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The ultimate guide to choosing a good habit


Have you set new years resolutions in the past only to break them in the first month? Have you decided to start running only to find your running shoes covered in dust two months later? Have you told yourself “I should drink more water” only to end the day with a full water bottle?
Choosing the right habit is crucial. If your habit doesn’t contribute to your desired outcome you are going to fail. If your habit doesn’t fit in with your life you will never succeed in building it. 


The first step in creating a new habit is to know your goal. Or as Steven Covey says: “Begin with the end in mind.” If you don’t know what you want the end result to be, you can’t create a habit for it. You need something definite to be working towards, a specific improvement you want to make in your life.
When you are coming up with your goal, make it specific. Vague goals are impossible to find habits for because you don’t really know what it is you are aiming for. You also need to make it a goal you want to do not that you think you should do. “I should drink a green drink every morning, but I don’t want to, so I never bother.” I want to go for walk every lunchtime because its nice to get away from my computer, so I do.” As you are thinking about your goal, also think about the benefits you will get from achieving it. This will help keep you motivated.

If you have multiple habits you want to create, pick the one you most want to do most. It is important to just work on one habit for each area of your life at a time. There is an old saying – “If you chase two rabbits, you catch neither.” Statistically you stand an 80% chance of sticking to one goal for a year. If you have two goals your chances drop to just 35%.


Once you know your goal, you can start thinking about your habit.
There are three important criteria for good habits. Applying these criteria will make them more achievable and give you the very best chance for success.

Habits should be small, simple and sustainable. 


Research has shown that people are more successful in sticking to new habits if they start small and build them up over time. Think about it, are you likely to go from never running at all to running five miles overnight? Not likely. You are far more likely to go from never running to walking half a mile, to walking a mile quickly, to jogging a mile, to jogging two miles and so on. Start small, make that a habit – and then grow it over time. Don’t worry, starting out, there is nothing “too small.”


You want to remove as many obstacles to creating your new habit as possible. If you want to eat more healthily, you could weigh out your exact recommended daily servings of vegetables in the morning and package them up for each meal throughout the day or you could just decide to fill half your plate with vegetables. If you go the measuring and packaging route you’d have the added hassle of remembering to take your packages everywhere and remembering to take them home again and having to wash the packages up every night. You stand a far greater chance of building a simple habit like just filling half your plate with vegetables.

You also need to make sure your habit has a clear start and end point. To be able to really make it a habit your brain needs to be identify all the steps. For example “drink some water” isn’t clear. “Drink an 8 oz glass of water before each meal” is much better.

You want to be able to do this new habit everyday, everywhere you go. If your habit was to use the stairclimber machine at the gym but you travel for work every other week then you aren’t going to be able to sustain this particular habit for very long. It would be better to make your habit to workout for 20 minutes a day. You can find a bodyweight workout you can do anywhere or you can use the stairclimber machine when you are able to get to the gym and do something else when you travel.

As you are thinking about your habit, consider what hurdles there could be to doing your habit. If you want to do a 30 minute workout each morning, is that really feasible if you also have to get your toddler ready for pre-school at the same time? Would it be more feasible to work out before your child wakes up or when they are napping? Be creative and flexible when deciding on your habit. Also be realistic on what you can do. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Doing a 10 minute workout is better than nothing.

As you go through the process of brainstorming habit ideas, try and come up with at least three options. The first habit that comes to mind often isn’t the one you can actually stick to.


Once you have a good habit you must pick a trigger for it. The trigger is what is going to remind you to actually do the habit. 

Common triggers are:
  • An existing habit.
  • Brushing your teeth.
  • Sitting down at your desk.
  • Drinking from your water bottle.
  • A specific time of day.
  • 6.00 am.
  • After you shower.
  • At lunch.
  • At dinner.
  • 8.00 pm.
  • An alarm or calendar reminder.
  • On your phone.
  • Through your email program.
  • On your smartwatch or fitness tracker.


Now grab a piece of paper and a pen. 

At the top write “Goal.”

Under this word write what the goal of your habit is.

About third of the way down write “Ideas.”

Under this word write down at least three ideas for possible habits.

Highlight the one which seems most feasible.

Two thirds of the way down of the way down write “Trigger.”

Under this word write down what you will use to remind you to do the habit.


In summary:
Start with a goal.
Brainstorm three possible habit ideas.
Work on one habit at a time.
Start small and build up over time.
Keep it simple.
Make sure it has a clear beginning and end.
Make it sustainable.