The Secret to Creating Good Habits and Stopping Bad Ones


“People do not decide their future, they decide their habits and their habits decide their future.”- F. M. Alexander

I just read a book that made so much sense to me.  It’s about forming good habits and breaking bad habits and I had an “aha” moment when I read it.  The book is called, Atomic Habits by James Clear and it’s about how the effects of small habits – good or bad – compound over time.

Clear talked about how we set ourselves up for failure by being consumed by the end goal.  We are so focused on the goal of losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking or whatever goal we set and then we tell ourselves we’ll be happy when we reach the goals that we get boxed in.  First, it takes away from being happy now.  Second, it puts you in a position where you’re either successful or you’re a failure and you end up feeling worse about yourself if you don’t succeed.  Have you ever started a diet with a goal to lose X number of pounds but quit before you got there? And who hasn’t started a new exercise program with gung ho enthusiasm only to give up after a short period of time?

I’ve always thought that setting outcome-based goals are the way to achieve them but according to James Clear, it’s just setting us up for failure. 

We all want big changes but they are hard to sustain.  We want to be able to play the guitar, run 5 miles, lose 15 pounds, etc.  We set these goals but want instant transformations.  Instead, it’s the small daily habits that are sustained over the long term that truly change who you are.

Clear suggests what he calls the two-minute rule.  This is where you break things down into small steps and pick one small section that can be done in two minutes and just do that one step until it becomes a habit. Do something easy, that you can succeed at.  Set yourself up for success.  If you want to start exercising, just do ten push-ups every day or if you’re looking to lose weight, start by only cutting one thing from your diet, say you stop drinking soda and switch to water.  You do that until it becomes a habit.  Then you add something else, eat a healthy breakfast – and if that’s too much of a change, start eating a healthy breakfast only two or three days a week at first.  Really small chunks, do what works for you.  Those small successes help you to start seeing yourself as someone who’s a healthier eater or someone who exercises.  It becomes who you are.

It will also help us to change the way we talk to ourselves. Instead of saying “I have to” change it to “I get to”. Instead of saying I’m a smoker, I’m lazy, I’m fat, start thinking of yourself as someone who no longer smokes, someone who enjoys working out, and someone who eats healthy.  If you see yourself as a smoker, it’s hard to quit, if you see yourself as lazy, it’s hard to stay motivated. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself.  We can choose our mindset and our two-minute habits will reinforce our new feelings of identity.

Clear said, “A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination. Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be. Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”

There are lot’s of good tips in the book to help you succeed in changing your habits. Advice on how to work with the two-minute rule, ways to make habits more rewarding, and so much more.  If you’re trying to make changes in your life, I would recommend reading this book to help you make those changes stick.  Good luck.

PS – If you read this book, come back and let me know what you think of it in the comment section below.


As always, I’d appreciate it if you would help me get the word out about the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250 (nominate someone who inspires you) and the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $250 (submit an act of kindness you would do with $250).

2 thoughts on “The Secret to Creating Good Habits and Stopping Bad Ones”

  1. I loved your post and will definitely request the book from our library! His ideas make perfect sense.

  2. Your posts always get me to stop and meditate a few minutes out of any day. Especially this one. I will be reading more on this for certain. We rarely realize what creatures of habit we are. So much simpler to stay in our ‘comfort zone’ even when it’s actually UNcomfortable and restrictive.

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