Cultivating Lifestyle Changes and Forming New Habits

Habit formation and behavior change are widely discussed, especially because we live in a culture that, for better or worse, is fixated on self-improvement.

I am not a psychologist or motivational speaker. However, I do feel qualified enough to give you the “Too Long; Didn’t Read” version of some works on habit formation from experts in the field. If there is a mountainous goal that has been eluding you, read on!

Laws of Habit Changes from Atomic Habits by James Clear:

Make it obvious: pay attention to your environment and make cues for the desired habit. 

For example, if your goal is to read x number of books for the year, it could be a good idea to place a book on the coffee table where the remote control usually rests.

Make it attractive: the more enjoyable or attractive the habit is, the more likely you are to do it. Try “temptation bundling,” pairing a highly probable and desirable habit with the new habit. 

For example, watching your favorite show while walking on the treadmill if you want to make a habit of walking for thirty minutes a day. This is a way to make our penchant for instant gratification work for us.

Make it easy: remove friction and obstacles that prevent you from performing the habit. Better yet, plan for challenges ahead of time.

For example, if my goal is to save money, I will pack a lunch to take to work. If I know I have a hard time getting out of the door in the morning, I will pack my lunch the night before.

Make it satisfying: Positive reinforcement can help cement your new habits. Track progress and reward yourself for small steps!

Reflect on these laws. Think of a goal you have or a habit you’d like to adopt. Now, read the laws again and think of ways you can make your specific habit obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.

Other techniques for habit building:

Habit stacking: Identify a habit you already do consistently. Choose a new habit you want to incorporate into your routine. Create a link between the existing habit and the new habit by doing them together.

For example, if you would like to start learning about current events, you could decide to listen to the BCC Global News Podcast every morning during your daily commute.

Habit stacking and temptation bundling are similar, but the difference is that temptation bundling capitalizes on a thing we really want to do and habit stacking uses any existing habit to support a new habit.

“Don’t break the chain”: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld shared that he cultivated a habit of writing comedy every day by marking the calendar with a big, red X when he did, regardless of how much he wrote. By seeing a “streak”, you’re more likely to continue the behavior.

Identity-Based habits: I’m paraphrasing here, but there is a saying that goes something like “everything you do is a vote for the person you are”. Identity based habits are the way to seal the deal and make your new habits stick. Most goals are about outcomes, but identity-based goals are about changing your belief systems. James Clear writes that there are two steps for sustained success: Decide the type of person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins.

Don’t underestimate social power. By being open with others about your goals or plan to cultivate a new habit, you are psychologically more likely to be consistent. By having an accountability buddy (or even friendly competition), you increase your chances of making a change.

For example, the app Goodreads shares your annual reading goal with your friends. You can also share your progress for books you’re currently reading, like other readers’ progress updates, and share book reviews with friends!

More on Temptation Bundling and Habit Stacking: 

More on Identity-Based Habits: 

Unlocking Us with Brene Brown featuring James Clear: 

Share via:

Related Posts