Make Good Habits Stick

How to Finally Make Good Habits Stick

Last updated:

There is this thing called habits. It’s basically something you regularly do. A daily routine. And if the routine leads to a positive future outcome we call it a good habit. If it feels life-draining or degenerating, we label it a bad habit. Obviously, the former is way better unless you’re a masochist and you’re into letter suits and whips. The problem, though, is making these nice and sexy-looking daily routines an integral part of our lives, i.e. make good habits stick. Unfortunately, stopping a bad habit and replacing it with a good one is something we all struggle with.

Why is that? Why we can’t make good habits stick? Why good habits are so hard to keep and bad ones are so easily executed?

Well, that’s the whole point of this article. In this Medium-like blog post, I’ll list obvious things about making good habits stick hoping you’ll do half of them so they can actually transform your life.1 I don’t promise quick results but I do promise that if you decide to do even one of the things mentioned in the list below you’ll soon have more free time, better finances, and better health, but first…

Why Is It So Hard to Stick With Your Habits?

First and foremost, why we can’t seem to get the hang of good habits and why only seemingly bad patterns dominate our lives?

If we want to lose weight, for example, we usually visit the gym for a while, but then, somewhere along the way, we always lose motivation and we quit stating that it’s impossible to have a ripped body like the people sharing pics on Instagram and we return to our previous habitat – playing video games and eating freshly fried chicken wings and fries.

And do you know why is that? Why 70% of the people who bought an annual gym membership don’t visit the gym after the first month?

Two main reasons:

1. Doing “Bad” Things is Easy and Fun

Why do you play video games and you chat with people you don’t really know online for hours? Because it’s easy and fun, that’s why.

Downloading a game, jumping around, collecting coins and later exchanging them for new weapons and outfits so you can add an extra layer of protection against the online zombies trying to eat your brain feels rewarding and fun. After all, where else you’ll meet and fight hungry for flesh undead people?

In contrast, doing something that will lead to future gains is hard and it requires a certain dose of willpower.

2. The Lack Of Immediate Progress Feels Tiresome

The main reason we stop visiting the gym, stop eating greens, abandon our online business after only a few months, is due to the lack of regular satisfying achievements. Since we’re addicted to immediate results, we set enormous goals when we start executing. We try to change too much too quickly. We don’t simply want a good looking body, we want body and muscles that will make all the other famous Insta flexers look like skinny glass-wearing graduates. We want results fast and we purchase training sessions and extreme diets that after a while feel so exhausting and unsatisfying compared to our initial goal that we just can’t keep going. That’s why we quit and we start complaining.


But people know that. People know that good habits are, well, good. They don’t need to read an article to understand this. So, I started asking myself, why reasonable people quit doing tasks even though they are absolutely aware that these things will eventually make their lives better? And more importantly, how they can make good habits stick?

I scoured the entire internet but I didn’t find an article that covers the things I wanted to say. Therefore, this gem was produced. Most “How to stick to your good habits” advice online is bullshit because they don’t really tell you what you should do. They list only what you need to do. And we all know that. We simply don’t know how.

Now, after we cleared the main reasons we’ve all gathered here, let’s see what we can do to make good habits stick:

9 Actionable Strategies To Make Good Habits Stick

1. Schedule Them

If something is important to you, schedule it.

We have lunch breaks and we think about what we’re going to eat and when we’re going to go to the movies but we rarely schedule gym appointments, time to read, and time to study something new. We leave these things for last. “If there is time, I’ll go study,” we say. But if you want to learn another language you do need to schedule time for learning and reading.

This is what you should do:

  • Decide what’s important for you in the long run.
  • Observe what you do daily.
  • Find available slots and schedule time to for the good habit.

