Simple Habit Formation | Part Two

This is part two in a two-part series discussing the steps needed in order to form solid positive habits and break bad ones. This content is also available as a free ebook. Click here to download. If you’d like to read part one, click here.


What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in awhile – Gretchen Rubin


You manage what you monitor, so track your progress – especially at the beginning.

You might groan at the idea of tracking and monitoring your behavior, but I assure you, it really is a worthwhile effort. If you aren’t reliably tracking your progress, you are likely to under or overestimate your adherence to your habit which can result in the habit failing to set. Tracking can also help motivate you when you are feeling unfocused.

Fortunately, there are a lot of really innovative, easy to use (free!) apps that can help with this. Depending on what you intend to track and monitor, I recommend the following:

  • Habitica
  • Productivity
  • My Fitness Pal
  • Fitocracy
  • Balanced

Monitoring and tracking is an important step to remain consistent and focus.


Habit loopholes, described by Gretchin Rubin, are logical traps we often fall into that undermine our efforts to change our behaviors. Be aware of (and prepared to deal with) these common logic loopholes. These loopholes can be devastating to your behavior change goals. Click on the links below to learn more about each.

False choice loophole — “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that”

Moral licensing loophole — “I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this”

Tomorrow loophole — “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”

Lack of control loophole — “I can’t help myself”

Planning to fail loophole, formerly known as the “Apparently irrelevant decision loophole”

This doesn’t count loophole — “I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”

Questionable assumption loophole

Concern for others loophole — “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”

Fake self-actualization loophole — “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”

One-coin loophole —“What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”

Do you find yourself falling victim to any of these loopholes when trying to form new habits? What loopholes are you most likely to invoke? Personally, I’m pretty bad at all of these, but I’m particularly vulnerable to the Fake Self-Actualization and This Doesn’t Count loopholes!




Our habits are what we repeatedly do. And what we do every day matters a lot more than what we do once in awhile. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Be CONSISTENT for at least 30 days (60 is ideal) when starting a new habit. This is so easy to say, but much harder to do. However, consistency is the golden ticket to success.


Keystone habits (or heart habits, or cornerstone habits) are habits that have the power to transform your life by making it easier to implement other smaller habits. Examples of keystone habits could be going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. By sticking to this routine and getting enough sleep, you are setting yourself up for success in other areas. You are less likely to overeat, you are more focused and attentive at work, you have time to meditate in the morning, and so on. This one habit has the power to positively influence the rest of your behaviors.


Sometimes there could be deeper issues at play. It is crucial to understand the root of a bad habit. Often times, bad habits are formed as a way to deal with or avoid stressors or internalized pain. You can experience some success replacing bad habits with more positive ones, but in order to fully transform bad habits hiding deeper issues, you will need to dedicate some time and effort into resolving those problems. Don’t just glaze over them.


Creating sticky habits is far easier when we make use of our current routines, instead of trying to fight them. The concept of if-then planning is built around environmental “triggers” that we can use to let us know that it’s time to act on our habit. Also known implementation intentions, this tactic involves picking a regular part of your schedule and then building another “link in the chain” by adding a new habit.


You are not a failure. Just learn from the experience, make adjustments if needed, and keep going. Do not expect perfection. That is a losing battle. If you find that your habit routine consistently breaks down, examine why. Are there any triggers you can eliminate? Are you falling victim to a loophole (explained above)? Or is there an environmental factor you can improve on?

Ramit Sethi shared his experience on 99U:

When I sat down to analyze why I wasn’t going to the gym, I realized: my closet was in another room. That meant I had to walk out in the cold [to] put on my clothes. It was easier to just stay in bed. Once I realized this, I folded my clothes and shoes the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I would roll over and see my gym clothes sitting on the floor. The result? My gym attendance soared by over 300%.

If you are experiencing a lot of issues getting your new habit off the ground, you can also consider scaling back your habit transformation to just one small habit or half-habit. Trying to change your bed routine? Just go to bed 10 minutes earlier. Over time, improve or change. But you might be experiencing difficulty by taking on too much at once.


Making repeated choices depletes mental energy. In order to maintain long term discipline, create routines that eliminate or minimize your need to make decisions. For example, wearing a uniform everyday or eating the same food regularly. The research is quite clear and well supported in books like The Willpower Effect.


Mantras are a great way to direct energy and reinforce your intentions. Leo Babauta explains how using mantras to quit smoking:

For quitting smoking, mine was “Not One Puff Ever” (I didn’t make this up, but it worked ). When I wanted to quit my day job, it was “Liberate Yourself”. This is just a way to remind yourself of what you’re trying to do.

Click here to read PART ONE
If you’d like to read about these steps in an ebook format, click here for a free download.

If you found this article helpful, or if you know someone that can be benefit from this advice be sure to share!



A Change in Course


What we do now


Samantha Roberts is an artist and writer currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. She is a lover of foggy mornings, yin yoga, Bukowski, and The Cure.

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