How Can I Build Good Habits for Lasting Change?

Living a happy and healthy life is widely pursued. Many people set goals like losing weight, building muscles, getting better grades, spending more time with family, achieving career excellence and so much more. To reach these goals, the first step you need to do is to establish good habits.

So how can we successfully convert our goals into reality? How can we develop good habits that will lead us to achieve these goals?

In this article, we will look at the two key principles to developing good habits introduced by James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits”.

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Principle 1: Decide the type of person you want to be

As introduced in the Personal Growth Model, every change and personal development starts with a belief. Your mindset, identity, and motivation determine how you plan, take action, and of course, your result.

The Personal Growth Model includes five key steps - belief, plan, action, result and review.

The Personal Growth Model illustrates how your belief has a direct influence on your actions, and in particular, your habits.

However, many people who wish to make changes in their lives tend to miss this step. Many choose to focus on the result that they are looking for and forget that it is important to first focus on your beliefs and identity.

Three layers of behavioral change

In his book, James Clear proposed the three layers of behavioral change. These three levels explain how changes can occur.

  1. Outcomes: the outcomes or results that you desire to achieve. Goals like losing weight, and achieving better grades are examples of outcomes.
  2. Processes: processes include the habits you need to achieve the outcomes. For example, to lose weight, you will need to go to the gym.
  3. Identity: your identity is related to your beliefs, worldview, self-perception, assumptions, and values.

3 layers of behavioural change in developing good habits

To make behavioral changes, instead of just looking at the desired outcomes, we need to shift our focus to our identity.

Making behavioral changes by focusing on your identity

The ultimate question you should ask is: who do you want to be?

To make real changes, we need first to understand who we want to be. A habit change is not just a change of an act, but a change of your identity. The goals you set should be in line with your desired change of identity.

Therefore, when you wish to set a goal to read more books, you should instead think of yourself as a lifelong learner. Your shift in mindset and your change in perception as to your identity is the key to making changes.

This is also the reason why a lot of people fail to make changes. People who think they easily get fat anyway are more likely to fail to make any substantial and long-term changes to their diet.

However, once you have decided the type of person you want to be, your brain is more likely to prompt you to act like that type of person, change the way you act, and help you prove yourself to be your desired type of person.

Thus, to make changes in your habits, you should first establish your identity. Once you have established your identity, you should take action to prove and strengthen your identity.

How can I establish my identity?

An effective way to establish and strengthen your identity and change your perception of yourself is to start your day with an affirmation. 

Affirmation is a great way to instill a positive self-image in your mind and to reinforce this perception.

It helps you focus on your identity, which will be the key motivator in encouraging you to continue with your behavioral change.

This is also in line with the Miracle Morning routine proposed by Hal Elrod, which suggests that you should take some time in the morning to repeat a positive statement about yourself to reinforce your belief.

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Principle 2: Establish a system for developing good habits

Do you ever feel like you failed because you missed one day in your habit tracker?

Have you ever given up continuing to develop a habit?

Many people may give up when they fail to see results after continuing with the habit for a short period. We tend to get disappointed when we have worked hard yet failed to see the results we wish to get.

However, when you choose to give up now, the effort you have put in previously would have been wasted as well.

The key to overcoming such disappointment is to focus on the system as a whole. This means that we have to learn to be patient and focus on continuing the system’s operation.

Forming a habit requires not only time but also constant repetition. Only with repeated attempts can we successfully establish our habitual system.

Therefore, instead of focusing on the results and outcomes, we should focus on the establishment and maintenance of our habit system. We should make sure it is running.

Instead of gaining a sense of satisfaction just from seeing the results, we will feel satisfied so long as we successfully maintain the system.

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