In this episode of Art of Authenticity I had a thoughtful conversation with James Clear about systems over goals and how to reach new heights of productivity…without the stress.James Clear is a writer. He covers behavioral psychology, habit formation, and performance improvement. His work has been covered by dozens of major media outlets like TIME, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and more. Over 700,000 people read his articles each month and more than 350,000 subscribe to his popular email newsletter.He studies successful people across a wide range of disciplines — entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, and more — to uncover the habits and routines that make these people the best at what they do. Then, he shares what he learns on his blog and in his newsletter.

For those of you who haven’t checked out

James Clear’s site

, you’re missing out. He writes about behavioral psychology, habit formation, performance improvement and “how small habits can change our lives and society for the better.” All of these topics help us live more authentically…provided we get them right.The reason speaking with James was so fascinating is because there’s so much overlap with what he does and what my clients struggle with. So many of my clients ask the question:

“How do I implement, have the discipline, the motivation to change my life?”

James talks about all sorts of ways to think about goal setting, taking action, and changing habits. He writes about the practical things, like putting your gym shoes next to your bed before you wake up so that you can run in the morning, but then also the psychology behind why we set goals but we can’t actually follow through them.We think it’s just us. We think we’re lazy, we think that we’re not motivated. If you want to improve this area of your life, I can’t think of a better episode to listen to than this one.I know you’ll love listening to this conversation as much as I loved having it. Thank you so much for tuning in.

Thanks for Listening

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Show Notes

  • James’s personal story — forced to overcome major hurdles, he learned to focus on small wins [3:05]

  • On the importance of having a good team [6:50]

  • How James displayed entrepreneurial behavior without realizing it at first when he was in graduate school [8:36]

  • James’s early years as an entrepreneur involved incubating his skill sets [10:23]

  • James’s turning point — starting and feeling invested in writing about behavior change and high performance [11:15]

  • How James views goals, setting goals, and how to think about that process first [14:20]

  • Entrepreneurship, marriage, and children as the three great teachers in life — accepting that there is no finish line [15:05]

  • Committing to systems over goals allows happiness now, instead of it always being postponed until the next goal is finally reached [18:20]

  • Most experiments that you run in your business will not work because results are very contextual—you must keep experimenting and measure/track your results [19:06]

  • Measure backward over a short time span (instead of measuring forward) to improve over time [20:55]

  • Forget willpower, change your environment — i.e., priming your environment to make the good behaviors easier and the bad behaviors harder [26:35]

  • Keystone habits have a cascade effect: changing one or two key behaviors influences a lot of other areas as well [28:33]

  • To figure out your keystone habit(s), experiment but also ask yourself what goes right on the days when you’re at your best [30:40]

  • How James got so interested in the importance of sleep — sleep-deprived people become blind to their own performance decline [33:00]

  • Questioning the cultural belief that sleep must suffer because “a busy person is an important person” — why occasional laziness can be very healthy [35:59]

  • What does it mean to have an authentic life? James’s yearly integrity report, where he admits faults to progress forward [38:04]

  • James’s top practices for authenticity — his keystone habits of lifting weights (testing the body) and writing (testing the mind) [40:15]

Books Mentioned in this Episode

More About James

James’s first book will be out soon from Penguin Random House in the next year. Find all his books at Subscribe to his weekly newsletter at

Episode Resources