3 Tips for Effective Habit Change

Bad habits can cause a tremendous amount of trouble in your life.


When it comes to self-development, and the various ways in which we all find ourselves being driven to overhaul our lives from time to time, there are few areas more worth focusing on than habit management of one type or another.

While big, one-off tasks can have a dramatic impact for good or for ill, it is mostly going to be the case that our lives are shaped and directed by the everyday habits and routines that we carry out more or less automatically.

Good habits, therefore, can be a very powerful positive force in your life. Bad habits, on the other hand, can cause a tremendous amount of trouble – and developing the skill of replacing these with more positive habits can be absolutely invaluable.

Here are a few tips for effective habits change.

Use smart substitutions

When you have some negative habit that’s firmly entrenched in your life, you need to realise that trying to simply remove that habit outright, with no substitutions, is going to leave a gap – the kind of gap that can easily be filled by another, equally bad habit, or that can cause you to slide back into your old negative behavioural patterns quite easily.

Instead of trying to just abandon negative habits outright, try to think in terms of smart substitutions, instead.

If you’ve got a smoking habit, for example, using an ecig to quit might be a lot more effective than simply trying to go it “cold turkey.” That’s partly because, aside from the nicotine, one thing that keeps many smokers smoking is the overall ritual of the thing – something that ecigs can replicate to a substantial degree. 

Focus on restructuring your “environment,” rather than relying on willpower

When it comes to replacing negative habits – and for that matter, making any sort of positive change in your life whatsoever – a common narrative is that what you really need in order to get the job done is a good dose of willpower.

Consistently, however, psychological research has been finding that “willpower” is a finite resource and should be used in emergency situations, but shouldn’t be relied on in order to keep you on the right track with regards to every dimension of your daily routine.

What’s often much more powerful than trying to leverage massive amounts of willpower is restructuring your “environment” – in other words, everything ranging from your home layout to your computer programs – in order to help nudge you in the right direction.

Look for big “keystone habits” to influence

In all likelihood, there are dozens of habits that you might ultimately want to change, or implement, in your own life. Obviously, trying to tackle each one of these at a time might not be the most practical or effective way forward.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of the book “The Power of Habit,” one great workaround here would be to focus on “keystone habits.”

A “keystone habit” is a habit that naturally sets off a cascade of other habits, as in a domino reaction.

For many people, simply waking up at a certain time would be an example of a keystone habit – and would often promote greater overall structure in everyday life, among other things.


Next upMixing Bad Habits With Slightly Better Ones