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6 science-backed ways to make great habits stick, by Eric Barker in The Week

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Here’s what the research says builds good habits:

  • Start with “Keystone Habits”: It’s like three good habits for the price of one. Get to the gym.
  • Use “Minimum Viable Effort”: Floss one tooth. It’s that simple.
  • Make a plan: Like the A-Team. Think through the details and write them down.
  • Give yourself rewards: Tie a “want” to a “should.”
  • Use reminders: Mark the calendar. Set the alarm. Use a checklist.
  • Get help from friends: Peer pressure rocks. Hang out with pals who have the habit you want.

And if you screw up (and we all do) on following through with your good habit, make sure to mercilessly beat yourself up.

Just kidding. That’s the completely wrong thing to do.

What did the great Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius say was the best way to handle setbacks?

Forgive yourself and try again.

Via A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy:

…Marcus recommends that when our practice falls short of Stoic precepts, we should not become despondent and certainly should not give up our attempts to practice Stoicism; instead, we should return to the attack and realize that if we can do the right thing, Stoically speaking, most of the time, we are doing pretty well for ourselves.

Research agrees. Blaming yourself reduces self-control. Showing self-compassion increases it.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion— being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure— is associated with more motivation and better self-control.

You’re not perfect. You don’t need to be. But you can be better.

As the old saying goes, “First we make our habits. And then our habits make us.”

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