusing choices.
Psychologists and behavioral researchers love to geek out about these different mental mistakes. There are dozens of them and they all have fancy names like “mere exposure effect” or “narrative fallacy.” But I don’t want to get bogged down in the scientific jargon today. Instead, let’s talk about the mental errors that show up most frequently in our lives and break them down in easy-to-understand language.
Here are five common mental errors that sway you from making good decisions. …
In the summer of 2010, Rachelle Friedman was preparing for one of the best periods of her life. She was recently engaged, surrounded by her best friends, and enjoying her bachelorette party.
Friedman and her friends were spending the day at the pool when one of them playfully pushed her into the shallow end of the water. Friedman floated slowly to the top of the pool until her face emerged. It was immediately obvious that something was wrong. “This isn’t a joke,” she said.
Her head had struck the bottom of the pool and shattered two vertebrae. In particular, the fracture of her C6 vertebra severed her spinal cord and left her permanently paralyzed from the chest down. She would never walk again.
I played baseball for 17 years of my life. During that time, I had many different coaches and I began to notice repeating patterns among them.
A series of explosions shook the city of St. Louis on March 16, 1972. The first building fell to the ground at 3 p.m. that afternoon. In the months that followed, more than 30 buildings would be turned to rubble.
The buildings that were destroyed were part of the now infamous housing project known as Pruitt-Igoe. When the Pruitt-Igoe housing project opened in 1954 it was believed to be a breakthrough in urban architecture. Spanning 57 acres across the north side of St. Louis, Pruitt-Igoe consisted of 33 high-rise buildings and provided nearly 3,000 new apartments to the surrounding population.
Pruitt-Igoe was designed with cutting-edge ideas from modern architecture. The designers emphasized green spaces and packed residents into high-rise towers with beautiful views of the surrounding city. The buildings employed skip-stop elevators, which only stopped at the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth floors. (Architects believed that forcing people to use the stairs would lessen the foot traffic and congestion in the building.) The buildings were outfitted with “unbreakable” lights that were covered in metal mesh and intended to reduce vandalism. The floors featured communal garbage chutes and large windows to brighten the corridors with natural light.
On paper, Pruitt-Igoe was a testament to modern engineering. In practice, the project was a disaster.
As a society, we often overvalue unimportant things and undervalue the ideas and strategies that make a real difference.
Here's my take on a few common beliefs that I think we often get wrong.
For the last 2,000 years the Nguni people have lived on the lands of central and southern Africa. Today, the Nguni people are primarily spread across the southern and eastern portions of the African continent.
Given their long and rich culture, oral tradition and hand gestures are an important part of communication within the Nguni nations. The Nguni people speak not just with words, but also with their bodies.
Garry Kasparov and his long-time rival Anatoly Karpov—two of the greatest chess players of all-time—took their respective seats around the chess board. The 1990 World Chess Championship was about to begin.
The two men would play 24 games to decide the champion with the highest scoring player being declared the World Chess Champion. In total, the match would stretch for three months with the first 12 games taking place in New York and the final 12 games being played in Lyon, France.
Peak performance experts say things like, “You should focus. You need to eliminate the distractions. Commit to one thing and become great at that thing.”
This is good advice. The more I study successful people from all walks of life—artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, scientists—the more I believe focus is a core factor of success.
But there is a problem with this advice too.
Of the many options in front of you, how do you know what to focus on? How do you know where to direct your energy and attention? How do you determine the one thing that you should commit to doing?
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but let me share what I’ve learned so far. …
There is a concept in chemistry known as activation energy.
Here’s how it works:
Activation energy is the minimum amount of energy that must be available for a chemical reaction to occur. Let's say you are holding a match and that you gently touch it to the striking strip on the side of the match box. Nothing will happen because the energy needed to activate a chemical reaction and spark a fire is not present.
However, if you strike the match against the strip with some force, then you create the friction and heat required to light the match on fire. The energy you added by striking the match was enough to reach the activation energy threshold and start the reaction.
Chemistry textbooks often explain activation energy with a chart like this:
It’s sort of like rolling a boulder up a hill. You have to add some extra energy to the equation to push the boulder to the top. Once you’ve reached the peak, however, the boulder will roll the rest of the way by itself. Similarly, chemical reactions require additional energy to get started and then proceed the rest of the way.
Alright, so activation energy is involved in chemical reactions all around us, but how is this useful and practical for our everyday lives and building better habits?