2. Make The Desired Habit Irresistible

The main reason we prefer eating burgers and donuts over salads and meatless meals is because the former group tastes way better. Sugary things and dishes with high cholesterol are preferred by the brain. More fat means higher chances for survival, thus you just can’t stop ordering when you walk into a fast food restaurant. But there is another reason. Donuts and burgers look awesome. These things scream eat me and it’s really hard to resist when you see the waitress carrying them around the dinner.

That’s exactly what you need to do if you want to make a good habit part of your life. You should make it irresistible.

Pimp up the look of your salad and you’ll soon start eating grass like a sworn vegetarian.

This is what you should do:

  • Think about why you’re not doing what you should be doing.
  • Later, think about how you can make this desired behavior seem more appealing.

3. Make Starting Super Easy

Why people skip gym sessions? Well, if the training hall is far it’s kind of obvious: you’ll have to drive there, change your clothes, workout, take a shower, drive back… Depending on where you live, the whole experience might take up to 4 hours. That’s more than half of your free time after work. So, often people say “fuck it” and instead of doing intense sessions with dumbbells led by sweaty fitness maniac they lay on their couch and shoot zombies or terrorist on their favorite console.

The sole thought of going out whispers anxiety because you know that it will take you ages to do a simple workout which should supposedly feel good and refreshing.

What you can do instead? Make starting incredibly easy. If you’re tired and you don’t want to waste 4 hours for only one workout, replace that with home exercises. Convince yourself to do just a few pushups and see what happens later.

There’s this rule called the two-minute rule. It’s something James Clear shares in his best-selling book, Atomic Habits. It basically says that when you’re starting a new habit it should take less than two minutes to do. And do you know what, nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version:

  • Reading before going to bed becomes reading one page.
  • Doing thirty minutes of yoga becomes taking out your yoga mat.
  • Studying for class becomes opening your notes.

This is what you should do:

  • Break the desired action into smaller steps.
  • The habit should take less than two minutes to start. Think about how this can be done.
  • Just start. Even if you’re tired. Often you’ll do the thing longer than two minutes.

4. Remove The Obstacle Preventing You From Executing The Desired Behavior

If I want to eat healthy but if I have to prepare my own meal 3 times per day I’ll surely choose the local junk food factory. But if I order enough healthy food for a couple of days in advance I’ll have no excuse to eat something that has the word garbage inside.

That’s exactly what you need to do if you want to implement a positive behavior in your daily life: remove as many obstacles as possible from your desired lifestyle.

  • Gym too far away? Find another one closer.
  • Social media is distracting you from doing your tasks? Block it for a couple of hours.
  • You don’t know what to eat and your fridge is filled with hot dog leftovers and burritos? Stop buying crunchy things and start getting more greens.

For instance, if you place your workouts clothes somewhere where you can see them, not inside your wardrobe (the obstacle), you’ll be more willing to exercise.

This is what you should do:

  • Identify the roadblocks preventing you from executing a good routine.
  • Rearrange your apartment and your office.
  • Place things that reinforce healthy habits somewhere where you can see them.

5. Say No More Often

Saying Yes is easy. Everyone can do it.

  • Do you want to hang out tonight? Sure, where we’re headed?
  • Do you want to play a video game? Of course, just turn this damn thing ON!
  • Do you want to sleep till noon? Definitely.

Saying No, in contrast, requires some willpower. A dose of resistance. But there is even more to that. Saying No to others means saying Yes to yourself. A lot of people want to drag us into their own lives and make us care about what they’re doing. This is why a lot of people consider themselves influencers.2

Millions of people are subscribed to the lives of famous YouTubers. They watch all of their videos and live their lives through them. For some bizarre reason, people love spending time watching other people’s lives. The internet nowadays is like one huge Big Brother where everyone can plug inside other people’s lives and see what they’re doing or what they’re up to.

But if you care about your time and you’re more interested in living, not watching how other people live, you should say No more often.

This is what you should do:

  • Think about why you say Yes so often.
  • What motivates the positive response? Desire to be accepted? Lack of confidence?
  • If you can’t say No to a friend in the face say that you’ll think about it and later reject the offer. Soon after that, you’ll have enough confidence to refuse time-wasting offers.

