Why healthy habits are so hard to keep.

Whether it's the start of a new year, or a sharp shock to the system that creates the urge to get healthier, its fair to say that for many if us, it's a short lived need.

We've been looking into what it takes to create habits that stay, and why so many of us fail to maintain resolutions before the month of January is already out.

Much as been written on how we can successfully create new habits, how to stop bad ones, and how to recognise the habits that we form, over time, that become automatic to us.  Books such as Atomic Habits by James Clear, or The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, have sold millions of copies, as we all search out ways to train ourselves to hold onto good, or develop new habits.

A “habit loop” is a way of describing several related elements that produce habits. These elements have been called the cue (or trigger), the routine (or behaviour), and the reward.


Text - Why healthy habits are so hard to keep.

As an example, stress could serve as a cue that one responds to by routine actions, such as eating, smoking, or drinking, which produces the reward (the reduction of stress—at least temporarily).

Setting more positive routines in response to some of these "cues" could help us break our of bad habits and provide greater, longer term rewards than the instant satisfaction of a nicotine kick, for example.

Darius Forum, a well renowned blogger and author sets out his top 4 tips for creating lasting habits:

Step 1: Decide what habits are worth it

Deciding if a habit is worth it to you is critical to forming new habits. Too often we hear about something, and we think: “I should do that!”

Really? Should I wake up an hour earlier? Should I take cold showers? Should I eat like a cave person? Should I run every day?


Just ask yourself this:

“Will habit x improve the quality of my life?”

The reason you want to ask yourself that question is that we all need a reasonto change. We need something that’s bigger than superficial reasons.

What’s your "WHY."   Answer that. And then, adopt habits that bring you closer to the things you want in life.

Step 2: Focus on one habit at a time

Many reasons we fail to keep habits is because to try and create a million new habits at the same time.   In general, when you do too many things at the same time, you end up with chaos.

And you always end up right back where you started. Sounds familiar?

One of the reasons we try to do so many things at the same time is that we overestimate ourselves. We think we can achieve a lot in a short period. That’s false.

We can achieve A LOT over a long period. That’s true.

So focus on one thing at a time. Stack one habit on top of the other, one by one (just like in this post’s image, at the top).

Step 3: Set the bar very low

We often want to do big things, without understanding it. Starting a business or building a career requires effort. In fact, everything in life that’s remotely valuable requires a lot of work to achieve.

So before we do something big, let’s start small. Similarly, before you change the world, change yourself first. Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace put it best:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Focus on small things. Build a strong foundation. Without it, we can never achieve anything meaningful.

  • Want to run daily? Start by walking.
  • Want to write a book? Write once sentence.
  • Want to start a business? Get one client.
  • Want to read two books a week? Read one page a day.
  • Want to save for your retirement? Don’t buy another shirt you’re only going to wear once.
  • Etc.

Big things follow by themselves.

Step 4: Use checklists

You want to do something. You do it. And then you forget about it. Shit happens, right?

No, that’s weak. Don’t let yourself off the hook like that.

We must use checklists to remind ourselves of what we’re trying to achieve. Remember: We form habits to transform our lives—to make things BETTER.

Check off your habits daily. One day, you’ll be surprised by how much your life changed by such, seemingly, small habits. At least, that’s what happened to me and the thousands of other people who focus on their habits. And I’m sure it will happen to you too.


(adapted with thanks from Dariusforoux.com)