How to Create Good Habits

What you can do to change bad habits into something good? Is brute-force willpower the only way? Maybe not. Read on for Get-It-Done Guy's alternative.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #281

Get-It-Done Guy fan Carmen writes: 

"I'm a student on summer break. I've been making good choices: ordering healthy food, devoting time to studying, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I have the willpower to make these good choices now. But will it last? How can I keep making good choices back at school, when I’m busy and stressed?"

Carmen, you’ve put your finger on the very crux of the paradox of human existence. We love the idea of willpower! Only it’s vastly overrated. Research into how people change shows that willpower is rarely the key. Developing new habits is.


Habits make us great! We figure something out, make it a habit, and never think about it again. It becomes a building block for new behaviors. But our habit-forming ability isn’t that smart. If we wear plaid pants with a fluorescent paisley shirt, and the boy, girl, or intersex we have a crush on compliments our “outfit,” our brain thinks, “Woo hoo! Paydirt!” We form a new habit and never wear tasteful clothes again.

But when we go on vacation, our habits can disappear as fast as a slice of Oreo Ice Cream Cake after a Tabata cardio workout. (Get-Fit Guy, you didn’t hear that from me!) What’s up with that?

Old Behaviors Never Stop

When you first create a habit, you form the basic neural connections. If you try to change later, the old connections are still there. You must unlearn them or override them. That’s why I try to learn new things right from day one. It’s much easier than learning bad habits and then correcting them.

Under stress, you revert to your earliest learning. School stress probably turns you back into a 10-year-old whose idea of a fun meal is eating pizza. Through your nose. Hilarious, right? And at college, the night before a final, we’ve all done it. 

To change your habits at school, you need to reprogram your brain. Here's how...


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.