The Power of Habits

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Our habits are our destiny. It’s not just a catchy phrase, it’s the truth.

We can’t change who we are by changing one big thing about ourselves – like going to the gym every day or giving up sugar cold turkey -but we can change what we do, and that makes all the difference in how successful we’ll be in life.

If you want to create success for yourself, then start with creating smaller habits that will serve as building blocks for your greater goals. By adding a tiny bit of effort each day, you’ll gradually build better habits into your routine until they become second nature-and eventually transform your life completely.

Why habits exist

When we put the time and effort into establishing new habits, we open up a world of opportunity for ourselves. We’ll have more time on our hands to do what we enjoy, be more productive at work, or accomplish any number of other goals that are important to us.

We also gain self-respect and confidence by continuing to better ourselves with new habits. Finally, failure becomes less intimidating when we know that we just need to start establishing new habits in order to find success!

We can start by making a list of the things that are most important to us and which deserve our attention. We might want to make sure that these are good habits, rather than bad ones-those little things like eating too much sugar or procrastinating on our work. We can get rid of these bad habits by replacing them with better ones, and then after a while they’ll fall away naturally from their own weight.

Finally, we spend time working hard to establish the good habits that we’ve decided are worth building into our lives. These will always be challenges because it’s usually more tempting to do something wrong than to do something right. But when we work hard at establishing these good habits, we’re creating a foundation for success that can last forever.

We don’t have the luxury of living in an ideal world, and there will never be anyone else who cares about forming habits more than we do. This is our life and it’s up to us to make the most of it. Habits are a way for us to get there, so let’s build them in order to live a better life.

It’s very difficult to define what a habit actually is, but we know that habits have certain characteristics which makes them distinct from other types of stimuli. Habits are also behaviors that are repetitive and automatic in response to specific cues.

The concept isn’t anything new-in fact, it was first introduced by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics back in the 4th century BC-but it has been recently studied in depth from a psychological perspective and serves as the basis for popular books like Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit or James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.

The power of habit

Habits are our destiny because they’re so widespread. It’s often not enough just to identify one or two bad habits and replace them with new ones; instead, we need to make sure that all of our habits are good ones. This is why habit formation is an important aspect of personal growth.

When we put the time and effort into establishing new habits, we open up a world of opportunity for ourselves. We’ll have more time on our hands to do what we enjoy, be more productive at work, or accomplish any number of other goals that are important to us.

We also gain self-respect and confidence by continuing to better ourselves with new habits. Finally, failure becomes less intimidating when we know that we just need to start establishing new habits in order to find success!

We all want to improve, but we’re often too busy or tired or overwhelmed with other things to invest in ourselves. James Clear argues in Atomic Habits that habits-small, manageable changes-can help us become our best selves. Habits aren’t destiny. The power is within our control.

habits - from bad to good

How to create habits that will help you succeed in life

In order to create new habits that will help us succeed in life, we need to focus on the small steps we can take each day to find success. We have two strategies for forming good habits: One is by using a “tiny habits” approach and the other is by creating an “Eisenhower Box.”

The tiny habit approach suggests that by starting off with little things like taking a walk outside or meditating for just five minutes a day, we can start establishing success in those areas of our lives.

This tiny habit approach is the basis for James Clear’s popular book, ‘Atomic Habits’. The Eisenhower Box strategy is just as it sounds-it’s actually an empty box that you create and label with the things that are most important to you.

We can be more likely to accomplish these goals when they’re divided into smaller tasks and we track them daily.

If we implement these strategies, it’s like our habits are following the path of a nuclear reaction-small steps eventually lead to something much larger.

Not only that, but we’ll also gain momentum over time because we’re always adding more good habits into our lives. This makes it easier for us to succeed with new goals and build up our self-confidence because we’re seeing the progress we’re making.

We can’t build new habits overnight, but it doesn’t mean that we have to be discouraged when our results don’t immediately appear. Instead of trying to reach success in a big jump, think about how you can slowly improve your life by building good habits into it one step at a time.

This strategy can benefit you in any aspect of your life, from diet and exercise to writing and business.

If we’re not careful, we fall into comfortable patterns that make day-to-day life easier but prevent us from ever really making progress. These bad habits are so engrained that they become part of our DNA and we can’t even see them. As a result, any attempt to break an old habit or start a new one is met with frustration and disappointment. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to make sure that all of the habits in our life are good ones?

This is the promise of “atomic habits”-small, measurable changes that we can make on a daily basis. They’re so small in fact that they seem insignificant, but when repeated over time, they add up to something much bigger! Atomic habits are the secret of changing our behavior. It’s not about willpower-we already have the power inside us if we just learn how to use it…

The difference between good habits and bad ones

In a nutshell, a good habit is one that’s healthy or productive, like exercising regularly. A bad habit is one that’s harmful or unproductive, like smoking.

A lot of what I’ve learned about habits stems from the work of psychologist Charles Duhigg. He wrote two popular books on the subject: The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better. In them, he cites three factors that make up successful habits:

#1 – There needs to be a cue for them–something external to prompt the action

#2 – The action should come quickly so it’s easy to remember

#3 – Rewards need to come after the action for it to be effective

Habits can also have a ‘cue’, which is the trigger that tells you to do the action. Like Pavlov’s dog, our cue can be something external that prompts us to take action or it can be an internal feeling. Internal cues might include things like boredom, fatigue, hunger, etc. External cues could be your location (like if you’re near a McDonalds when hungry), time of day, environment (like if you’re in a gym), etc.

