How to create healthy habits and stick to them

by Jelena

Everybody talks about the importance of building healthy habits that will help you reach your goals. While everybody talks about it, many of us are still struggling to understand how to build them. No matter how hard we try, we keep going back to our old habits. It is so difficult to stick to them. Here is what I learned through various books and also through working with Dr. Jim Loehr at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando.  

Why are habits so important?

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. 

Robert Collier

Being consistent in what you do is what brings you one step closer to success. To be disciplined is not easy. It drains energy, especially if what you chose to do is a very complex thing. That’s why habits are important.

Once a habit is formed, you’ll be able to perform any given task with little or no effort.

That’s why there is a strong need to build positive habits that will help you save your energy and time while you are hustling. You have to repeatedly invest yourself, day in and day out into building a habit.

Imagine that point in life where you unconsciously block all the negative triggers from the environment because you’ve built a strong foundation for it!

Why is building habits so difficult?

According to the author of “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg, not many of us understand how the habits are structured. As a result of that:

  1. We tend to set unattainable goals (eg. “Even though I am eating every day processed food, sugar and drinking coffee 5 times a day, from tomorrow I will do my 6-day detox on juices and lose 5kg)
  2. We forget to reward ourselves for our efforts and create a positive reaction to the behavior we are trying to turn into a habit (eg. most negative habits such as drinking coffee/alcohol, or taking drugs light up our brain and trigger dopamine release which makes us feel good about it; positive habits don’t have immediate effect and therefore it is advisable to associate a reward with it which we generally omit to do)
  3. We lack the consistency (most rituals can be acquired within 30 – 60 days but by failing to understand how to structure a habit, we give up all too soon)

The truth is, most of our habits have become part of our everyday life as a result of repetitive triggers in our environment. We tend to respond to them with certain behavior and so the habit is created intentionally or not. No wonder people keep saying – chose your environment carefully.

When trying to create a good setting to build/break a habit ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Why did I acquire this bad habit in the first place?
  2. What kind of environment will help me sustain my goal?
  3. Why do I want to build this habit?
  4. How can I break this habit into smaller goals?
  5. What will be an obstacle to building this habit? What will prevent me to achieve it?

Dr. Jim Loehr likes to say that it is best to focus our efforts on what we want, rather than what we don’t want. Say we have a habit of getting mad about something easily. Rather than making our habit about not getting angry, we should focus on how to positively respond to those situations.

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

How do you build healthy habits?

Here are a few tips that should help you build your habits and stick to them:


  1. Aim small to miss small. Start modestly and gradually push your limits. Start by doing one push up a day, to get to 100 push-ups. And make sure you reward yourself in the process!
  2. Keep your habits simple.  Don’t make too big of a change all too soon. It will be easier to fail than to succeed.
  3. Aquire only a few habits at any given time. Being over ambitious when trying to build habits is not a good idea.
  4. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Remember Dr. Jim!
  5. Find your own pace and be persistent. You want to make your habits easy to achieve, not easy to give up on. So be realistic and honest and allow yourself time to gradually progress towards the desired goal. Journal your progress!

It is ok to skip your habit here and there. Different circumstances do tend to break our routines, and we shouldn’t lose our mind over it. There is a good quote that I want to use as a way to finish this blog and it says:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Be ready to stumble and fall. But also be ready to get up and keep going!

Good luck!

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter to get more tips on how to build habits and comment below what are the healthy habits you’d like to achieve.



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Katarina December 27, 2018 - 8:04 pm

Kakav sinhronicitet! Danas sam baš gledala na yt videa o navikama jer želim da poradim na njima, kad ono – izbaciš tekst na tu temu, zakon privlačenja na delu? konkretno, želim oformiti naviku ranog ustajanja i onda kada nemam obaveze.. Ne želim da mi samo obaveze budu te koje će me naterati da ustanem ranije, već želim i da bez njih ustanem rano i budem produktivna. I slažem se sa navedenim, da ne trebamo usmeravati energiju da se borimo sa starim (jer ono sa čime se borimo, zapravo samo potvrđujemo i ponovo privlačimo u svoj život) već se fokusirati na stvaranje novog.. Super tekst.. Ako imate neke savete konkretno za navike ranog ustajanja, super bi mi došle. Hvala ❣️❤️?

