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The philosophy surrounding habit formation is beautifully encapsulated by the adage, “We rise and fall to the level of our habits,” emphasizing the profound impact our daily routines have on our lives. This idea, complemented by the notion that our habits are predictive of our future, lays the foundation for understanding health not just as a state but as a skill—one that requires continual refinement and adaptation.

In the realm of health and fitness, the work of James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” and Menno Henselmans, a renowned fitness and nutrition expert, stands out for their evidence-based approaches to habit formation and maintenance. Their methodologies offer a structured path toward integrating beneficial habits into one’s lifestyle, thereby achieving personal growth and success.

1. Set Clear Goals

Setting clear, precise goals is crucial for directing your focus and efforts. The SMART framework—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound—serves as a powerful tool in this endeavor. Locke and Latham’s theory of goal setting and task motivation illustrates that specific and challenging goals enhance motivational factors, leading to better performance (Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P., 2002, “Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey,” American Psychologist). This foundational step ensures that your habit formation is aligned with your aspirations and provides a clear benchmark for progress.

You will want to write your goals down and make them clear. 

2. Start Small

James Clear emphasizes the importance of beginning with small, manageable steps. This principle is rooted in the belief that small changes can accumulate into significant impacts over time. A study by Fogg (2009) supports this approach, showing that “tiny habits” can lead to substantial behavioral changes. Starting small helps to overcome initial resistance and fosters a sense of achievement that motivates further action.

When looking at your list of goals, what are small changes you can make now that will not feel overwhelming and sustainable? 

3. Understand the Habit Loop

Clear’s concept of the habit loop, comprising a cue (trigger), a routine (action), and a reward (outcome), is vital for identifying and modifying habits. Duhigg (2012) in “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” explains how this loop underpins every habit, suggesting that understanding and manipulating these components can facilitate the formation of new habits and alteration of existing ones.

Paying attention to the cue, routine, and reward sequence in your habits requires you to step back and be more of an observer than the passive participant. This takes practice. 

4. Design Your Environment

Making the desired behavior easier and the undesired behavior harder by designing your environment is a strategy James Clear advocates for. A study by Wansink (2006), which found that people eat less when using smaller plates, exemplifies how environmental cues can significantly influence behavior. By arranging your surroundings to support your goals, you reduce the reliance on willpower and make habit formation more effortless.

Based on your list of goals how can you design your environment to help you achieve a bit of momentum in your habit change? 

5. Track Your Habits

Monitoring your progress through habit tracking can significantly enhance your ability to maintain new habits. A study by Lally et al. (2010) on the formation of health-related habits underscores the importance of repetition and monitoring in establishing new routines. Habit tracking provides tangible evidence of your progress, reinforcing your commitment and helping identify areas for improvement.

Tracking is a form of accountability that doesn’t allow us to make excuses or rounding errors in a sense. This is a great way to add some intensity slowly to your process. 

6. Focus on Consistency

Menno Henselmans highlights consistency as a key factor in habit formation. Consistent practice helps to solidify habits, making them a natural part of your routine. The concept that consistency leads to proficiency and eventually to automaticity is supported by research on the theory of deliberate practice (Ericsson, K.A., et al., 1993, “The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance,” Psychological Review). By prioritizing consistency, you can ensure the gradual integration of habits into your daily life.

Consistency will beat intensity in any race. If you can simply keep going you will win.

7. Use Positive Reinforcement

Rewarding yourself for adhering to a new habit can enhance motivation and commitment. The principle of positive reinforcement, as outlined in behaviorist theories, suggests that behaviors followed by positive outcomes are more likely to be repeated. Skinner (1953) in “Science and Human Behavior” discusses how positive reinforcements can effectively shape behavior, highlighting the role of rewards in habit formation.

Be sure that your rewards are not things that go against the person your new habits and goals are seeking to create. This would be sabotage rather than a reward. Let the reward be something you like or love the re-enforces the new habits you want to create. 

8. Stay Accountable

Sharing your goals and progress with someone else can significantly boost your commitment. Research by Gail Matthews (2015) showed that writing down goals, committing to action steps, and sharing updates with a friend significantly increased the likelihood of achieving those goals. Accountability partners can provide motivation, encouragement, and constructive feedback, helping you stay on track.

Accountability is telling on yourself. So, finding accountability only works if you are committed to being honest with yourself and those you are entrusting with your journey. 

9. Plan for Setbacks

Acknowledging that setbacks are part of the process and planning for them is essential for resilience. James Clear suggests adopting a flexible approach and learning from setbacks to refine your strategies. The concept of a “growth mindset,” proposed by Dweck (2006) in “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” emphasizes the value of embracing challenges and failures as opportunities for learning and growth, which is crucial for habit formation.

10. Adapt and Refine

Periodically evaluating and adjusting your habits ensures they remain aligned with your evolving goals and circumstances. Menno Henselmans advocates for this adaptive approach, highlighting the importance of flexibility and responsiveness to change. This iterative process of refinement is supported by the principles of self-regulation theory (Carver & Scheier, 2012), which emphasize the importance of monitoring progress towards goals and making necessary adjustments.

This is a pro tip if there was one. If you are not performing how you would like or meeting your goals, rather than quitting you simply adjust your goals and expectations. Quitting is not really an option so adjust. 

11. Be Patient

The formation of new habits takes time. Research by Lally et al. (2010) found that it takes 18 to 254 days for people to form a new habit, with 66 days being the average. This variability underscores the importance of patience and persistence in the habit formation process. Understanding that habit formation is a gradual process can help set realistic expectations and prevent discouragement.

Patience also requires compassion for yourself. It takes time to change. Allow yourself the grace to be human. 

12. Seek Evidence-Based Information

Relying on evidence-based information, especially in health and fitness, is crucial for ensuring your efforts are effective and safe. Menno Henselmans emphasizes the importance of grounding habit formation in scientific research and best practices. This approach ensures that the habits you are forming are based on reliable information and are more likely to yield positive results.

13. Stay Informed

Continuously updating your knowledge based on the latest research and best practices is essential for maintaining effective habits. Menno Henselmans advocates for lifelong learning and adaptation of habits in response to new evidence. This commitment to staying informed not only enhances the efficacy of your habits but also fosters a mindset of growth and improvement.

By incorporating these principles, grounded in evidence-based research and expert insights, you can develop a structured and effective approach to creating and maintaining positive habits that support your long-term goals and well-being.


By using one or even multiple tips given in this article, your chances of success are increased exponentially. Habit change, and therefore life change is never easy. But leveraging some of these tips will make things just a bit more user-friendly. At the end of the day, we all want to grow and be who God created us to be. But that usually happens one change at a time.

Adam Braud

Author Adam Braud

I'm Adam Braud, a Certified Fitness Professional. I’m a Louisiana native that hails from Baton Rouge! My fitness journey began at age 14 when I joined a friend and his dad for a workout at the gym, and I’ve never looked back. Along with my passion for fitness, I have a deep and genuine love for people. I’ve been able to express a lot of that through nearly thirty years of ministry experience. I integrate my love for fitness and people by providing a unique coaching experience through my app, public speaking, and 1:1 training. I couple science-based fitness with care for the whole person. My hope is to help people to take care of themselves in a way that allows them to be around and do the work they feel called to for a long time to come.

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