6. Learn To Enjoy Boredom

Thanks to the gadgets available nowadays it’s almost impossible to be bored. You can be entertained at any given moment. Even if you’re somewhere in the wilds, thanks to the internet and to our pocket computers we can enjoy ourselves all day long – or until our battery dies.

But as you can imagine, playing video games on your phone during the most part of your day will most probably turn you into this isolated being with no friends, no goals, and no ambition for becoming a better citizen in the modern society. Or in other words, trying to be entertained 24/7 is destroying your future.

Obviously, if you spent most of your day scrolling online you’ll achieve close to zero of your projects. Instead, do this: turn your idle mind into an ally. This will help you take control of your mind and life.

You need to start enjoying performing mundane tasks. Make them irresistible. Brake them down into smaller goals and get comfortable with doing these things.

Understand, greatness doesn’t happen by doing extraordinary things. It happens when you do ordinary things really good for a long period of time.

This is what you should do:

  • You can’t be entertained 24/7. Deal with it.
  • Find joy in doing mundane tasks.
  • Understand that repeating the same thing, day after day, will eventually lead to positive results.

7. Use The Chain Method

“The way to be a better comic was to create better jokes,” said Seinfeld to Isaac. Then, he explained that the way to create better jokes was to write every day. Yes, that’s what Jerry Seinfeld did to become a world famous comedian.

Seinfeld keeps a calendar on his wall and every day that he writes jokes he crosses out the date on the calendar with a big red X. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”3

The chain method is a no brainer in theory – just keep writing (or whatever it is that you’re doing) and you’ll eventually master this skill. Your calendar visualizes your habit, and how well you’re performing. The obvious problem is: How to keep writing every single day? How to exercise every single day? How to keep doing this thing when your kid is crying and when your wife is constantly nagging you about your bizarre habits?

Well, some days you just need to settle down with writing fewer pages or doing fewer exercises. Write a few sentences. Read one page of a book. Your goal shouldn’t be to write a novel a day, it should be to just keep pushing.

This is what you should do:

  • Keep a calendar nearby.
  • Cross out the date with big X when you perform the desired habit.
  • Repeat this daily.
  • Don’t go crazy when you can’t execute the desired habit in full. Just write a few sentences or read one page of a book.

8. Remind Yourself The Benefits

Often we forget why we do what we do. Our mind has the tendency to crave for good times only. That’s why we quit particular activities really fast after we start – we forget why we started. If they don’t feed the brain with enough rewarding experiences we stop what we’re doing and we move on to the next thing that feels good. Along with that, our goals and desires often change and we quickly move along doing something more exciting.

As Alan Watts states in the book The Wisdom of Insecurity, “Human beings appear to be happy just so long as they have a future to which they can look forward—whether it be a “good time” tomorrow or an everlasting life beyond the grave.”

So, every time you want to quit a specific project because it feels boring, remind yourself what the future will be like if you continue doing what you’re already doing.

For example, imagine how your body will look six months from now if you regularly exercise. Or, what progress you can make on your website if you write daily. Or, how better you’ll feel if you eat healthy food and don’t consume alcohol.

Every time your mind tells you that you should skip a workout session remind yourself what future gain you’re missing. This simple act will motivate you to keep adding checkboxes on your daily calendar.

This is what you should do:

  • List all of the benefits from a particular task on a piece of paper.
  • If you don’t feel motivated to perform the task check what you wrote initially.
  • Read your Why again and do what has to be done.

9. Make The Desired Habit Part of Your Life

Since you eat and shower on a daily basis (I hope) there is no excuse for not exercising. Yet, few people workout regularly because they don’t feel like it.

