Law Office of Paul Black - May 2019


May 2019

The Power of ‘Atomic Habits’ SMALL CHANGES

D espite having to pore over documents all day at work, I have never lost my passion for reading. I go through stacks of books every year, and when I find a work that really surprises or motivates me, I enjoy sharing it with my clients. I just finished James Clear’s “Atomic Habits,” and I think his advice will prove invaluable to many of my readers. As we age, routine tasks become more difficult. This is especially true if you are also the primary caregiver for a loved one. Working in elder law, I hear from clients all the time who are struggling to take care of themselves, whether that means exercising, quitting smoking, eating healthier, taking medication, or just setting aside time to spend with friends and family. As a caregiver to my father, I struggle with these life changes too. Between my job and helping him with errands and other needs, I often find myself wishing I had more time to simply spend with him. It means waking up earlier every morning and committing to leaving the office on time to pick up dinner, steps that seem completely worthwhile to me. No matter how well- intentioned, it can still feel impossible to leap into those positive routines. But according to “Atomic Habits,” I did not need to leap at all. Unlike so many other personal development philosophies that focus

on powering through large and sudden life changes, “Atomic Habits” takes the opposite approach. Clear argues that by making small, microscopic changes to your routine, you can gradually ease yourself into a healthier lifestyle. In other words, your habits need to shift at the atomic level. The book points to physics as the reason this approach works so well. Energy always follows the path of least resistance; everything from rain water to the mightiest river flows downhill. Clear sees our habits as being a lot like the flow of a river; we tend to shape our routines around what is easiest for us. So, rather than trying to make water flow uphill, we should create ways to make our new behaviors easier and our bad habits harder. “Atomic Habits” uses plenty of real-world examples to illustrate this. One gentleman struggling to go to the gym took steps to make avoiding the gym harder than it was just to go. He set out workout clothes every night, found a gym along his route home, and made the small commitment to spend at least 5 minutes there every day. That may not sound like much, but by taking those small steps, the act of working out began to feel more and more like a normal part of his routine. That is the message I found most powerful in this book. Making small improvements to your life, even if it is just 1 percent a day,

can make a profound difference over time. Leaping into a major life change means risking a disheartening fall, but small steps empower you to stick with meaningful change. I am certainly seeing those effects in my own life. Taking the lessons from “Atomic Habits” to heart, I have gradually reworked my schedule to spend quality time with my dad. It took slowly rolling back the time I wake up each morning and reorganizing my workflow, but now I am not only able to eat dinner with my father but also actually visit with him. We love watching the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” together, something that would not have been possible if I had not taken the time to make these small but powerful changes. If you are looking to make a change in your life but have struggled to achieve your goals, I recommend picking up this book. It is full of examples and advice that can help you make those first positive steps. Self-care is so important, no matter your age. Even small steps can be difficult at first, but with the right help, happier, healthier living is possible. Happy Reading,

-Paul Black

Do you have estate planning or elder law-related questions? Write to me at with Asked and Answered in the subject line. Your identity will be kept confidential. The opinions offered in this column are not intended to replace or substitute any financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. | 1

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