How to Successfully Change Your Habits—And Make It Stick This Time

TIME

One of the great mysteries about habit-creation is the fact that some habits form easily—sometimes too easily—while others don’t stick. Why? There are many answers, but from my research I’ve concluded that sometimes the problem is a lack of clarity.

Very often, we have warring aims. We want to master a habit—to go to sleep on time, to drink less—but we also want something that conflicts with that habit—to stay up watching TV, to treat ourselves. Because we don’t acknowledge this ambivalence, we can’t form the habit.

If we push ourselves to get clear on what we really want, we’re far more likely to succeed in changing our behavior.

Consider the tremendous problem of medication compliance. The Center for Disease Control estimates that about half of adults don’t take their medicines as prescribed—in many cases, because they lack clarity of action. When people wonder, “Why should I bother to…

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