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A publication from Medium on personal development.

Habit Building

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Try building a “better than nothing” habit

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Like many people, I’ve tried to pass the time over the past year by forming some new habits: running, baking, writing every day, learning new card tricks to dazzle friends at future dinner parties (those will be a thing again, won’t they?). Each of these pursuits started strong… until I gave up shortly thereafter.

I had lofty visions of being good at these things immediately. And I just didn’t like being bad. But that was the problem: I was fixated on high achievement, when I should have been focused on repetition.

In a recent TED talk, the sociologist Christine Carter…

The key to changing your habits is changing the way you think about habits

Animated gif of a clock with hour hand spinning that says “IF” and “WHEN” in alternation.
Animated gif of a clock with hour hand spinning that says “IF” and “WHEN” in alternation.

On December 24, 2016, I went for a run. This wasn’t unusual — I’d gone running four to five times a week for years. But after I managed to run every day for the following week, I decided to keep going. I decided I would run at least a mile, every day. I’d long been fascinated by streaks; my father, a now-retired professor of Hebrew scriptures, has read Hebrew every day since 1977. I suspected I lacked that sort of staying power, but I did hope my running streak could last a month or two.

It wound up lasting for…

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

🏋️ Today’s tip: The first step of starting a habit is giving yourself a new label.

Let’s say, for example, that you’ve decided this is the year you’re going to get really into running. Step one, before you even lace up your sneakers? Start thinking of yourself as a runner.

“If you still identify as somebody who hates to run, or somebody who doesn’t run, the energetic slog of getting yourself to do it is so much heftier,” explains Jen Sincero, author of Badass Habits. …

Author Jen Sincero says ‘badass habits’ require an identity shift

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At the end of a milestone event — like a year or, say, a global pandemic — we have a tendency to reflect on all the things we’d like to achieve, moving forward. With this impulse comes a renewed interest in changing our habits through a slew of tips, tricks, and behavior hacks.

Now, the bestselling author Jen Sincero is back with a new book that throws a wrench into our conventional, habit-building wisdom. In Badass Habits, she asserts that changing your habits is as much about shifting your perception of who you are as it is a byproduct of…

Today’s tip: Pair every goal with one concrete habit.

The key to following through on your big, lofty goals? Getting specific. Granular, even.

Gretchen Rubin, host of the podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin and the author of several books on happiness, suggests paring every goal down to a single, concrete habit. For instance, if the goal is “have a fuller social life,” the habit can be “set aside the first Monday of every month for a standing date with friends.” All it takes is a small shift in framing to put those big-picture resolutions into action.

📚 More from…

Changing your behavior means understanding how behavior works

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Around 40% of the actions you take today will be nearly automatic. Each one will start with a cue that kicks off a well-rehearsed routine. Upon completion, you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying sense of fulfillment.

We call these habits, and they get a lot of attention this time of year.

The start of the new year feels like a big reset button. We feel like anything is possible — a new workout regimen, a consistent meditation practice, or maybe more business books in the “finished reading” pile. We make similar promises in our work, whether to focus on more…

Every behavior comes down to three variables

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You can change your life by changing your behaviors. You know that. But as I’ve found in my research as the founder and director of Stanford’s Behavior Design Lab — and as most of us know firsthand — there is a painful gap between what people want and what they actually do.

It took me 10 years of researching human behavior to realize that, when it comes to changing habits, the problem usually isn’t our lack of motivation or discipline. It’s our approach to change. It’s a design flaw, not a personal one.

Every behavior comes down to three variables…

To make a breakthrough, ask yourself, “What if I did the opposite?”

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Long before Tim Ferriss became the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek and the host of a wildly popular podcast, he had a day job selling enterprise technology — and he was struggling at it. He knew that if he wanted to stay employed, he would need to change his sales strategy. Except he had no idea how.

Then one day, as Ferriss writes in his book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, he noticed something: All of his colleagues were making their sales calls between 9 a.m and 5 p.m., the…

There’s danger in not updating your life systems

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John Dryden, the 17th-century English poet, once said, “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.”

The statement is a powerful one. Once an action becomes a habit — whether it’s writing in your journal each morning, taking a walk at the same time every afternoon, or reading a book before bed — the habit starts working for you. It’s something you know to do almost instinctively.

But Dryden’s quote also warns us about the potential danger of habits. This mental ease can have a downside: When our habits “make” us, it means our habits are in control…

Few of us have the luxury of ‘vast, unbroken slabs of time’

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“Many people die with their music still in them,” Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said. “Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”

It’s a sad truth that despite our aspirations and best intentions, our lives are full of factors beyond our control as we juggle daily errands and demands. The result, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, is that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” True creativity, that “music” within each of us, too often falls by the wayside. We start the year with resolutions to do…


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