Advertising agencies want to make us believe that our life should be filled with only pleasant activities. Social media is boosting this belief. By seeing the highlights of other people’s lives we think that everyone but us is having a good time, thus we rush to the store to buy things we don’t necessarily need. Welcome to the 21st century. The era of entrepreneurship, online fame, instant gratification, and zero pain.

But pain is an integral part of our lives. It’s something constant. We can’t remove it by posting gazillion of pictures online or by buying all the cool gadgets available on the market. Believe me, I’ve tried. If our main aim in life is to cleanse suffering we’ll most probably start using illegal substances.

Understand that pain is something you can’t avoid. Some tasks will feel tiring, boring, even dull. Nevertheless, if you want to really create something you need to make certain behaviors part of your life regardless of how they might feel. Sleep less if needed. Take fewer brakes. Spent less time playing video games and use the extra time to upgrade your skills or to start your own business. Yes, it’s going to be hard but after all, true fulfillment comes only after we’ve put some effort into a task.

This is what you should do:

  • Accept that pain is part of your life.
  • Social media and new clothes won’t bring you happiness – so stop buying all the clothes when they are on sale.
  • Make room for the desired habit in your life.

Some Closing Thoughts

Habits play an important role in our lives if we really want to get the hang of a specific skill or if we want to achieve a big task that requires a lot of work. Unfortunately, not everyone’s gung-ho about keeping them stick. People talk big about all the things they’re going to do but after the initial excitement, it’s back to social media posts and sharing dump gifs.

But this can be your advantage. Since not everyone is willing to “suffer” daily in order for them to accomplish their dream life, by performing just a bit better you’ll soon gain a competitive advantage.

For instance, people boast about how entrepreneurial they are and about how their ideas will change humanity. But that’s the only thing they do, they talk. If you shut up, keep progressing and don’t waste time saying how “impressive” you are you’ll soon get ahead of all bragging wannabes and become truly great.

The only thing you need to do is to make good habits stick.

Want to dominate your habits? Check out my Habits Master Summary.


Footnotes:

  1. By saying medium I refer to the publishing platform Medium.com. It’s the part of the internet where the cheesyish articles exist.
  2. That’s exactly what happens when you check social media. You pay attention to what other people are doing instead of focusing on your own shit.
  3. The Seinfeld Strategy was quoted by productivity experts around the globe. It’s the simplest yet most neglected method to achieve more. One thing is certain though, it works.
Enjoying this?
Get more high-quality content by signing up for my weekly newsletter. No BS, no ads, only helpful content like this.
DOWNLOADABLE PDF

BOOK NOTES FOR BUSY PEOPLE 

  • What the book is all about;
  • My personal notes;
  • Action notes that will prompt you to act.
  • No fluff, only the essentials!
GET IT, NOW!
By entering your email you subscribe to my email list. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
close-link
DOWNLOADABLE PDF

BOOK NOTES FOR BUSY PEOPLE 

  • What the book is all about;
  • My personal notes;
  • Action notes that will prompt you to act.
  • No fluff, only the essentials!
GET IT, NOW!
By entering your email you subscribe to my email list. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
close-link
DOWNLOADABLE PDF

BOOK NOTES FOR BUSY PEOPLE 

  • What the book is all about;
  • My personal notes;
  • Action notes that will prompt you to act.
  • No fluff, only the essentials!
GET IT, NOW!
By entering your email you subscribe to my email list. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
close-link
DOWNLOADABLE PDF

BOOK NOTES FOR BUSY PEOPLE 

  • What the book is all about;
  • My personal notes;
  • Action notes that will prompt you to act.
  • No fluff, only the essentials!
GET IT, NOW!
By entering your email you subscribe to my email list. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
close-link
DOWNLOADABLE PDF

BOOK NOTES FOR BUSY PEOPLE 

  • What the book is all about;
  • My personal notes;
  • Action notes that will prompt you to act.
  • No fluff, only the essentials!
GET IT, NOW!
By entering your email you subscribe to my email list. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
close-link