Habit Advisories — Another Group of Five

As Behavioral scientist and Professor Katy Milkman did in our previous post, MindTools.com also offers five tips for the establishment and maintenance of positive habits.

Of course, by now we know why they are important. A habit just becomes part of a person. There is no need to think about it or write it on the To-Do list. A good habit is simply another life function, as automatic as scratching an itch. Good habits can help enormously toward meeting our personal goals, and as mentioned here recently, they can really increase the odds that a person will be “compliant” or “adherent” when a doctor’s orders need to be followed. So, what are this article’s suggestions?

Five solid ones

First, identify what exactly it is that you hope to achieve. The road to that goal is paved with the good habits you develop, so knowing where you are headed is pretty important. A person who plans to drive from Milwaukee to New York has no use for a set of directions on how to get to California. So, where do you want to go? Once that is determined, figure out a daily action or practice that will help you get there. The dailiness is the key.

Good habits seem to thrive in the morning, because, for most people, that is their most productive time of day. Setting a regular time (and sticking with it) is one effective way to attach the habit to another aspect of life, so they will go together, as a beloved old song had it, “like a horse and carriage.” You wouldn’t dream of trying to take your carriage anywhere without first hitching the horse to it. Likewise, with a solid habit, it would not occur to you to let 7:00 AM go by without doing five push-ups because the two things are that intertwined.

The third pick is to get your brain involved:

As you progress with your new habit, reflect on how it’s working for you. If you’re struggling to stick to it, think about why this is. Were you too ambitious? If so, consider setting a more manageable short-term goal to re-motivate yourself.

Or, if your new habit isn’t delivering the change that you expected, reflect on what’s gone wrong. You may need to tweak your habit to make sure that it’s delivering real change.

Another winning strategy is to develop self-discipline, because it will probably come in handy. Psychologists have posited different lengths of time that it takes to solidly establish a new habit. The author’s source says, on average, it is 66 days, which is just over two months. He has suggestions about how to make it to the finish line.

“Get Support” is a very important aspect of positive habit formation. For instance, if you want to improve your agility, balance, and coordination, practicing the art of tai chi is helpful — and even more helpful is a group that meets every morning in a nearby park. If such a group does not exist, maybe you could start one. In a pinch, a videotape on the Internet provides a support group of a kind, which is better than no backup at all.

Even without a close friend to be the “accountability partner,” a person can join up with an online group whose mutual interest in improvement will help to keep everybody on track. But wait, there is more. The authors also present a bonus suggestion:

When you decide to establish new habits in your life, focus on one at a time. If you try to overhaul your entire schedule at once, you’ll likely get overwhelmed and quickly revert to old behaviors.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Power of Good Habits,” MindTools.com, 2023
Image by Michael Coghlan/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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