Makings Habits That Last

The best way to create a new habit is by focusing on what you have control over. In the case of changing your habits, it usually comes down to one thing: how much time and effort you’re willing to put in.

A habit is an action that is repeated regularly. Habits can be good or bad, but they are usually something that people want to create. The “new habits ideas” will help you create new habits that last.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Maneesh Sethi.

The nicest thing that ever happened to my diet was getting a call from the Travel Channel. I didn’t even have to deprive myself by watching a new nature reality program.

In 2011, a production firm and the Trip Channel wanted to collaborate on a travel program, which I would host. It was a really exciting period of time.

Except for one little snag.

I was a lot bigger than I seemed in my pitch video. To get into “TV form,” I needed to shed roughly 15 pounds (damn you, shallow American society!).

So I had to choose between keeping the show and keeping the weight.

On my blog, Hack the System, I’ve done a number of body hacking experiments, but I’ve always struggled to keep to a food plan. I knew “inspiration” wouldn’t last — it only lasts a few days until I pass by Subway or, God forbid, Taco Bell. Rather of giving up, I chose to go deep into my own psyche to discover out not just WHAT worked, but also WHY it worked.

I set out on this adventure in search of a “quick cure” to get in shape for the TV program, but what I discovered instead was the key to long-term, lasting psychological transformation.

How Your Primitive Mind Works Against You

As I started down the path to my own terrible habits, I understood something important: your brain doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. That gray matter, in fact, may be rather selfish and primitive when it comes to behavior modification. This is dubbed the “Reptilian Brain” by researchers. The Reptilian Brain prefers to accomplish one function above all others: seeking pleasure.

Sounds harmless enough, but in the actual world, this thinking process doesn’t always work out well, particularly when it comes to habit modification. The fact is that positive reinforcement based on pleasure does not always work. At least not in the long run.

Every time I went to the gym, I tried rewarding myself with a tiny treat, a massage, or a movie, believing that this would be enough to motivate me to keep going.

For a time, it worked. But suddenly it came to a halt.

All of my incentive to keep to the diet and exercise went if I wasn’t in the mood for one of the prizes I’d selected that day.


The last component of the Reptilian jigsaw had escaped my notice.


It’s tiring to flee from terrible situations. It’s inconvenient. It’s the polar opposite of pleasure seeking. However, it is significantly more successful in terms of long-term habit maintenance. When given the choice of rushing away from something unpleasant or towards something delightful, you’ll nearly always choose the latter.

Adrenaline rushes through your veins. Your endurance reaches its pinnacle.

Imagine a ferocious tiger following you with its teeth open. Have you just turned become Usain Bolt?

Your brain is kicking in the adrenaline.


I understood that combining the effects of positive reinforcement (rewards) and negative reinforcement (fear of pain) may result in a potent, well-balanced habit-change formula. The resultant 3-step formula is at the heart of the habit-changing algorithm I’ve now taught to thousands of individuals, allowing them to break free from even the most tenacious behaviors.

Here’s how to put the 3-step habit change technique to work in your life and quickly build a new habit:

Step 1: Establish A “Micro-habit” That Assists You In Achieving Your Big Goal

Not all habits are created equal, and some need much more mental effort than others.

Making breakfast in the morning is a simple habit that requires just a few steps: Remove the bowl. Pour cereal into the bowl. Pour milk into the glass. Eat.

Combinations of multiple elementary habits make to more complex habits. Consider how much automation is involved in driving a vehicle. You don’t have to think about how to drive a vehicle because the behaviors are so deeply ingrained that they become second nature, but it’s a really complicated process.

Consider this:

  • You must go to your vehicle, open the door, and enter.
  • You adjust your seat and mirrors.
  • Your seatbelt is fastened.
  • You start the vehicle and leave your driveway…backwards, using intricate spatial knowledge of space and time.
  • You get behind the wheel (even more steps if the car is a stick shift).
  • You mentally navigate to your destination, or you utilize a portion of your brain to see and listen as a GPS guides you.
  • You must keep up with the other automobiles in terms of speed and synchronisation. And the rare death-wishing dumb motorcycle.
  • Remember to activate your turn signal.
  • All of this is happening while the radio is playing. And you’re arranging dinner arrangements on the phone.

And when you get at work, you have no idea how you got there.

So, how can we automate these procedures to make even the most difficult jobs seem less daunting?

What was the trick to getting myself to the gym in my case?

Instead of forcing myself every day, I built a “micro-habit” that I knew would lead to the desired behavior. A micro-habit is a little activity that always leads to a larger action.

Just floss one tooth if you want to floss your teeth. Commit to flossing only ONE tooth each day, and make it your aim. You’ve achieved your aim if you’re able to do it. You may cross that off your to-do list now.

But here’s the thing: once you’ve completed the micro-habit a few times, it’ll be more tougher not to complete the full habit than it would be to just do it.

My micro-habit of just swiping my card at the entry ensured that I made it to the gym.

That is all there is to it. Simply swipe.

I chose a gym that was on my way home from work, and all I had to do was go upstairs and swipe my card every time I passed it. After that, I might return home if I so desired.


Surprisingly, it worked practically instantly. All I could do on some days was swipe the card and walk away. But I found myself replying, “Well…,” 90% of the time. I’ve already arrived… “I could simply go for a stroll on the treadmill or anything.”

I finished the exercise an hour later, and it was totally due to the micro-habit, which required absolutely no effort.

What kind of micro-habit would you want to try?

If you want to go for a run every morning, keep your running shoes next to your bed and commit to putting them on first thing in the morning.

If you want to write more, try penning five words on a piece of paper every morning with your breakfast.

If you want to read more, set a goal for yourself to read one paragraph and then put the book down.

