How to create good habits that stick forever

We all want to create good habits and get rid of bad habits. Everybody can do something once, but it is our daily choices and all the little things we are doing (or not doing) consistently that define our world. In this article, I’m sharing THE essential 5 steps to be able to create a new you.

But why do we want to create good habits? Simply because the sum of all the little actions we take in a day, a week, a month, are building our identity. One action, by itself, is not making a massive difference in your life but doing these actions over and over makes who you are.

Eating one healthy meal doesn’t make you a healthy person but if you eat a healthy meal 3 times a day, every day, you will be a healthy person. Aristotle said it beautifully: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit”

I found it amazing that from this perspective your future is not determined by what you did yesterday but by what you will do today.

You might not agree and think that but the reality is that you can choose to change today. And it doesn’t start with a huge change, every transformation starts with a tiny simple action.

The problem is that people usually stop when looking at the end results because it can seem pretty overwhelming. 

Rianna-and-Francois-with-big-backpacks-hiking-in-the-himalaya-of-Nepal

A few years ago, my wife and I went to Nepal. I always wanted to go hike in the Himalayas. With my military background in the commandos, I learned to walk with a big heavy bag in difficult conditions for long periods of time with little to no comfort.

My wife, not so much.

My plan was to go solo (just the 2 of us) on a long trek to the base camp of the Mount Everest, with a map and compass, carrying all our gears and half of our food. Oh yes, it was during winter.

We walked for 21 days, about 6 to 8 hours a day, opened a pass together at 5420m altitude (it was closed for days because of a snow storm), crossing glaciers, and showering with melted snow. It was tough.

Do you think that if I had explained with detailed before hand, pointing at the summit of the world and say we are going there, she would have joined? No chance!

Instead I sold her the emotions, I believed in her and I taught her to focus on the step in front of her, not on the summit of the mountain. She did it, it was tough, but she was proud of herself and I was proud of her.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”Chinese proverb

Here are THE 5 steps to create a new you:

1. Set your objective

I am really convinced that we, adults, need to re-learn to live in the moment. We were really good at it when we were young but we forgot this somehow along the way.

But even if living in the present moment is really important, having a sense of direction and purpose is as much important. One doesn’t prevent the other.

We can’t talk about habits without talking about goals. Because habits have no meaning without an objective. We set goals because we want transformation, we want to be better, to achieve something, or to maintain something we created. But setting goals is also about being in the now, indirectly. We set a goal for our future self but it is our present self that has to do the work.

A second distinction is the difference between what do you want to accomplish and who do you want to become. Ultimately, we want to change who we are not just check a box on the list.

Let’s say you decide to lose 10kg. Great, but then what? Regain them over the months and start all over again? Seems pointless. What about deciding to be fit? This is not a temporary goal, this is a new identity.

Read a book vs be a reader

Play with your kids vs being an engaged parent 

Give a speech vs be a speaker

How can you make your goals part of who you are?

2. Tap into your feeling

Most people set a SMART goal. And fail. If you want to succeed in accomplishing an objective you have to deeply connect with it on an emotional level. 

The best way to do this is to ask yourself WHY. 

Why is that important to you?

Coffee and paper with goals written on it

With our example: I want to lose 10kg = I want to be fit and healthy so I can play with my kids, jump, run crawl and be a better role model for the people I care about.

If you really reflect on the reasons behind your objective you will be able to find a source of motivation that will carry you through challenges.

3. Identifiy what is holding you back

You are almost there! Now, before going further, let’s think about what can sabotage your success. Sometimes we procrastinate on changing, we really want to, we know it’s good for us but still, we don’t seem to take the step. We want to avoid pain.

We love certainty, and we will choose to stay in a situation that is painful but familiar rather than a potential situation where there might be pain (uncertainty).

In other words, the pain of something familiar is more bearable than the potential pain of something uncertain. Yes, it doesn’t really make sense, but that’s how it is.

Brendon Burchard identified in his research on high performers 3 things that are holding us back:

We fear losing what we have. Even though it’s not the best, at least it is familiar and certain. 

We fear doing the work because what if I can’t make it? What if it’s hard or uncomfortable? What if I want to give up? What if I fail? 

We fear the pain of being disappointed. What if it is was not worth it? What if after doing all the work, it’s not better?

When you’ve identified what might be holding you back, you should ask yourself if it is rational. And especially, what is the cost of not changing?

4. Create a system

If you’ve read this far you have:

– Set an objective on an identity level

– Figure out why it is really important to you

– Identify what might be holding you back

And if you did not, take a notepad and start reading from the beginning again. 

Don’t read for information. You don’t need information. You need to take action. Now it’s time to create a system and focus on the process of getting there.

What would my future best me would like me to start doing / stop doing today?

Man walking on wooden blocks upstairs

Translate your objective into a series of simple daily actions. Start small and build up. Note that you will not see results right away. For example, if you decided to be fit, you’ll not see a change in your body after your first workout and healthy meal. 

It’s time to learn to delay gratification.  

Choose long-term satisfaction instead of immediate pleasure. And celebrate yourself every time you do so.  We tend to repeat satisfying behavior, so the words you tell yourself are really important.

Our mind does what it thinks we want it to do. If every time you go to the gym you tell yourself,

“It’s gonna be hard”

“I don’t want to”

“I’m so tired already”

Your mind is gonna try to make you avoid it to protect yourself. You can trick your mind!

In his book “Atomic habits” James Clear states 4 laws to successfully create a new habit:

– Make it obvious

– Make it attractive

– Make it easy

– Make it satisfying

5. Enjoy the new you

You will always aspire for more, and your desire will change with time. So, it’s more important to focus on creating a system that works than on achieving a specific goal.

There are a few tools you can use to help you reach long term success:

Habit Tracker
Accountability is key. The problem is that we are not so good to keep ourselves accountable on our own. Creating a 1-page document where you write down the habits you want to have every day is a form of accountability. When you check the box, it feels good and you will be more likely to keep going.

Contract
Commit to take part to something in a near future that requires you to be this new you. For example, if your goal is to play the violin, register to a local event where you’ll have to perform. If you want to be a runner, sign up for the next run in your region. In his book, the “The 4-Hour Chef”, Tim Ferriss teaches you how to learn anything with the DiSSS method.

Accountability Buddy
The habit tracker and the contract still require you to have some discipline to not give up. An accountability buddy can be a good help when times are challenging. Finding someone to go through the same change together is empowering and motivating.

Find a Coach
If you want to have more success, better and faster, then a coach is the obvious choice. While you can try to do it yourself, having a professional coach supporting you along the way is a game-changer. And I am not saying that because I am a coach. I am saying that because IT WORKS.

I have a coach myself and I know that without, I would not be as far as I am today.

In a Nutshell

Everybody wants to create good habits and get rid of bad habits. Not everybody succeeds. “Losers and winners have the same goals”James Clear

Woman with hair hanging out of the window of a driving car in the mountains

To reach your goals and be the best version of yourself, you have to create habits. To get there, you have to set up a system. Here is something that works:

Set an objective that defines your identity and deeply connect emotional with it. Identify what might be holding you back and be rational about the cost of not changing. Start small and build up. Keep yourself accountable or seek for support.

“We tend to regret more what we didn’t do than what we’ve done”

Personal growth is never-ending. The most successful people dedicated themselves to lifelong learning. What are you waiting for?  Book a free 15min call with me to find out your best next step!


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