How to make Habits Stick

The usual way of building a new habit is to start small, focusing on just one habit that you add into your life every day. You’re told to create a Cue-Action-Reward loop to ensure success. Say you want to stop eating a chocolate bar in the mid-afternoon slump at work. Your Cue could be the time (3pm), your Action is eating a muesli bar and your Reward is feeling great afterwards or perhaps chatting with a colleague.

This is fine for starting one small habit, but if you want to make serious change in your life, you often need to build several new habits. We fall down because we don’t realise how our habits and behaviours are interconnected. If Luke wants to go for a run every morning, he’s not just trying to start a running habit. He potentially has to tackle a ‘go to bed late’ habit from the night before, as well as start a more consistent ‘laundry’ habit if he’s not always on top of the washing. He also might have to work on timekeeping skills, to make sure he leaves enough time to shower before going to work.

If that’s not hard enough, Luke also has to make sure he doesn’t miss a day. Conventional wisdom says that repetition and self-discipline are key to building new habits. But Luke might skip a day, then a couple more if he hasn’t got around to the laundry. Before he knows it, he’s not been running in a week. His running habit is in tatters.

So, what’s the solution?

At Self Nouveau, we say we need to think bigger to make habits stick. We need to have something larger than ourselves to believe in when the going gets tough. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Cue-Action-Reward loop, it just works better on a larger scale.

“Take action in the Present to make a Future your Past self would be proud of.”

With the #FutureFirst strategy, the Future is your Cue, the Present is where you take Action, and the Past is your Reward. You create a feedback loop that is larger than yourself.


When you have a strong vision of the future and where you want to be, you create underlying motivation. You aren’t identifying yourself as ‘someone who runs every day’ but as a runner, a future marathon or triathlon competitor. If you miss a day, your identity isn’t impacted and you can get back out with, no guilt and no negativity.

Taking action in the present is easy when you have a future goal. You look ahead to where you want to be (Cue) and you see what steps you can take to get there (Action). Any action you take in pursuit of your future self is valid.

And your reward is a collection of successful memories. Every day that you take action becomes a new memory. After a short while, you will have a bank of successes to look back on, creating the motivation to start the feedback loop again.

When today is difficult, a store of positive memories and the promise of tomorrow will keep you going. No wishful thinking or waiting for another day – just desire created from within.

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