3 Key Ways You Can Transform Any Action Into a Habit

Alyssa Atkinson

Simple methods that actually work.


Photo by Carl Barcelo on Unsplash

How many times have you told yourself that you were going to eat healthier, exercise more, get to sleep earlier, stress less, or spend more time with family?

Odds are, you’ve said them too many times to count. If you are anything like me, then you might have followed through for a few days, or even a week, and then gave up and reverted back to your old ways.

Just last year, when I was finishing up my final semester of college, I promised myself that I would prioritize sleep. For about four or five days, I did exactly what I set out to do — I got to bed early and consistently slept for eight hours. Then, I got complacent and started cutting corners. Pretty soon, I began to stay up later and sleep six or seven hours per night.

The unfortunate truth is that it’s easy to do something for a few days, or even a week. It’s far more difficult to turn an action into a positive habit, and continue to do it day after day. Luckily, there are a few simple methods that can help you reach that point. Here they are.

1. Do it for at least this long.

In my experience, the first week or two is always the toughest. If you decide to exercise for the first time in months, it is going to feel terrible. You might even want to quit just a few minutes after you start. However, it is incredibly crucial to push through those self doubts, take a leap of faith, and just start. The beginning is always the hardest part, and you usually come out the other side immensely better off.

Even though I have been running consistently for about ten years, I still feel awful after an extended break. It takes me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things. But when I finally do reach that point, I actually start to look forward to my workouts rather than dread them.

It takes a lot of time to form a habit, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Science supports this claim.

According to Psychology Today:

“A daily action like eating fruit at lunch or running for 15 minutes took an average of 66 days to become as much of a habit as it would ever become.”

This may seem like a long time, but you have to remember that once a good habit is solidified, it becomes easier to stick with:

“developing a good habit is really worth the struggle; once you’re used to making your bed each morning, or going for an evening walk, or flossing, you don’t have to exert much self-control to keep it up.

Therefore, if you want to turn any single action into a healthy habit, you need to give it time (possibly even a few months). The great news is that once that habit is solidified, you won’t even have to think about it. It will be an effortless part of your day.

2. Do not rely on motivation.

I know this seems like a bold statement. Why wouldn’t you want to rely on motivation to get healthier, sleep better, save more money, etc.? It’s simple really.

Motivation is fleeting. No one can stay motivated to do something 100 percent of the time. If you plan to get motivated to work out every day, you will only set yourself up to fail.

Instead, you need to rely on discipline. When it’s 25 degrees outside and you would rather stay in bed than bundle up and go for a four mile run, discipline is what will get you out the door.

According to Business Insider:

“[Discipline] drives you to do the work you don’t enjoy, but is required.Discipline conquers fear. Discipline keeps you going when your curiosity, motivation, and excitement evaporate.”

Therefore, you have to shift your mindset. Tell yourself that you are going to do x, y, or z because you need to get it done, regardless of whether or not you want to do it in that moment. That’s how your healthy habit will actually develop.

3. Set short term and long term goals.

Since the timeline for turning an action into a habit can be long and difficult, you have to set goals to help yourself stay on track.

In fact, when you set short term and long term goals, you instill mental cues that trigger greater focus. Forbes states that:

“Having a clear, compelling goal mobilizes your focus toward actionable behavior.”

However, it’s not enough just to set goals. You also need to follow through with them, and celebrate those little victories along the way. After all, healthy habits are meant to enrich your life and help you become a happier individual overall.

If you need to, you can set up a reward system for each goal that you reach. For example, if you want to save $1,000 by the end of the month, you could treat yourself to that new pair of shoes you have been eyeing once you successfully reach it.

Final Thoughts

Everywhere you look, you’ll find advertisements that promise to help you get fitter, sleep better, or make more money. But that’s all they are — empty promises. They do not provide any valuable information to ensure you actually reach that point.

I wish someone had told me years ago that I could fail and still achieve anything I set out to do. I wish that society didn’t make it seem like you can accomplish anything you want in life with ease, because it’s not easy. Success requires hard work, passion, discipline, and more often than not, many failures along the way.

If you want to turn any single action into a healthy habit, I can guarantee that it will not be easy. You will have to do it repeatedly, stay extremely disciplined, and focus on your goals. But in the end, you will be a happier and healthier individual, and you will know that it was worth the fight.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - nomeatfastfeet.com | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC

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