New Habits

New Habits

The power of small steps to implement new habits


  • Understand the stages of habit formation in light of advances in neuroscience and psychology
  • Use the 4 keys of habit formation to set up or get rid of a habit
  • Analyse your habits to distinguish "good" habits from those that are less good or simply neutral


According to James Clear, what makes the difference between successful people and others is not so much achieving their goals but achieving them regularly.

When it comes to behavioural change goals, the difficulty is knowing what to change. He advocates focusing on changes that allow us to become the person we want to be through the implementation of new habits.

A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough that it is a reflex. A good habit is:

  • A way of solving recurring problems with minimum energy and effort.
  • A repetitive behaviour that opens the door to something else positive: more life energy, better health...
  • A way of relating to others that holds a community together such as rites or rituals.

The 4 stages of habit formation

The formation of a habit takes place in 4 stages:

1. Trigger

  • Identifying a signal/trigger : that creates the hope of a reward (e.g. seeing a glass of water on a table in the hope of quenching one's thirst)

2. Envy

  • The emergence of the desire : the motivation to act in order to obtain the reward (e.g., the emergence of the desire to go get the glass of water)

3. Response

  • Behavioral response : the implementation of a behaviour to obtain the reward (getting up to get the glass of water)

4. Reward

  • Reward : the goal of any habit, the satisfaction of desire. Depending on whether or not the hoped-for reward is obtained (the thirst is quenched), the habit is formed or not and the loop is closed.

To develop a new habit :

  • Make sure that the habit is triggered in an obvious way
    • To develop a new habit "I will (action verb) at such and such a time and place.
    • Stack 2 habits: "After (existing habit), I will do (new habit)
    • Arrange or change your environment (e.g., work in a dedicated room during telecommuting to distinguish between living and working space and better manage your life balance)
  • Explain the risk of not changing the habit
  • Make the new habit irresistible
    • Link 2 habits: I will do (new habit) and then I will do (habit I enjoy)
    • Set up a routine that starts with something you enjoy, before doing the hard stuff
  • Join a group that has this habit
  • Make the new habit easy
    • Change your environment to make it easier to implement your habit (e.g., sneakers are outside the door to go running)
    • Aim for a minimal result (do something very short, or very simple, but every day) then progress after stabilisation
    • Use technology to automate the habit (application...)
  • Make the reward rewarding
    • Give yourself a reward as soon as the new habit is in place. This is a key step since it allows the new behaviour to become a habit.
    • Monitor progress. If you fail one day, try again the next.
    • Agree with someone who you take as a witness and to whom you will be accountable.

And to break a habit :

  • Make the trigger invisible
    • Changing your environment to eliminate it or reduce your exposure to it
  • Make the reward undesirable
    • Highlight the benefits of eliminating the habit.
  • Make the habit more difficult to implement
    • Multiply the steps before implementing your habit
    • Integrate safeguards (e.g. automatic internet shutdown at 9pm to reduce the time spent on your phone)
  • Make sure that the habit generates dissatisfaction
    • Make an agreement with someone you take to with a witness and to whom you will be accountable.


1. Establish a scorecard of your daily habits

  • List the habits, starting when you get up!
  • Then for each one, ask yourself: is it a good habit (i.e., does this habit allow you to be or become the person you want?) or a bad habit? Is it neutral?
  • Once you have completed your analysis, what do you notice?

2. What do you want to change or keep? What do you want to give more or less space to? Be sure to use the following format: I will (action verb) at such and such a time and place.

3. What existing habit can you associate this new habit with? What can you change in your environment to trigger this new habit? Is there a group you want to join that has this habit?

4. What can you change in your environment to make it easier to implement this new habit? What is the minimum outcome you are aiming for? How can technology help you?

5. What is the reward you will give yourself once you implement this habit? How do you feel when you get the reward? Who could be your witness? How will you track your progress?