How to build habits that actually last.

My three-step guide to doing things with regularity.

This is a clickbait title and I don’t even care because of how much I believe in this stuff.

We’re all searching for better versions of ourselves. The result could be more success or fulfillment, perhaps greater abdominal definition, but each day we’re moving toward something new (good or bad). The question then becomes, how do we create new good things?

I remember a Chinese proverb on the wall at Crossfit CityPlace, my old gym here in West Palm Beach. Everyday, I’d stare at it –– likely on the verge of vomiting –– and it said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I’m a firm believer of the snowball effect. Straight from Wikipedia, it says:

Metaphorically, a snowball effect is a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger … though it might be beneficial … (a virtuous circle).

If you can start well, you’ve got a great chance to keep things going when our world gets back to normal. Here are three keys I’ve found that help:


1. Define Your Desire

It’s my belief that in order to create habits that last, you need –– minimally –– 1% passion toward that habit. Mathematically speaking, your goal habit is probably not hovering above 50% on the passion scale; it’d probably already be a habit if it were. Even 50% is not necessary, though.

For the sake of clarity, let’s define these habits into two groups: aspirational habits and effectual habits.

An aspirational habit is like reading two books every month or working out for 30 minutes a day. It’s a habit that improves your life and creates a better version of yourself as I mentioned earlier.

An effectual habit for a coach like me is to spend 20 minutes every day recruiting or getting to inbox zero every week. It’s a habit that ultimately makes what you do currently more effective and of course, creates a better version of yourself.

Chances are, you’ll have greater passion for an aspirational habit than an effectual habit and that’s okay. The smallest inkling of passion is proof that with discipline, a desired habit can become a solidified habit.

Ask yourself these three questions to define your desire: 

  1. Is this an aspirational or effectual habit?

  2. What’s my passion level?

  3. How badly do I want it?

The answers to those three questions will give you clarity in the pursuit of your goals. If you find yourself unsure of your level of passion and/or how badly you’re willing to make that goal a habit, it may be the best decision to absolve yourself of any future work and focus on something else.


2. Eliminate All Guesswork

Let’s say that you’ve defined your desire and that you genuinely want to create a new habit.

That’s incredible. 

Statistically, you’re also 80% more likely to fail than succeed in one month’s time. How do we overcome the failure prognostication? Find a way to track your habit. The express lane to being right back where you started is not having measurable information to track. 

When I decided I wanted to be faster and fitter, I turned to apps. My preferred apps are Apple’s standard Fitness and Health apps (bonus: they’re free) and MyFitnessPal (also free). With the help of my Apple Watch –– which is a must buy for fitness, in my opinion –– I am able to track my active and resting energy burned, steps taken, heart rate, Vo2 Max; you name, it can be tracked.

[Note: There are tons of great options out there for wearable tech. Options from Garmin, FitBit, and Whoop come with rave reviews. Email me if you need a suggestion.]

Additionally, I use MyFitnessPal to track what I eat. This involves entering in product names or weighing my food by the gram/ounce to get an accurate readout on what I consume daily. Is it convenient? Not necessarily. Is it trackable? Of course… which is why I am willing to do it.

At any time, I know how many calories I’ve burned and how many calories I’ve consumed to that point in the day. Those are the key indicators for me to achieve my goals and I have that information at all times. Technology can be supremely helpful in monitoring and tracking your improvement, but so can a pen and paper, provided you record data with accuracy and uniformity.

No matter your method, how you track yourself becomes key in taking ownership in your new habits and seeing progress.

EXTRA THOUGHT:

If you’re just looking for something that tracks your progress because you may not need a ton of data to measure drinking water or encouraging a friend, I suggest the Habit app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/habit-daily-tracker/id1445651730

It’s free and visually stunning. You can pay-what-you-want for premium features if that suits you. For me, the haptic feedback when I check a box and subtle reinforcement of seeing streaks increase (by percentage) makes me want to achieve more.


3. Find True Accountability

I would argue that an apps like those above are a great first step in accountability, but what if you have no problem letting an app down?

It’s simple, but you need to find a person or people that are looking to do the same thing you’re doing.

Going back to the Apple Watch/Fitness app, I love the competitions feature. I have an ongoing weekly challenge with my roommate and I simply hate to lose to him (I haven’t yet). It’s enough to push me to max out my points for the day and get in that extra run/bike/jog.

If that’s not a possibility, look for incentives at work or with friends.

My university just wrapped up a challenge that offered gift cards through the Rally app for those who met both a step goal and water drinking goal. Big big fan of easy money for doing things I already do over here, but maybe that’s your ticket. I know we had to log that data through an Excel spreadsheet, so if your employer is anything like mine, a smart watch is not necessary.

Perhaps challenging a friend is all you need. If a friend has a similar desire for your habit, ask them to match you on a daily or weekly basis. Say to them that the loser grabs the next Starbucks.

People make life worth it. It’s so much better to pile up little wins in the company of others; even better when they can hold your arms up on days when you don’t feel like getting after it.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but you don’t notice it at first. Perhaps even at all. 

When I go on runs, I still feel like I’m huffing and puffing just as much as I was on day one. And yet, somehow you get faster and your brain begins to believe it. It’s why I’ve shaved FOUR MINUTES off of my first-mile time on our beach runs over the past month. 

At the start, I was lucky enough just to get in one short run per day. Last week, I pushed myself on a 6.6 mile run and was stunned to complete it. Confidence is a wonder for habits and you can do so much more than you think you can.

Do I have a great ending for this blog?

Not really, but here’s the TL;DR–

Define your habit. Track your habit. Find people to help you see it come to fruition.


Thanks for reading! 

Creating Future Wins is my blog about life, leadership, and lacrosse. My heart is to create a mixture of writing that you can’t find anywhere else and I’d love for you to be a part of this journey. Hit that subscribe button and of course, if you value what I’m doing here, I’d love for you to subscribe to my premium content.

Let me know your thoughts. Email me or @ me on Twitter (@JaysonSchmidt).