Jeremy Statton

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9 Suggestions to Develop Better Habits in Your Life

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Habits are powerful.

In many respects, we are the sum of the things we do. If you write every day, you are a writer. If you run every day, you are a runner. If you sit on the couch and eat and watch television, you are a couch potato.

Habits are the little things in our lives that we repeatedly and add up over time. For good or bad.

photo by DNisha (creative commons)

While our lives are filled with bad ones, good habits can be hard to make.

But it can be done, and is certainly worth it.

Here are 9 suggestions to help you develop better habits.

1. Make small changes. Big changes in your life are difficult to maintain. Small changes are more likely to become a ritual over time.

2. Do them repeatedly. Some say that if you do the same thing every day for 30 days, it will become a habit. I don’t if it true, but I do know that the more we repeat something, the easier it becomes. Repetition is king.

3. Do them at the same time everyday. When we do something at the same time every day, we are more likely to pick it up as a habit. If possible set a time and repeat it at the same time.

4. Have an obvious reminder. Use post it notes. Set an alarm on your phone. Leave the floss out on the counter. Whatever it takes, reminds yourself in some way to keep the habit up.

5. Develop one habit at a time. In my opinion this is the best strategy. Some may be able to develop more than one at a time, but it can become easy to overwhelm yourself if your try to make too many changes too fast.

6. Remove obstacles. Get rid of the things that make it hard for you to embrace the good habits.

7. Don’t try to get rid of bad habits. Getting rid of something negative in your life isn’t as powerful as adding something positive to it. When we develop better routines, the bad habits tend to gradually disappear on their own.

8. Forgive yourself. Many goals are so rigid, that when we fail, we give up. Include forgiving yourself as a habit to help you resume developing your habits when your fail.

9. Be flexible. If your new habit doesn’t work out, make a change so that it can. Learn what works and what doesn’t and be willing to keep changing things up, even if it isn’t a new year.

What has helped you develop better habits?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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19 Replies

  1. For number 5, I would suggest if you’re being forced to make a huge change, see what else can be done at the same time.

    When I switched jobs, we found that to be a great time to change other things.

  2. Thanks Jeremy for helping me think about how to best develop new habits.
    When it comes to modifying my habits and behavior, I have personally found Dallas Willard’s distinction between “trying” and “training” to be very helpful.
    In line with many of your points, I believe our “will” is most effective when it is directed toward “training” our minds and bodies for lasting change (usually one habit at a time), rather than merely “trying” to change when we are “on the spot” through will-power alone.
    For example, while I could “try” to run a marathon tomorrow, I would get a better result if I was intentional about “training” my mind and body for this event through a focus on the diet, rest and exercise I need.

  3. LOVE THIS. I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I find creating new habits to be much more efficient too.

  4. I like the focus on doing little things repeatedly. It actually seems possible. As opposed to becoming someone different over night, which I know doesn’t happen.

  5. Training can be a good analogy. The goal may be to run a marathon, but it is impossible to do without the training. The focus has to be on the training, which makes the goal possible.

  6. Thanks for this perspective. I agree with you that sometimes when big changes do come, it can be helpful to shake up some of the smaller things as well. Maybe a move to another city can help with developing a good habit of not overspending and over-accumulating.

  7. Awesome advice, Jeremy. I love this shift away from flighty New Year’s resolutions. Like a lot of bloggers did a while back, I choose a word for the year and attempt to perceive every decision through the filter of that one word (or in my case, words). Last year, my words were risk and commitment, and my life changed drastically. This year, I’m keeping those same words because I want to keep changing. It’s unbelievable how much this strategy works for someone like me who can hardly commit to anything, let alone a resolution. When I feel like taking the lazy road, all I have to do is remember the word “risk,” and I’m immediately a bit riskier. The same goes for commitment. I cannot wait to see how God is going to work in 2013.

  8. Lyman

    Sometimes basic advice is what the doctor ordered – Thanks

  9. Very timely, Jeremy. Especially the one about letting bad habits die on their own and focusing on one at a time. Happy New Year!

  10. Good to hear from you, Liz. I haven’t picked up one word yet. I like the idea. If I had to pick a word right now, I would pick “survive.”

  11. I really have to enthusiastically agree with you on the make small changes. It has been the difference maker. Instead of a giant leap, I took a baby-step towards success. Then I figured out I could live with the change, and make it a lifestyle. Then I add to it.

  12. I agree. Big changes can very very challenging.

  13. It’s been SUPER helpful for me to write down once a week (or even sometimes just once a month) the things I hope to accomplish in one day (week or month). I started using a moleskin to “capture” everything and that has dramatically increased my likelihood of follow through & productivity thus forming positive habits. Now, the ironical thing is that since the New Year & all the hub-bub of having the kids home and being back to work and just crazy writing deadlines and all of that, I’ve yet to make my list for 2013 with new schedule, so right now I just feel like a crazy woman, whose lost her marbles. Anyway, yes! I agree with this post! Habit on!

  14. Mike Cavaliere

    How valuable do you think reminders are to aid in the repetition portion? Does it depend on the habit?

    I’m experimenting with an app to aid in the “reminder” part:

  15. Cool idea. If I had to pick a word right now, I would pick “recenter” – key to survival for moi!

  16. Hi Jeremy — You and I are on the same page re: small/incremental changes work best (especially important with the “neurodiverse,” in my experience. Big changes can be overwhelming to those who tend to have hair-trigger startle responses.

    I want you to know that this page is one of the few linked as Related Content at the bottom of “Goals Drive Habit Formation” – the latest post in my Habit Series on ADDandSoMuchMore dot com. (I will link it again at the bottom of one of the upcoming posts of a 3-part article, “10 Best Practices for Habit Creation”)

    Check me out – I’d love to know what you think. My Habit Series articles post on Wednesdays, btw – if you want to get a kind of tag-team mini blog-tour workin’ (I will be in Phoenix for the ACO Conference from April 30-May 7, so if I seem to “disappear” for a week, you will know why.)

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

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