How to Make Your Habits Stick

Habit is defined by Merriam-Webster as, an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary; a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.” 

The descriptors that stand out the most are acquired, pattern, repetition, and regularity. Each of these reinforces the thought that habits (good and bad) are created and built on a loop. So, how do you break that loop if you want to start a new, healthy habit or get rid of a bad one?

According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, there are 5 different habit cues that lead to certain behavioral responses with regard to habits:

Cue 1: Time – We perform many different actions throughout our days that are simply a pattern of behavior started from a time trigger. For example, when you wake up, what’s the first thing you do? Do you check your phone? Make a coffee? Brush your teeth? Exercise? Time cues can be a great way to start a new positive small habit because it’s simple and you can even set an alarm that’s labeled with the new habit you want to incorporate.

Cue 2: Location – Building habits in a new location can have very positive results because it’s like a fresh start for your brain. You aren’t attaching any preexisting behaviors to this new location. The next time you’re at work, pay attention to the things you seem to do on autopilot. Then, pick a new “location” within the space to create a habit trigger for a different action or task you want to implement.

Cue 3: Preceding Event – This is a very powerful cue that impels us to take action. How many times does a notification on your computer or phone prompt you to check it immediately? The event was the notification sounding, which triggered your response by checking the message right away. If you want to change your response to certain event triggers, stack the new habit onto a regularly occurring event in your day, like having your breakfast and journaling or meditating for 5-10 minutes.

Cue 4: Emotional StateThis particular cue is one that can lead to negative habits forming in our lives, like emotional eating or drinking. We experience a certain emotion and then depending on whether the feeling is positive or negative, take the next step in response to it. Many times, we aren’t even aware that we are creating these negative habits based on emotional triggers. This is where self-awareness around our emotional and physical circumstances is imperative. Once we recognize emotional triggers, we can take the steps to actively create a new response to the potentially unwelcome and uncomfortable feeling.

Cue 5: Other PeopleThose people you closely connect with … the conversations you have… all profoundly influence your thinking and actions. You slowly become the sum of the people closest to you. Choose them wisely…..”- Adiela Akoo

The people we choose to surround ourselves with will have a great impact, either for better or worse. It can be surprising, once we are aware of it, just how much influence they have on our actions and habits. If you want to improve or develop new habits, spend time with others who already practice them or are making great progress in the right direction.

If you are looking for ways to create new, positive habits that stick, think about the 5 habit cues and start out small. If you want to start exercising regularly in the morning, try starting it while you are on vacation in a different location. Set your alarm and do 30 minutes of exercise every morning. Then, when you return home, ask your spouse, friend, or family member to hold you accountable to continue exercising every morning. After 30-60 days, your new habit should be formed, making it easier for you to accomplish and stick with it!

Creating healthy habits is just one way to create a healthy and happy work center. We believe that everyone is capable of doing this with the right support. If you would like more information on how we can make this support happen for you and your organization, please contact us at today.