Building habits (part 3): essential rules

In the first article, I explained how habits rely on our brain autopilot and support our executive functions. Whatever is your goal, there are key rules when implementing your habits.

1 – Something is better than nothing

To form a new habit, you need to activate your neural networks. It means you need to stimulate them: doing something will, doing nothing won’t. Start small and build on.

2 – Consistency matters the most

When you start working on new habits, your executive brain is still activated and actions are very deliberate. As the new routine is implemented, the autopilot is activated. The more often you repeat the new action, no matter how small, the stronger and the more efficient the autopilot becomes. Eventually the autopilot takes over: the habit is formed.

This has to do with synaptic plasticity, which is as Wikipedia simply puts it « the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time, in response to increases or decreases in their activity ». Repeated actions, over time, become habits. Random actions don’t.

3 – Repeated, « good enough » actions

When trying to form new habits, we sometimes set the bar too high, feel discouraged and can’t be consistent. Reduce your threshold of what is « good enough » to focus on small, achievable and sustainable actions that you can do consistently. This will activate the autopilot and embed the new habit.

In a few words, regular small steps will take you to your objective.

As I started a new job, one of my objectives is to build a routine around publishing articles here. I am aiming for one per week but need to find the right cues (time, place etc).

And you, are you trying to implement a new habit in your life?