Building habits to last: the path to success

Habits – it’s something that dominates self-improvement thinking.

The internet is full of research and opinion on building habits.  The fascination ultimately comes down to the fact that it can be the difference between success and failure (or if you want to get dramatic –  life and death).

For personal goals, it can be the difference between achievement or floundering ambition – so how can habits be built?

I listened to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits on a podcast, where a key talking point was that to build the habit, you should start with small intentions.

They gave an example of someone showing up at the gym daily – not actually working out, their focus was conquering that step to show up four times a week – creating a habit of attending the gym.  Basically, start by putting on the running shoes rather than trying to do the marathon straight away.

This inspired me to experiment with two small issues that I currently have:

  1. I don’t eat all the fruit I take to work.
  2. I don’t drink enough water.


Copying this approach I simply got all my fruit out of my bag and filled a one litre Camelbak bottle with water.

The goal was to create the intention,  I didn’t necessarily eat all the fruit or drink all the water.  Generally, my results were positive, having visual of the fruit and water resulted in drinking more water during the day and eating most / all the fruit I brought in daily.

I applied intentions to my home life as a father, where, to ensure I brush my daughter’s teeth daily I get the toothbrush and toothpaste out to ensure I complete the task.

10 minute rule

A similar approach I followed is – the “10 minute rule”.

Basically, when setting out to complete an activity that I have little motivation to do, I work for 10 minutes and, if by the natural process I am not in the swing of activity I stop and try another time.

This was an effective habit  I found when I started blog writing –  I would have a vague thought and not really comprehend how to write a good article on the idea.

Applying the 10 minute rule, I wrote down the thought, drew out the main discussion points and wrote a potential title for the post.

By this point my creativity would flow to write a full post – the issue became I would actually have to “murder your darlings…” to make the post more concise.

Building habits to last: the path to success

These are two tips that I currently use to help build habits.

Do you have tips on how to create lasting habits?  What do you think of the ideas presented by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits?  I welcome your comments below.

2 thoughts on “Building habits to last: the path to success

  1. I really like your 10 minute rule. Let me share a tip on the opposite of developing a habit, getting rid of bad habits.
    Let’s say if you’d like to quit smoking.

    Be prepared to fail, and count each failure as 1 level closer to reaching your goal. After each try, you should realign your priorities and see why you failed, then go at it again.

    Secondly, find out what it is about the habit that is making it hard to quit. Let’s say nictoine in cigarettes caused a dopamine release in your brain, so tackle the nicotine first before trying to quit cold turkey.

    Thirdly, what are the triggers that cause the habit to kick in. Work on eliminating the triggers by drinking cold water after each meal, or breathing heavy to fill your lung to capacity like you are smoking, as an example.

    One at a time, using a creative approach to tackle the problem from different angles will get you closer to your goal of quitting. One day, you will break that cigarette in two and live a healthier life.


    1. Loving this approach – I think its actually harder to break a habit than start.

      Identify triggers is certainly effective. I did this with spending on the credit card, buying paying in cash for everything!


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