Make Habits Stick by Reframing Negative Behaviors

What are the best strategies to make habits stick? What makes change last?

Making habits stick requires prioritizing your goals long-term rather than trying to change them in a day. Knowing specific strategies for accomplishing this can make a big difference.

Consider these strategies when you need to make a change that lasts.

Make Change That Lasts

If change doesn’t last, then great strategies and proven tactics will all be for naught. Learning to make habits stick is possible, and it simply requires that we don’t let up on our efforts to maintain positive behaviors. 

To do this, you need to understand the challenge as you would a chronic illness: To stay in good health, you need to constantly keep up with treatment. To keep positive behaviors in shape, you need to constantly evaluate the challenges you face and take them on with effective strategies. 

When one strategy starts to fall short, reassess your approach and seek out alternatives. Anticipate that what works will change over time, remain committed, and adapt to every bump in the road. Change is much easier to maintain than it is to create in the first place—so stick to it, and you’ll soon find yourself living a better life.

Exercise: Plan and Initiate a Behavior Change

Put this strategy into action by identifying a change you’d like to make and tailoring a solution.

  1. First, identify the behavior you’d like to change. For instance, you might want to change a habit of eating too quickly or a pattern of watching YouTube in bed before sleeping.
  2. Next, take stock of any challenges you might face in changing this behavior. For the above examples, these challenges could be struggling with instant gratification or forgetting your good intentions after a long and stressful day.
  3. Now, consider whether you’ll have any new beginnings to work with. Is there a change coming up in your life circumstances that will afford you a fresh start? (Consider whether any big events, possible moves, or symbolic dates are near.)
  4. Last, pick a tactic you could use to change this behavior. Continuing the example of watching YouTube before bedtime, you might set a reminder to place your phone across the room before lying down. Put this tactic into action, and you’re on your way to positive change!
Make Habits Stick by Reframing Negative Behaviors

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Katy Milkman's "How to Change" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full How to Change summary:

  • An evidence-based approach to creating lasting change
  • How to overcome common human failings, such as procrastination
  • When the best time to enact changes in your life is

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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