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James Clear’s Life-Changing MasterClass: Small Steps, Big Results

In this review, we'll make a deep dive into 'Small Habits that Make a Big Impact on Your Life,' the MasterClass course by James Clear, the author of 'Atomic Habits.

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James Clear MasterClass: Our Verdict (2023)

Platform Rating

4.4 / 5

James Clear’s MasterClass, “Small Habits that Make a Big Impact on Your Life,” offers a gateway to the world of habit formation. Clear’s engaging teaching style, coupled with high production quality, ensures an enjoyable learning experience. The course focuses on actionable information applicable to various facets of life, making it a valuable starting point for those embarking on a journey of personal development. Nevertheless, its limited interactivity and relatively short duration may leave some yearning for a deeper exploration of behavioral intricacies. While his approach is quite versatile, individual outcomes may vary. It’s recommended for persons seeking a practical way to get started with habit formation but should be complemented with additional resources for anyone seeking a more profound understanding of how to build new habits.


  • Useful introduction to personal development
  • Engaging teaching style
  • High production quality
  • Implementable advice
  • Applicability to various aspects of life


  • Limited interactivity
  • Short duration
  • Potential variability in applying principles

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I was drawn to reviewing James Clear’s “Small Habits that Make a Big Impact on Your Life” on MasterClass by its apparent simplicity and the recent buzz it generated. The notion that fine-tuning small habits could yield substantial life changes piqued my curiosity. In any case, there seems to be some truth to his seemingly counterintuitive claim if we consider just how often habits play a role in our day-to-day activities.

As a newcomer to these principles, my viewpoint remains relatively unbiased. Approaching the subject of habit formation without much of a preconceived notion of what I would find, I went on to dive into the lessons offered by James Clear. His bestselling book, “Atomic Habits,” has captivated many readers, and his online course, which serves as an extension of his work, promises to do the same – and thus, I found myself taking the James Clear MasterClass.

In this review, we’ll look into its potential, explore his capacity as an instructor, and evaluate the practical value of his work, ultimately helping unravel some the intricacies of personal development through the lens of adjustments in small habits.

Table of Contents

About James Clear’s MasterClass

Small Habits that Make a Big Impact on Your Life” is a recently released online personal development course available on MasterClass. This course is hosted by James Clear, a prominent author, speaker, and recognized figure in the domain of habit formation, decision-making, and continuous self-improvement.

Clear’s MasterClass aims to break down the underlying science behind ordinary habits and to equip learners with practical tools to effect positive changes in their lives. To do so, he tries to distill complex behavioral theories into actionable steps, making them accessible to individuals from all walks of life. At the heart of his teachings is the concept of harnessing the transformative potential of incremental habits.

The online course is composed of 10 video lessons, each approximately 10 minutes in length. So, it shouldn’t take any given learner longer than two hours to complete, even with intermittent pauses for note-taking! The brevity of the course might raise some concerns, but like many other MasterClass courses, this one is well crafted with high-quality educational materials and videos with high production value.

About James Clear

We’ve already discussed James Clear’s crowning achievement, his best-selling book, “Atomic Habits,” which earned him international acclaim as well as a platform in MasterClass. Clear’s journey to prominence began with his own struggles and triumphs. His dedication to understanding the science of habits led to a treasure trove of eye-openers that he shares through his books, website, and public speaking. By means of engaging anecdotes and actionable advice both on his website and elsewhere, Clear has empowered many individuals to harness the power of habits to achieve remarkable results in their lives. No doubt, this resonates with the over two million subscribers of his newsletters!

Beyond his literary contributions, Clear has delivered impactful keynote speeches and consulted with Fortune 500 companies, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association. Not to mention, his work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times and Times Magazine. He has a knack for breaking down concepts into practical strategies that inspire lasting change.

James Clear’s target audience

James Clear’s MasterClass is useful for those navigating the terrain of personal and professional growth. As it is not overly prescriptive, it’s akin to a versatile toolkit that can help you excel as a writer, partner, or entrepreneur while also helping you tackle procrastination, self-doubt, and other hurdles.

First, Clear’s vision caters to newcomers, equipping them with essential practical skills fundamental to lay a foundation for self-improvement. I myself found it useful to set systems composed of small habits that I can realistically and continuously polish, an inch at a time, even on my worst days, rather than being overly focused on setting far-fetched goals, as he would suggest.

However, Clear’s appeal isn’t limited to novices alone – based on reviews, it seems to strike a chord with individuals at various stages in their personal and professional undertakings – whether they’re forging a unique path, honing existing skills, or embracing evidence-based approaches to behavioral transformation.

