how to build habits

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 16:04 -- Jamie

Building habits

Your habit statement-

“I am 90-100% confident I will (this will be your action) when (this will be your trigger or the situation that will remind you to ask here) for the next 7 days”.

For example- “I am 90-100% confident that I will eat one portion of fruit (your action) at lunch (your trigger) in order to improve the quality of my diet.


Getting it just right

You have to be sure that you can stick to the habit. You have to be 90-100% sure.

Being too optimistic sometimes may make you fail to implement the habit frequently enough to reinforce the habit loop, i.e the loop of the trigger, action, reward and then the loop begins again.

For example- If you are starting off in working out then saying “I will run 10 miles tomorrow”, well maybe being this optimistic can be setting yourself to fail. This is why you need to make the habit so easy that it feels impossible to fail.

The frequency- “I will eat vegetables at 2 meals”, well you could change it to “I will eat vegetables at 1 meal” instead.

The intensity- Examples of what I mean by changing the intensity are as follows-

“I will eat 200g of vegetables”, instead you could say “I will eat 150g of vegetables”. Another example is- “I will do 30 sit-ups”, instead you could say “I will do 10 sit-ups” instead.

The units- If you are struggling to eat a whole portion of vegetables at each meal then you could bring it down to 1 meal, if one is still too much then you could bring it down to 1 mouthful of vegetables instead as, if you are a person who doesn’t normally eat vegetables then a mouthful is still good as at least it is something, it’s a little step in the right direction.


Identifying triggers

Keep going back onto existing triggers and use your current routine to help build new habits.

You can keep track of all of this. A task you can do to do this is-

To list two columns, then you are going to list everything you do throughout your day, e.g you clean your teeth or you go to work etc, you will do this in the first column.

This task will take you about 5-10 minutes. In the column next to it you are going to write down all of the things that happen to you during the day, e.g- the postman delivers your post to the house etc.

After you have done this you are going to match the trigger from these two columns that best fits your new habit. For example- there is no point in saying “I’m going to eat a portion of fruit on the way to work whilst I’m on the train”, as you may not have any fruit at home to take with you for whilst you’re on the train. There also may not be a convenience shop at the train station or near there to pick up some fruit from and you may be in a rush to get to work so sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan because well life happens but this is okay.

So with these things that you have written in the columns you are going to match the best one to the habit.

Your table should look similar to this-


Everything that you do

Everything that happens to you

Clean my teeth

The postman delivers the post

Go to work

The sunset comes up




So above are a few examples but your table will be filled in as you would have written more in yours than I have in mine.

Moving on from the table now.

I am 90-100% certain that I will have a sit down at my dining table/on the chair/sofa (your action) after I have put the kettle on (your trigger) every morning for the next 7 mornings in order to better deal with stress and try to relax (your outcome).

Hot triggers and cold triggers

Hot triggers are ones that can be acted on right away to perform a habit.

Cold triggers are something that does trigger you but you can’t implement your habit straight away.

Here’s a cold trigger- You may not be able to have a sit down to relax as there may not be any seats available on the train whilst you’re on your way to work, yet that may be further down the line as you may get a seat later on so this is an example of a cold trigger.


Set reminders on your phone for your habits or you could write them on post notes to remind yourself, you could put them around your house like on your fridge or if you have a notice board you could pin it up on there in your house.


Write it down, track and reflect

Write is down- Use a piece of paper that you have written your habit on and keep it in your pocket so that you can keep looking at it and for it to remind you.

Track it- Keep a score of how many days this current week that you perform that habit and you could have a calendar, then every day that you implement your habit then you can tick it off each day on your calendar.  

Reflect on it- 3-7 days per week at the end of the day ask yourself these things-

What did I do well? (Identify the positive behaviours that moved you closer to your goal.

What did I learn? (If things went wrong and you had a bad day then what can we learnt from it and how can we prevent it from happening again.

It is fine to have a bad day but what can we learn from in order to prevent it from happening in the future? This is what you should ask yourself so you are now reflecting on it.

E.g. Identify why you went off your plan or why you didn’t exercise.

Remember that you win or you learn. By implementing habits for long-term behaviour change you are helping yourself to get to your goals and where you would like to be in the future.