The second factor could relate to either internal or external cues. Internal cues are the most effective because they don’t require any extra effort, but this can be difficult since we often lack awareness around our internal state. External cues can be helpful as long as they’re what Duhigg calls ‘positive’ cues (as opposed to negative ones like avoiding pain).

The third factor is the hardest part of habits, since it’s often just a matter of willpower. To make them stick, there needs to be some sort of reward for doing the action which can either come before or after (Duhigg mentions research that shows the order doesn’t matter). The reward is what reinforces the behavior and makes it a habit.

Other factors affecting habits

habits - one step at a time

Habits can be influenced, but not completely controlled. If you try to force yourself to do something or deny yourself rewards when taking action, it actually weakens the habit! So forget about willpower and instead focus on making the habit as easy to do and rewarding as possible.

Habits can be changed or replaced, but the process is slow and difficult. It’s better to build new habits than it is to break bad ones. Maybe this could apply to changing other people’s habits (which is something we’ll talk about below).

Like physical injuries, mental habits can be injured in some cases. For instance: it’s possible to get too attached to routines and lose flexibility or become so committed to one way of doing things that you limit the potential for creativity.

Habits are related to values, but not synonyms. If your goal is “workout 3x a week” then you have to decide what that looks like for you, not just follow a pre-determined schedule.

Habits are malleable, but only within certain constraints (i.e. it’s easier to make habits for things we already do regularly).

At some level we all want to improve, but it’s not always easy since we’re often busy or tired of overwhelmed with other things. Habits can help us overcome these obstacles and become our best selves.

Sometimes giving in to a bad habit is easier than resisting it (e.g. “just one more episode”). It may be better to fully commit to a bad habit (but only in moderation) than to try and resist it.

Habits can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to develop, depending on the desired outcome. If you want to create a new habit more quickly, consider skipping trying for perfection by making the action as easy as possible or even just rewarding yourself after it.

It’s all about the timing of rewards and when they come after a habit is ingrained for it to be effective. Reward yourself too soon and you end up rewarding the cue (i.e. if eating ice cream causes me to watch Netflix, I shouldn’t reward myself with ice cream till after I’ve watched Netflix).

When trying to break a habit, if you can’t beat it then join it! This is what Duhigg calls a ‘conscious compromise’ and means getting creative in how you change your routine. Maybe after watching Netflix I could reward myself with tic-tacs instead of ice cream, or maybe I need something to occupy my hands instead of having them in my lap.

habits - persistence

Praise is an effective tool for helping others form habits, but it’s how you praise that matters. For example: telling someone they’re ‘smart’ won’t do much if they feel insecure about their intelligence. Instead, praises should focus on effort and process (you’ve worked hard and you’ve improved!).

The best way to change someone else’s habits is to appeal to their values. For example: instead of trying to convince someone they need to join a gym, try framing it in terms of value (everyone needs time for self-care).

Cues can be helpful as reminders for habits, but they can also be tricky. They have to be simple and easily associated with a given action otherwise people will forget or get confused by them.

Habits aren’t destiny! The power is within our control. It’s possible to create positive habits or change negative ones (even when we don’t feel like it). The process is slow and difficult however, so it’s better to build new habits than break old ones.

Think about how much time you spend trying to resist or cut down on bad habits instead of focusing on creating good ones and you can see why trying ‘not to X is a waste of time (instead: focus on making Y a habit). In my experience, this is one of the most fruitful ways to think about habit change.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can ‘do it later’ by putting off boring or difficult tasks (you won’t do them later!). Tell yourself that you’ll be doing those things right now and then set a timer for a small amount of time (maybe just 5-10 minutes).

Why it’s important to make sure your new habits support your goals

It’s important to make sure the habits you are creating actually match your goals. For example, for fitness, if your goal is to workout three times a week but your habit has been to watch tv instead, then exercise would be more difficult because you are forming habits that aren’t aligned with your goals.

When you create habits, it’s important to make them as specific and measurable as possible. The more specific and measurable the habit, the easier it will be to break or change it.

Atomic Habits

James Clear’s book Atomic Habits is an excellent book about habit formation. This book is based on the latest findings in research on habits and personal development. James Clear, who is a leading expert on habit creation, helps you change your life by creating good habits that can replace bad ones like laziness. Some of the habits that are highlighted include:

1- Substitute an “if ____ then I ____” plan with an “if ____ then whenever _____” plan

2- Spend less time deciding how to start and more time deciding what to do

3- Begin before you’re ready

4- Batch similar tasks together when possible

5- Break large projects into smaller steps and focus on the very first step

6- Seek out positive mentors and peers who are further along than you are in your journey

7- Make exceptions when they aren’t likely to become habits of their own

The bad news is that making a change typically takes about 3 months to really embed into your habit. The good news is that you only have to believe it will happen for 1% of the time. Persistence counts!

Harness the power of habits

Habits are one of the most important parts of our lives. It’s not enough to just know that they exist and how they work, though. What we need is a plan for implementing habits into your life in order to reach goals like being healthier or more productive at work.

In this blog post, you learned about what habits are and why it’s so hard to make them stick, as well as some ways you can use habit-formation principles in your own life.

Habits do take time but if you’re determined, with help from experts or coaches who understand the science behind good habits, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to change any bad ones into something positive!