If all you can do is your micro-habit, that’s just good. However, you’ll discover that you wind up doing a lot more than that.

I utilized this micro-habit formula to motivate myself, and then I obtained the support of an impartial accountability partner to check in with on a daily basis to make sure I kept on course.

Step 2: Make Your Micro-habit Accountable and Use Push-Pull Reinforcement

To effectively create and solidify a new habit, you must pull both Reptilian Brain levers.

Negative reinforcement (pushing) is used to kick-start a habit. The velocity is maintained through positive reinforcement (pull).

I built two opposing levers to encourage myself while I prepared for the TV program.

First, I generated negative reinforcement by arranging a simple wager with myself: I owed $50 to an accountability friend every time I didn’t execute my micro-habit. Every night, I had them check in with me.

This was awful, and I owed money for a few days in a row. However, paying that money was so terrible that a few slip-ups were all it needed to get rid of the desire to cheat on my diet or miss the exercise.

James, my accountability partner, wasn’t thrilled that I’d stopped getting checks, but I’d broken through the initial plateau of my own drive and gained some traction.

Negative reinforcement may be performed by activities such as making a bet with a buddy or even wearing a gadget that shocks you if you do not follow your established routines.

To keep the momentum going, I restored positive reinforcement into the equation by rewarding myself with a tiny treat (the trick here is to keep it modest) when I met my objectives. It felt great to have a massage after 7 days of being consistent with my food and exercising – and it was well earned.

This little incentive, along with the negative reinforcement, kept me going for the whole month without missing a beat.

Use a “Trigger” as the third step.

The last piece of the jigsaw is to consciously initiate the whole micro-habit and reinforcement process by providing a spark, or “trigger.”

Finding an existing habit and purposefully pairing it with the micro-habit you want to program is the simplest method to achieve this.


Because it’s already ingrained in many people’s daily routines, morning coffee is an excellent trigger for a micro-habit. Essentially, you’d take those 5 minutes every time you drank your coffee in the morning to fulfill your micro-habit.

Here’s how you’d utilize morning coffee as a trigger to get into the habit of writing:

The goal is to write every day.

Every day, write one phrase in your notepad as a micro-habit.

Negative reinforcement: If you don’t compose your sentence before the end of the day, you must report to your accountability partner and pay the agreed-upon penalty. (You may automate accountability by utilizing an online writing service that monitors your work, such as

Positive reinforcement: if you stick to the micro-habit for seven days, you’ll receive that massage you’ve always wanted.

Morning coffee is the trigger – write every morning while sipping it.

To eliminate any hurdles or excuses, place your notepad with a pen right next to where you sip coffee in the morning. “I couldn’t locate my notebook… It’s on the third floor… “I ran out of ink in my pen…”

This approach would quickly instill the micro-habit of writing a single phrase while simultaneously offering positive and negative feedback. Even in the first few days, the momentum you build will lead to more writing, well beyond the micro-habit.

Coffee is, of course, just one example of a trigger. Almost every action you now take may be utilized as a reliable trigger. In my situation, I chose a gym that I knew I’d have to pass on my way home from work every day. The sight of the gym was the catalyst.

I knew my main aim when I saw the gym was to finish the micro-habit of swiping the card. The remainder of the procedure was then automated to encourage them to finish the exercise.

Over the course of 2-4 weeks, you’ll reprogram your brain and build a new behavior using your own psychology as leverage, employing the 3-step technique of micro-habits, reinforcement, and triggers.


Warning: I utilized the same approach to prepare for the Travel Channel pilot, and it succeeded! I shed 20 pounds and became in the greatest condition of my life as a result of my efforts.

The program was eventually canceled. But I obtained something much more valuable: I learned how to alter things for the better.

I began sharing the approach with friends, family, and blog followers, and one thing quickly became clear: the process and outcomes were repeatable.

Habit transformation isn’t some enigmatic secret only a few people know about. It’s also not something you’re born with. Habit transformation is a straightforward scientific procedure that employs human psychology to alter behavior and provide anybody with the desired outcomes. It’s feasible to rewire each of the bad behaviors that are preventing you from being the guy you’ve always wanted to be by following this 3-step method.

Listen to Maneesh and myself on the podcast:


Listen to Maneesh and myself on the podcast:

Maneesh Sethi is the creator and CEO of Pavlok, the world’s first wearable gadget that holds you responsible and helps you modify your behaviors using proven psychological algorithms – and electric shocks, of course. Pavlok, which has been featured on The Colbert Report and Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, employs positive and negative reinforcement to help users stick to their micro-behaviors and change even the most established bad habits.




The “habit formation psychology” is a study in how humans form habits. The psychologist’s research shows that there are four main stages of habit formation: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action.

Frequently Asked Questions

Whats the 21 90 rule?

A: The 21 90 rule is a mental game that people play to improve their chances of winning games. Its an old gambling strategy used by gamblers in North America to win at craps, which became popularized as the 21-90 Rule due to the fact that it has nothing better than odds of 1 in 36 for any given roll.

What are some life changing habits?

A: I dont know if life changing habits are what youre looking for, but here are some things that have changed my life in more subtle ways.

What are 8 good habits?

A: 1. Take care of your body regularly, stay hydrated and exercise. 2. Be conscious about what you put into your body as well as what products you use on it every day to avoid the harmful chemicals in them. 3. Dont make yourself miserable by comparing yourself against unrealistic standards set by social media or other external factors. Focus on being happy with who you are! 4.. Make time for friends and family because they mean everything to us! We also need other peoples opinions too so dont be afraid to ask them how they feel about things that may have gone wrong for you recently- sometimes their perspective can help guide our way out of a difficult situation while making an alternative path seem possible again– not just giving up but considering new ideas that will change our lives even more than before! And lastly always love yourselves no matter if somebody else does or doesnt!!

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