How to Form Lasting Habits

It's easier than you think

Habits are important. They’re the foundation of just about everything in our lives. As Sean Covey puts it,

‘We become what we repeatedly do.’

Whether it’s productivity, fitness or even anger management, changing our day-to-day behaviour and shaping our long-term future all comes down to the habits that we commit to making.

A habit is, simply put, something that we do instinctively and on a regular basis. Mental shortcuts or scripts that we can use as and when we need to.

We might habitually brush our teeth in the morning or bite our nails. We don’t have to think about how exactly how to carry out those motions, we just do it. And that’s a habit.

And although our habits are important to us, actually sticking to them is incredibly difficult. So how do we stop ourselves from falling off the wagon all the time.

According to James Clear, it’s all about setting up systems for change. Goals are okay, but the most important things are the steps we take towards achieving those goals. According to Clear, habits are dependent upon habit loops, made up of a cue, craving, response and ultimately a reward.

A cue might be the sight of a chocolate bar in your fridge. After seeing the cue, you crave the chocolate. Eventually, you cave in and respond to your cravings by eating it. The taste is your reward.

To make habits stick, we have to hack this system. We have to implant cues that will initiate the habit loops we want to integrate into our lives. We can replace unhealthy snacks (cues) with pieces of fruit or vow not to take our smartphone into the office. That way we won’t be led astray by temptation, simply because it isn’t there.

In short, forming habits isn’t just about the habits themselves. It’s about the systems that uphold them. Having those systems in place puts us in good stead to make long-lasting changes to our lives.


Update: I suppose you probably weren’t expecting an email from me today after the news I delivered earlier this week. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to send one, either. But I’ve decided that instead of pressing pause on The Daily Grind entirely, I’ll continue writing.

In a way, writing is a sort of catharsis for me. It’s kind of like therapy. It’s what I love to do, and during difficult times, we forget to make time for the things we love. We forget to look after ourselves. We let everything we care about fall by the wayside.

I know that that won’t help, so I’m not going to do it. I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to maintain structure, knowing that there’ll be good days and bad days and days when I don’t want to write but that doesn’t mean I should quite altogether.

That being said, you might see a little more of me. I hope that’s okay.


Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash