The UnCollege Blog

How to Make Habits that Stick

Turning ideas into reality is something that – unlike how we may like to picture it in our minds – doesn’t fall perfectly into place like one of those movie montages set to a Beatles song. It takes concrete skills and approaches that have to be carefully considered beforehand. Whether your focus is on learning something new, changing a part of your lifestyle, or stopping a bad habit, these tips will help turn your plans into a reality that actually works.

Understand why you may have failed in the past.     

To address a problem, you have to understand it first. Was it that the goal is something not actually important to you? did you set too lofty initial goals? Or were you continuing other bad habits that affected the one you wanted to change? Once you determine the appropriate problem and get to the root, you can make appropriate alterations to your plan.

Example: If you want to stop eating so much junk food, you should first ask yourself why you do it. You may find that this habit is stress-induced, and then you may decide to take action to reduce that stress first.

Have a detailed, realistic plan.

Having a set time each day that you adopt the change will keep you accountable and your habit concrete. A realistic plan will stop you from falling behind and allow you to easily remain on track.

Example: If your goal is to exercise more, you can have daily, weekly, and monthly goals in addition to goals associated with the frequency of the activity, time of day, and duration of the activity. This way you have milestones and mini victories along the way. Everyone needs this kind of motivation.

Slowly adopt the new habit.

For motivation’s sake, it is important to keep your big goals in mind, but for action’s sake, it is best to start small. Once you are able to consistently accomplish a facet of what you want, then it is time to slowly increase the alteration to daily life.

For example: If you want to adopt veganism, you could either start by cutting out fish, then chicken, then meat, then dairy, (with smaller breakdowns if you want). The other route is to cut meat out from certain days of the week or meals initially. Keep in mind that there can and will be hiccups along the way; breaking/making habits is a hard thing to do!

Reward yourself.

It is effective to have a reward system in place to act as a positive motivator for each day or week you accomplish what you planned. It is important to keep in mind to have the reward appropriate with the scale of the task you have accomplished.

Example: If you want to learn a language on DuoLingo, you can have a small reward, for each lesson you complete and then a big reward, like a dinner out to your favorite restaurant, for each 10% fluency you achieve.

Visualize success the right way.

Studies have shown that if you excessively fantasize about the future, you will see less consistent habit adoption than if you actively visualize the process by which you can attain your goals. Visualizing yourself successfully completing steps towards your goal works better because it reduces anxiety about the big change, and keeps the focus on what is important: the action items.

Example: Instead of visualizing yourself as a master at guitar or speaking fluent Albanian to the president, you should visualize yourself successfully attending classes and practicing at home.

With these tips in mind, now you can go and accomplish those goals you’ve had in mind for years! You can use these habit trackers to easily keep track of what you’re doing: and

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