How to Start a Good Habit: A Comprehensive Guide to Transforming Your Life

How to Start a Good Habit: A Comprehensive Guide to Transforming Your Life

May 30, 2024


Starting a good habit can be a life-changing endeavour that has a positive impact across all areas of our lives. Whether it’s exercising more regularly, eating healthier, or reading more, good habits enrich our lives and help us achieve our goals. However, initiating and maintaining these habits can be challenging. This guide will provide you with practical strategies to start good habits and make them stick.

The Importance of Good Habits

Good habits form the foundation of a productive and fulfilling life. They contribute to our overall wellbeing, enhance our productivity, and help us achieve our long-term goals both in terms of personal and professional development. Building good habits is not just about self-discipline; it’s about creating a lifestyle that supports continuous growth and improvement.

Understanding Habit Formation

What Is a Habit?

A habit is a behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. Habits are powerful because they shape our actions and, consequently, our lives. There are good habits and bad habits, good habits generally improve your wellbeing over time whilst bad habits tend to damage your wellbeing the more you do them.

The Habit Loop

The habit loop consists of three components: cue, routine, and reward. The cue triggers the behaviour, the routine is the behaviour itself, and the reward is the benefit you gain from the behaviour. Understanding this loop is crucial for creating and maintaining new habits. It's important to ensure that the habits you purposefully create are ones that improve your life over time, not damage it.

Identifying the Right Habit to Start

Align with Your Goals

Choose a habit that aligns with your long-term goals. Whether it's improving your health, enhancing your skills, or increasing your productivity, your chosen habit should support these objectives. In many cases a good habit can have positive impacts across multiple areas of your wellbeing, for instance, if you were to take up running and you joined a running club, you would not only be exercising more which is shown to be good for both physical and mental wellbeing but also engaging with others which is beneficial for social wellbeing.

Start Small

It might be tempting to go from zero to full speed but starting with small manageable steps increases your chances of long term success. Instead of committing to a one-hour workout daily, start with 10 minutes. Gradually increasing the intensity or duration makes the habit less daunting and in the case of exercise it reduces the risk of injury.

Planning and Preparation

Set Clear and Specific Goals

Establishing clear and specific goals provides direction and motivation. For instance, instead of saying, "I want to read more," specify, "I will read 10 pages per day" then commit to making that happen. Over time increase the number of pages you read until you are at a level you are happy with and can maintain indefinitely.

Create a Plan

Developing a plan that outlines when, where, and how you will perform the habit also greatly increases your chance of establishing the habit as a long term part of your life. Consistency is key, so choose a specific time and place that fits into your routine and prioritise the activity. Remember you are trying to establish a new activity into your existing routine, its going to take time and effort to do this.

Gather Necessary Resources

Ensure you have all the resources you need to start your habit. For example, if you plan to start hiking, invest in a good set of hiking boots, socks and appropriate clothing. You don't need the fanciest gear straight away but you should ensure you have the essentials you need to be capable of doing whatever you're setting out to do.

Implementing the Habit

Start with a Trigger

Identify or develop a trigger that will remind you to perform your new habit. This could be something you already do daily that you can use as a reminder or it could be something that you have to set up specifically for this purpose like an alarm on your phone or block time out in your calendar.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Reward yourself for sticking to your new habit. Positive reinforcement helps to solidify the habit loop by making the behaviour more enjoyable. Identify points of progress throughout your journey of establishing the new habit and celebrate when you achieve them.

Track Your Progress

Keep a record of your progress. Tracking your habit helps to maintain motivation and provides a sense of accomplishment. Looking back and seeing how far you've already come can help you to keep going during times when you're lacking motivation or feel like you're plateauing.

Overcoming Challenges

Stay Consistent

Consistency is critical to habit formation. Even if you miss a day, don’t get discouraged. Resume your habit as soon as possible to maintain momentum. A good thing to do if you miss a day is to not focus on the day you missed but think about all the days you didn't miss previously, you've proven you can do it day after day so just keep going.

