“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.” William James dropped that knowledge-bomb back in 1892, and he was right on the money. One study published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that over 40% of our daily behavior is governed by the invisible power of habit. For some of us, that percentage is even higher.
Now that you know how big of an influence habits have on what you do on a daily basis, wouldn’t it make sense to know how to create habits that help you succeed?
That’s what we’ll be diving into today.
Most of the choices we make each day may seem like the result of thoughtful decision-making, but they’re not. They’re habits.
And although each of your habits means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, the amount of money save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, work, productivity, finances, and happiness.
Habits, by definition, are choices that we all make deliberately at some point—and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day.
At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog…
But eventually, we stopped consciously deciding and the behavior became automatic—it transformed into a habit.
And by understanding how this happens, we can rebuild our habits in whichever way we choose.
So, let’s get into learning how to create habits …
How to create habits and make them last
Oftentimes, people say to me, “Dean, you’ve got so much discipline” or “Dean, how do you stay so motivated all the time?”
But here’s the truth: I just look like I’m motivated all the time, when in reality I’ve just been diligent about installing several habits in the areas of my life that matter to me most.
You see, I don’t have to muster up the motivation to get up at 5 AM every morning, because it’s a habit.
I don’t have to motivate myself to focus on writing every day, because it’s a habit.
I don’t have to get motivated to go to the gym every day, because it’s a habit.
I don’t have to motivate or make myself do anything that I’ve become habituated to in my life because habits are things we do regularly and automatically with little or no conscious thought.
So, here’s the real question: How do you create habits?
The habit loop
In general, any habit can be broken down into a three-part habit loop that goes like this:
1. Cue—a trigger for your brain, like something in your environment, that sets off a habit.
- Your alarm clock triggers you to wake up
- Seeing your gym shoes by the door triggers you to exercise
- The smell of freshly baked cookies triggers your desire to eat
2. Routine—The set of actions you take in response to the cue.
- You wake up and start your morning routine
- You spot your gym shoes and go for a run
- You smell the cookies and walk to the kitchen to get one
3. Reward—The results or feelings you get/experience from executing the actual habit. This is what helps us determine how valuable the habit is, and whether it’s worth remembering or not.
- You feel good because you woke up on time
- You’re healthier and more energetic after finishing your run
- You enjoy the sweet, soft chocolate chips melting in your mouth as you bite into the cookie (or, if you knew you shouldn’t have eaten that cookie, that feeling will be followed by the negative “reward” of guilt from eating the cookie)
CUE. ROUTINE. REWARD.
☝️ Every habit you want to shape depends on this three-step loop.
Next up, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of how to create habits of your own…
How to create habits — a 5-step plan
Here’s a 5-step plan for how to create habits of any kind, along with examples for each step.
Below, I’ll use the example of creating an exercise habit, but you can use it as a guide for how to create habits of any kind in your own life.
Let’s get into it…
Identify the habit.
Think of a habit you’re struggling to form in your life.
Example: Develop a gym habit, whereby I’ll workout five days a week.
Identify your CUE.
Every habit has a trigger, identify one that regularly works for you.
Example: I’ll set my alarm to wake me up at 6 am every morning so that I can exercise before work.
Identify the REWARD.
What reward will you give yourself at the end of the behavior/habit?
The reward can be anything, but the key is in the craving.
Example: Enjoy a delicious protein shake after my workout, revel in my sense of accomplishment, and embrace the endorphin rush.
Execute the ROUTINE.
The routine is the actual activity/behavior you want to become a habit.
Example: Drive to the gym and exercise.
Write it down, make it happen.
The simplest and most effective way to create a new habit is to write a plan.
Use the following formula to write yours:
- When ________, (cue)
- I will ________ (routine)
- because it provides me with ________ (reward).
Example: When my alarm clock goes off at 6 am (cue) I will jump out of bed and drive straight to the gym to exercise for 60 minutes (routine) because it provides me with a healthy lifestyle, a fit physique, and an energetic start to my day (reward).
Now, using this plan as a guide, take a few minutes to formulate a habit you’ve been struggling to implement in your own life.
Become a master of habit
Wanna take an even deeper dive into creating strong and lasting habits? I’ve got your back with my course, Build Strong Habits…
The Build Strong Habits course will show you—step-by-step—exactly how to establish strong habits that’ll help you create lasting changes in life and work.
In this self-paced audio + video course, you’ll learn:
✓ How to stop bad habits.
✓ How to create new habits.
✓ How to make new habits stick over the long-run.
✓ The research-backed, proven formula for building better habits & making them last—guaranteed or your money back.
✓ Lifetime access to the course dashboard so you can come back again and again until the lessons become ingrained in your mind.
✓ The Build Strong Habits workbook + habit trackers to engage in your exercises, take notes, and track your habits.
✓ 5 hours of audio + video, split up into easily digestible lessons that you can consume at your own pace, on desktop or mobile.
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Even with the great pricing and all the bonuses, I want this to be a risk-free decision for you. Sign up now and take the course for a full 30 days, and if you end up regretting your choice, simply email me for a full refund. All you’ll have to do is respond to one of the emails I send you with course lessons or email the word “refund” to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now that we’ve removed every ounce of risk, let’s get started building your new habits today!
What people are saying about Dean Bokhari’s products + programs
“Dean Bokhari has been a great inspiration. It is so clear that he has spent years and lots of time developing great teachings on personal growth. I love Dean’s teachings because he gets to the meat (heart) of the matter and simplifies the subject and makes it easy for anyone to follow. He also makes his classes affordable. His courses and podcast have helped me in my personal and professional growth. I consider him a mentor. Thank you Dean for all your hard work and the heart you have to want to see others have a successful, fulfilled, life. Many Blessings” — Trudy Northover • Testimonial
“Dean is excellent. His familiar tone makes the condensing of the information accessible and easy to internalize and understand.” — SJ Gagne • Testimonial
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“I was in a place both personally and professionally and was finding it hard to get motivated to do anything. I had big dreams but couldn’t find the energy or the courage to put my first foot forward. After checking out Dean’s materials and subscribing to his online library of resources, I found the motivation I needed to achieve my goals. Here are the biggest takeaways I had from Dean’s materials. 1) Start with small habits. 2) Set higher goals for yourself. 3) Celebrate even the most minor successes. I would highly recommend getting his resources.” — Rich Earnest • Testimonial
“Super helpful. Actionable steps that make sense. Great insight while getting straight to the point.” — Danielle Cotten • Testimonial
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Ready to create the habits you need to succeed in life + work?
Neal, D. T., Wood, W., & Quinn, J. M. (2006). Habits—A Repeat Performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(4), 198–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00435.x