For those wrestling with specific challenges like procrastination, self-doubt, or the need to break unhealthy habits, to name just a few. Clear’s strategies are implementable and provide a clear roadmap – no pun intended – to surmount these obstacles and achieve significant progress for individuals in both their personal and professional spheres.

In essence, James Clear’s work attracts a diverse audience dedicated to utilizing the potential of their own habits for continuous improvement to live more enriching lives.

What does James Clear teach in his MasterClass?

How exactly can monumental personal transformations stem from the accumulation of small, consistent changes in habit? Whether you want to successfully run a multi-million-dollar company or simply lose weight before summer, James Clear maintains that habits precede results. We need to focus on what habits we can reasonably, sustainably, and consistently commit to change for the better.

A key concept in Clear’s MasterClass is the mastery of showing up. The idea is to get better by a bit every day in a way that we can reasonably commit even on our worst days. The stonecutter doesn’t crack the rock in two on the 101st blow but achieves it through the accumulation of all the initial 100 blows. Likewise, an entrepreneur cannot run a large company without the 100 experiences of running smaller-scale companies, so to speak.

What that means is that goals can be distinguished from systems – the desired outcome can be distinguished from a collection of habits. So, if your goal is to lose weight, the system might be the physical exercises, the diet, and the routine that you need to follow. The lesson here is to effectively turn goals into systems, to turn the desired outcome into mechanics of sustainable daily habits.

Ultimately, master your habits. But what if we slip up? What if you don’t go to the gym according to schedule because your friend invites you over for a barbeque? The key is to never miss twice. You don’t want slipping up to become a new habit, so continue your upcoming routines. Habit, as he defines it, is the strategies we follow to solve problems that often surface.

Slip-ups happen; we are not machines. We can get into what Clear describes as the ‘Habit Loop”, consisting of four stages: cues, cravings, responses, and rewards, like when we find ourselves endlessly scrolling through social media after a long day at work, spiralling into a digitally induced dopamine abyss.

Changing habits is not always easy, And James Clear is not oblivious to this. But the strategy he suggests does not call for extreme changes in behavior. Instead, he submits the ‘Four Laws of Behavior Change’:

  1. Make it obvious what needs to be done
  2. Make it attractive so that you feel the sense of “I get to do X”
  3. Make it easy even if you initially do it for only two minutes
  4. Make it satisfying, reward the desired habits, and track the progress.

You’ll learn how these are applied to some scenarios, such as procrastination, saving money, and even quitting smoking. I’ll have more to say about the example of smoking later on. Nonetheless, these are straightforward, good pointers and implementable advice that Clear presents.

Favorite lessons from James Clear’s MasterClass

Overall, James Clear’s MasterClass and the strategy he proposed is comprehensive, engaging, and applicable to almost all journeys of personal growth. There are many great lessons to be learned for self-improvement. Here are some of my favorites.

Mantra: Dream big, but execute small

a screenshot where James Clear is seen talking about Mantra: Dream big, but execute small.

The mantra he shared, which states, “When dreaming or when making plans, think big, but when executing, think small,” is very encouraging. The lesson is not only to have the courage to dream big, but also to keep a level head about what needs to be done in order to succeed.

Most of us probably understand the virtue of taking small steps, inching one percent at a time, to climb the mountain of our dreams. Still, we can remind ourselves to do so, even when we have yet to achieve our dreams, with the aforementioned mantra.

Falling to our system

a screenshot where James Clear is seen talking about Falling to Our System.

Clear speaks of rising to the level of our goals and falling to the level of our systems. He claims that we often fall rather than rise. At first, this seemed to be a counterintuitive point to me. Don’t we naturally aspire to reach our goals? But then it dawned on me that our goals can only be reached if our systems and our habits are aligned in such a way that it brings about those outcomes. This lesson stands out as an eye-opener.

Layers of behavior

illustration Layers of behavior

Here is another lesson that resembles the same logic as the previous one. Most of us might think that intuitively, if we can achieve a certain result by following some plan, we will become the sort of person we aspire to be – that if we had these results, we would be better off. But Clear encourages the learners to reverse this. To have a perspective that starts by first asking who we want to become, then figuring out the habits we need to reinforce that identity, and trusting that the outcomes will fall into place.

Action vs motion

a man working out at the gym

In this lesson, the third ‘law of behavior change’ – one that Clear claims to be most important – contextualizes habit formation within personal development quite neatly. Motion, the planning of things, is, in fact, easier than action, actually doing things. But motion must complement action rather than constitute it. Since in the end, making it easy means making it as easy as possible so that you will do it and subsequently enjoy the payoff. We can brainstorm financial strategies or consult a personal trainer all day long, but if we don’t begin saving money or start exercising, then we would never have savings or get fit.

