Putting It All Together: Your Habit Change System

26.06.2017 |

Episode #10 of the course How to change any habit by John Fawkes


Welcome to the final lesson of this course. Congratulations on making it this far!

You’ve learned how habits work, methods for motivating yourself, six techniques for changing habits, and how to get the most out of your willpower, hold yourself accountable, and even reshape your environment to support your habit change.

As a final review, here is a summary of the key takeaways from this course and the steps involved in changing any habit—for good:


Understand How Habits Work

First, there’s a cue—something happens that signals you to start doing the habit. The routine is what you do. The reward is something pleasurable that happens because you did the routine. And the craving is a desire you have, which the reward satisfies.


Pick One Area of Your Life to Work On

Work on one area of your life at a time: your health, social life, business, a hobby, etc.


Focus on Two Habits at a Time, and Keep Records

At any given time, you should be working on two habits. Usually, that should be one bad habit you’re getting rid of and one good habit you’re building, at least until you run out of bad habits.

For bad habits, use cue suppression, routine disabling, or aversion therapy. For good habits, use cue piggybacking, chaining, or routine substitution.

Keep a log of these two habits—record every time you do them and every time you don’t do them.


Hold Yourself Accountable and Stay Motivated

Get either an individual or a group to check up on you and hold you accountable. Pick someone who supports your desire to change and won’t let you get away with slacking off.

Avoid purely extrinsic motivators; intrinsic motivation is better. Have your accountability partner provide an extrinsic-intrinsic motivator—an external source of motivation that reinforces intrinsic motivation. Also, look for prosocial motivators—like doing this for your family—if you can find one.


Maintain Willpower

Willpower will get you through brief periods of temptation, but avoid prolonged periods in which willpower is being used. Periodically recharge your willpower by doing something that’s both good for you and relaxing. Find an activity that meets those criteria if you don’t have one already.


Improve Your Environment to Improve Yourself

Your behavior and attitudes will be shaped by your environment. To change yourself, put yourself in an environment that supports the person you want to be. When you’re starting out, change at least one thing about your environment and look for more opportunities to change it.


Periodically Review Your Performance

Every so often—I recommend once a week—review the record you’ve kept of how well you follow the habits you’ve decided on. Evaluate your performance, and if it’s not good, review the list of common mistakes and figure out where you’re going wrong. Adjust as needed.

At this point, you’ve been working on one habit for seven days and another for five days. They’ll start to get easier now, but you’re not done. It will take at least two more weeks before those habits are completely automatic and may take as long as two months. Once you feel like it no longer takes effort to maintain your habits, it’s time to pick two new ones to work on.

You’ve started down an exciting new path—with the tools you have now, you can make whatever kind of life you wish. Good luck.

—John Fawkes


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Recommended book

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen


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