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Five ways to form a good habit that sticks

Five ways to form a good habit that sticks
Forming a habit is trying to form a cue-behaviour link in your memory, meaning "you perform the behaviour without intentionally having to make yourself do it", says Phillippa Lally, research associate at University College London, who studies habits.


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Identify a cue

Identify a cue

Forming a habit is trying to form a cue-behaviour link in your memory, meaning you perform the behaviour without intentionally having to make yourself do it.

Cues can be internal or external (for example, feeling hungry or making a cup of tea) and are most effective when encountered every day, to minimize daily planning and willpower.




Be specific

Be specific

Narrow down what you want to do. You need to have a specific plan to work out exactly when and how you’re going to do that.

A behaviour is more likely to become habitual if it’s something you enjoy or find rewarding. 



Think about who you are

Think about who you are

We are more likely to create a habit when it connects to our sense of identity.

Some habits are representations of certain important goals or values. If you manage to link certain behaviours to your sense of identity, it might help to establish those habits.



Choose your moment

Choose your moment

Make use of what we called ‘habit discontinuities': moments when people go through life-course changes, such as moving house, starting a family or a relationship, divorce, retirement or organization changes.

These kinds of events disrupt old habits and allow you to create new ones.



Don’t give up

Don’t give up

The widespread assertion that forming a habit takes 21 days is not true. Forming a new habit takes on average  66 days, with some people taking as much as 254 days (and some only 18).

And don’t despair if you miss a day. Just don't make a habit out of it.




Building habits

Our habits have the power to enable us, most of the time, to live a more organized life. However, we might find it quite challenging when it comes to establishing new habits, as they require...

Set measurable targets as habits

When trying to build new habits, be specific by thinking about ways to measure the evolution of your action: set clear targets that can help you, when the deadline previously decided on approaches, to evaluate your progress.

The pros and cons of building new habits

When picking up a new habit, think it well through: take into account the possible inconveniences as well as the most attractive advantages. 

Remember that sometimes it might get harder to keep to the habit, but eventually, you are doing it for a good cause that is related directly to yourself.

4 more ideas

The Habit Loop

The Habit Loop

The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.

Together, these fo...

5 primary ways that a new habit can be triggered

  • Cue 1: Time - Most common way to trigger a new habit
  • Cue 2: Location - Most powerful driver of mindless habits and also the least recognized
  • Cue 3: Preceding Event - Many habits are a response to something else that happens in your life
  • Cue 4: Emotional State - emotional state is a common cue for bad habits
  • Cue 5: Other People - people you surround yourself with can play a role in your habits and behaviors.

Focus On Keystone Habits

Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. 

Exercise is a good example of this. Once you start to change your exercise habits, it sets off a chain reaction t...

Use “Minimum Viable Effort”

Focus on baby steps. The key to new good habits is to do the minimum and be consistent.

Do not be ambitious at the beginning. That leads to failure. Consistency is what you’re shooting for, so make the hurdle as low as possible.

Make A Plan

Thinking about the details makes you more likely to follow through. 

Just writing down your plan also makes a big difference in effectively committing to your goals.