How To Make Your New Good Habits Stick (and Break Your Bad Ones)

Hello Lovely Human!

Let’s face the ugly truth, shall we? We all have bad habits that follow us into every new year and good habits that we just can’t seem to stick to even with colour coded, laminated schedules. Luckily for both of us, behavioural science will have us achieving all these things with simple little tricks.

How and Why We Form Habits

We form habits because we desire something that the habit leads to, not the habit itself.  James uses the example of brushing your teeth, you don’t desire to brush your teeth, you desire the feeling of a clean mouth, so you brush your teeth to fulfil that desire.

The first thing that we have to remember about our habits, good habits and bad habits, is that we don’t have to be aware of them for them to exist or begin, it can call happen unconsciously and that means that we probably aren’t conscious of their triggers either.

Bad habits usually give us instant gratification and most good habits have delayed gratification which is why they’re so hard to form.  

James-because calling him Clear or Mr Clear feels way too formal-explains that we form habits on the information we get from what he calls the feedback loop/habit cycle which runs as such:

Cue=> Craving=>Response=>Reward

  • The Cue-this is a bit of information that predicts a reward and tiggers a behavioural response from us.
  • The Craving-this is the motivational force behind all our habits and actions.
  • The Response-aka the actual habit that could either be thoughts or actions.  Whether or not you respond depends on 1) your ability to perform the response, 2) your motivation to perform the response and how hard the response is.  If you don’t have enough of a craving the response, you’re not willing to expand the energy to perform the response, it doesn’t occur. 
  • The reward-the end goal of every habit and action.

Your Habits and The Way You Speak To Yourself

What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.

Ophrah Winfrey

The Law of Attraction states that our thoughts and feelings allow us to bring that positivity (or negativity into our lives), or essentially, it allows us to shape our reality.

Perhaps you don’t believe this* but what you can believe is that your brain believes everything that you tell it.  And your brain, as stated in Atomic Habits, will do anything to avoid contradicting your statements and your brain, like mine, will continuously look for things to support your statements.

If you say that you like running (even when you hate it) you will start to like running.  If you say you hate coffee, you’ll never appreciate the delicious beverage.  If you say you’re neat you’ll continuously look for neat spots in your home and start creating more so that you’re right.

So, in all essence, the way you talk to yourself DOES MATTER.  Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with respect and love because, again, IT MATTERS.

You are the kind of person who does/achieves______

You are the type of person who sees things through.

You are a helpful person.  You are a dependable person etc.

*I don’t know where I stand, I haven’t yet done enough research to say.

One note: a habit does not necessarily take 21 days to build/break as suggested by Maxwell Maltz a plastic surgeon who noticed it took patients 21 days to stop feeling surprised at seeing different body parts and feeling their prosthetic limbs.  How long it takes to form/break a habit depends on how hard the habit is.

Breaking Bad Habits

  • Eliminate the cues; “without the cue your habit can’t begin”

A trigger is something that stimulates or triggers, your brain to perform a specific action or lead you into a particular thought sequence, they come in a variety of forms such as place, time, objects, sounds etc.

Take away anything that triggers/reminds you of the habit you’re trying to break.  As the good old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.

So, for example, you’re trying to eat less chocolate leave it on the store shelf.  If you’re trying to stop watching so much TV at night move the remote away on your way to dinner.

  • Make the habit unattractive

Take away the motivational force behind it, remind yourself why you’re trying to break the habit to counteract the why for performing the habit.

Whatever makes you want to perform the habit should be removed from your environment.

Tip: I love to leave little sticky notes to myself reminding me not to carry out bad habits I’m trying to break and a reminder to go and do a good one instead-all my sticky notes include why and a reminder that I want to honour my commitment to break xyz and do abc.

  • Make It Hard

This one is a no brainer.  As mentioned above the harder a habit is to carry out the harder it is to turn it into a habit and the more friction between you and a task the less you usually want to perform it.  Your brain will default to the easiest task, something else.  Make your bad habits harder than your good habits.

  • Make It Unsatisfying

The very reason that we have habits is that we want to reap the results, if the results are bad then you have no reason to keep up the habit.

Building Good Habits

  • Make It Obvious

Make the habit visible, remind yourself of it with apps on your phone, put it on your to-do list and keep anything you may need on hand in a visible place.

For example, you could keep a scented candle on your desk that you light whenever you do your homework so that you can be reminded to do it whenever you see the candle.

  • Make It Attractive

Remembering why you want to perform a certain habit is really very helpful, you want the result, something that attracts you.  Reminding yourself of the end game is something that will fill you up with motivation.  Use those sticky notes I mentioned, they really work 😊

Surround yourself with anything that makes you want to perform the habit and get rid of anything that makes the habit seem undesirable.

You could try lighting a favourite scented candle whenever you do math homework so that you can have that wonderful scent all around you or listen to your favourite playlists during a workout or as you clean up.

  • Make It Easy

It’s okay if you like things to be easy, deep down, as much as anyone may love a challenge, we all want things to be easy.  We’re designed to want to reap the most reward with the least effort.

But if you make your good habits easy you’ll automatically want to carry them out and if your bad habits have more friction between you and your good habit you’ll prefer to do the good one.  It’s entirely possible.

  • Make It Satisfying

If the reward makes you repeat behaviours and although logically you know that your good habit is going to bring rewards into your life they’re not immediate the way most bad habits are so your brain is seeing to point in keeping up the habit.

You need to make these habits rewarding so that until and even when you see results you can keep going without needing massive amounts of self-discipline and finding it miserable. 

By doing this you’ll be motivated to make the behaviour a habit and even begin to close the feedback loop.

Hey guys, first off Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it! And happy new year you guys, I’m sure that next year is going to be awesome and we are going to slay it!

So sorry about the extremely late post, I’m travelling at the moment and there were some technical difficulties but it’s here now.

So, tell me, what habits are you going to build/break next year?


One thought on “How To Make Your New Good Habits Stick (and Break Your Bad Ones)

  1. I loved James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and I like his concept of doing small things to help your brain ‘vote’ what type of person you are. Each time you perform a habit, no matter how small, it adds a little vote for the action you’re doing. Then one day you realise you’ve become this person. Lovely post, Belle. Thanks for sharing!


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