Deal with Setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of the process. Instead of viewing them as failures, see them as opportunities to learn and improve. Analyse what caused the setback and adjust your plan accordingly. Identify what lead up to the setback and then think ahead and see if there are any times that its likely to happen again so you can be better prepared and not suffer the same setback next time.

Seek Support

Surround yourself with supportive individuals who encourage your new habit. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or an online community, having support can make a significant difference. You could even find or start a community of people that enjoy the same habit and either practice your new hobby with them or even just socialise with them.

Sustaining the Habit

Make It Enjoyable

Find ways to make your habit enjoyable. If you enjoy what you're doing, you're more likely to stick with it. Can you gamify your progress? Can you document it and share your journey on social media? If there's lots of equipment and things to buy, spread out those purchases and only let yourself buy the next thing when you've achieved a certain benchmark with what you already have.

Integrate into Your Identity

View the habit as part of your identity. Instead of saying, “I want to read more,” say, “I am a reader.” This shift in mindset can reinforce the habit and make it more sustainable. Visualising how you will feel in a years time when your new habit is firmly part of your everyday life is helpful to do if you feel silly talking this way now.

Review and Adjust

Regularly review your progress and make necessary adjustments. As you grow, your goals and circumstances may change, requiring you to adapt your habits. You may be progressing slower or quicker than expected, either is fine but make sure you adjust your plan so that you stay engaged.

Habit Stacking

What Is Habit Stacking?

Habit stacking involves linking a new habit to an existing one. This method leverages the power of existing habits to create new ones more effortlessly.

Examples of Habit Stacking

  • After brushing your teeth, meditate for five minutes.

  • After having your morning coffee, read a chapter of a book.

Habit stacking is great to help you fit your new habit in to your routine, by adding it on to something you already do it doesn't feel quite so much like you're making totally new time for your new activity.

The Role of Mindset

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Adopting a growth mindset, which is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed, is crucial for habit formation. A growth mindset encourages persistence and resilience, whereas a fixed mindset can hinder progress. A growth mindset recognises that everything, both positive and negative, is a learning opportunity whereas a fixed mindset would view the negative aspects as a reason to stop and not progress.


Practising self-compassion is essential when starting a new habit. Be kind to yourself, especially when facing challenges. Remember, building a habit is a journey, not a race. The sense of accomplishment you will feel, the adventures you will go on, the lessons you learn, it's all part of the exciting journey. Enjoy the ups and downs, the harder something is to do the better the reward feels.


How long does it take to form a habit?

The time it takes to form a habit varies for each individual and the complexity of the habit. On average, it can take anywhere from 21 to 66 days.

What are some common mistakes when starting a new habit?

Common mistakes include setting unrealistic goals, lacking a clear plan, and being too hard on oneself after setbacks. Starting small and being consistent are key strategies to avoid these pitfalls.

How can I stay motivated to stick to a new habit?

Tracking your progress, rewarding yourself, and seeking support from others can help maintain motivation. Also, reminding yourself of the benefits and how the habit aligns with your goals can keep you focused.

Can I work on multiple habits at once?

While it’s possible to work on multiple habits simultaneously, it’s often more effective to focus on one habit at a time to ensure consistency and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

How do I know if a habit is worth pursuing?

A habit is worth pursuing if it aligns with your long-term goals and contributes to your overall well-being. Assess the potential benefits and how it fits into your lifestyle.

What should I do if I miss a day?

Missing a day is not the end of your habit-building journey. Resume the habit as soon as possible, and avoid being too hard on yourself. Consistency over time is what matters most.


Starting a good habit is a powerful way to enhance your life, achieve your goals and improve your wellbeing. By understanding the habit loop, setting clear goals, and remaining consistent, you can successfully build and maintain new habits.

Remember, the journey of habit formation requires patience, resilience, and a positive mindset. Embrace the process, and you’ll find yourself transforming your life one good habit at a time.