In order to build good habits that stick, you must be comfortable walking before you learn how to start running. I find that Clear’s method of habit-building is very feasible and practicable.

Optimizing the physical environment

a man typing on a keyboard

Lastly, not only is it necessary to reinforce your perceived desired identity, but it is also crucial to design what you can of your environment so that it is optimized for shaping habits. It doesn’t help to constantly have your phone around you if it triggers your bad habit of wasting time on it. Nor does it help to have snacks or junk food in plain sight if you’re trying to lose weight. Optimizing the environment to resist these tempting cues that lead you to fall into your unwanted habits is a valuable general lesson.

Cost of James Clear’s MasterClass

MasterClass offers online courses on a myriad topics, from the practical to the theoretical, all of them with cinematic visuals – and James Clear’s course is just one of many. But to access his course requires you to purchase the annual subscription.

The annual MasterClass plans start at $120 (recently lowered from $180) or $10 per month. This gives you access to a library of currently over 185 courses led by outstanding contemporary minds. But, it’s a generous deal only if some of the other courses are interesting to you. Some people might find that to only purchase it for the sake of James Clear’s MasterClass is a bit pricey, especially given that his course is less than two hours in length.

Enjoyable aspects of James Clear’s MasterClass

All in all, my learning experience of James Clear’s course was pleasantly positive. Here is what I have to say about it that I liked.

James Clear as an instructor

I had high expectations of James Clear as an Instructor. After all, he does teach a class on self-improvement. I expected him to be clear and concise in his delivery and capable of providing real-world scenarios about his experience with habit-building. He was definitely nothing short of this. Although I wished that the courses were longer in duration, I think Clear was an engaging instructor and gave a comprehensive introduction to personal development.

James Clear’s advice

There were many moments where I found myself nodding my head and agreeing to Clear’s implementable pieces of advice. They are quite direct and candid, you can tell that many have probably benefited from them. For instance, the systems-directed approach, as opposed to the conventional goal-directed approach to self-realization, is quite refreshing and allows for a systematic means of habit-building.

Applicability of James Clear’s method

There is no question that the simplicity of Clear’s method is something that any adult can adopt. The true test of its virtues would be to see if the lessons can actually propel you toward personal growth, with the only evaluator being yourself, regardless of the types of habits or self-improvement journeys you apply them to.

Cinematic production quality

The outstandingly high production quality of visual content makes the experience of taking James Clear’s MasterClass all the more enjoyable. It posed fewer visual distractions and felt like a seamless online classroom.

Critical reflections on James Clear’s MasterClass

Alongside every great thing, there are certain drawbacks. I will mention a few from my experience of James Clear’s MasterClass.

Limitations on interactivity

As there is no longer any community or other way to discuss with other learners in most of the MasterClass course, I must say that the isolated learning experience may work for some people but not always so well for me. After completing Clear’s course, I felt the urge to discuss the content with others who have taken the course, but unfortunately, I found no option to do so.

Brevity of the MasterClass

While I appreciate the amount of effort put into producing the MasterClass and appreciate how well it was put together, the course is short in duration. Yes, it was packed with good content, but Clear could have elaborated more on some other examples of real-world applications.

Potential variability in Clear’s principles

Now, I want to go back to the application of Clear’s ‘laws of behavior change’ to breaking the bad habit of smoking. Even though Clear mentions this several times and goes through this exact example as a bad habit to break, I am not fully convinced that quitting smoking is possible merely through his strategy. I don’t deny that it cannot aid in quitting, but I reserve doubt on whether a smoker can entirely quit if and only if they follow Clear’s strategy.

Review conclusion: Is the James Clear MasterClass recommended?

I definitely recommend James Clear’s MasterClass on habits and their impacts. Despite expressing skepticism towards one application of his habit-building, or so-called behavior-hacking strategy, I believe his course is worth taking.

Having said that, Clear’s background in behavioral sciences, which grounds his entire work, is a testament to his expertise in the field. His contribution to the literature of personal development may be a game-changer for many, reaching deep into the psychology of habits and providing actionable strategies for personal growth. His ability to translate complex scientific concepts into practical and implementable advice is commendable.

James Clear’s MasterClass is a valuable resource both for newcomers and anyone in varying stages of their self-improvement pathways who wants to improve their habits. I, for one, already began to implement some of the lessons I learned, and I look forward to the outcomes that will bloom. Only time will tell.