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:38 pm

Daaaa, ja skroz verujem u to! Nema slučajnosti 🙂

Slažem se za ustajanje, ali znaj da i mi koji imamo navike da rano ustajemo i dalje imamo problem da se probudimo i treba nam čelična volja da ustanemo tim danima. Ja nisam imala naviku da rano ustajem, zato što sam radila sa ljudima u različitim vremenskim zonama pa sam često ostajala budna do poprilično kasno. Sad moram zbog dece jer se oni bude rano pa i da hoću, nemam izgovor da se izležavam.
Ako legneš ranije – to je jedini način da ti ne bude problem da ustaješ rano takodje. Ja kad legnem do 22:30 mogu da ustanem u 6:30am ali ako legnem kasnije, sve pomeram… Kada otkriješ koliki je tvoj optimum sna da bi sutradan bila sveža, drži se toga! San je jako bitan i nemoj da ga žrtvuješ zarad ranog ustajanja – samo budi bolje organizovana da legneš na vreme. Srećno!

Simon Alexander Ong December 27, 2018 - 8:15 pm

A great read Jelena! Habits are such an important part of every success journey because it’s not what we do once in a while that makes a difference, but what we do daily. And when we fall in love with the process, the results will come. Looking back at my journey so far, what’s really helped has been building in just a couple key cornerstone, non-negotiable habits into my daily routine that would have the biggest impact on all other areas of my life. These have included things like waking up early and beginning the day with some journaling to plan the day ahead (especially understanding how I will know today has been a productive day), doing exercise every morning and reading everyday. Results are ultimately the compound effect of our daily habits.

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:33 pm

Those are really fantastic habits to have! I wake up early for kids, but I catch myself doing mostly for them things rather than for myself in the morning. And some mornings I wake up and feel like a zombie, especially when they interrupt my sleep. Adventures of a mom 😉 I do journaling in the evening though! And reading everywhere I am!

Tanisha B. December 28, 2018 - 1:59 am

Great Post Jelena! I’m currently studying to take the Medical College Admission Test here in the United States and I always find myself setting unrealistic goals on how much I will study per day. Your tip on starting small is actually very helpful. I’m now going back to studying with a much more realistic approach than what I was doing before. Thanks so much!

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:30 pm

Let me tell you – I also made many unrealistic goals back at the uni. I was making my studying plan not based on how fast/well I learn but how much time I want to have for other things – such as travel to see Novak, watch a movie, go out with friends… It took me 2 years to figure out that I cannot possibly learn 3 new chapters (20-35 pages each) in a night unless I am super super super focused (which I never am in the night) so… You see 🙂 All in time! Glad this was helpful!!! Much love and good luck!

Paulo Kayser Maia December 28, 2018 - 3:11 am

Incredible text Jelena!! It’s good to read something original with such a rich content!! Congratulations.

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:27 pm

Thank you, Paulo!

Dessi December 28, 2018 - 4:41 am

Wonderful post on habits, Jelena. Those are the exact principles for building sustainable healthy habits that health coaches like me (and I assume any other coaches) try to implement.
I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, experience and thoughts.

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:26 pm

Thank you Dessi for your kind comment! Glad you find it helpful and interesting to read 🙂

Padma December 28, 2018 - 4:41 am

I am SO GLAD you wrote about this when everyone is trying to come up with New Year’s Resolutions ? “Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want”…..great advice; nice to pivot this way:) Imagine teaching kids from very young about forming healthy habits….what a great start that would be! Wishing you and Novak, an AMAZING 2019! Much love from Florida, -Padma

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:26 pm

I know! New York resolutions are a killer… we all keep them until February :))) I made some plans for my habits in the house when we were on holiday, I came back home, tried to persist for 4 days and then got broken with kids routines! I just couldn’t keep up with that plan. It seemed realistic from afar when I was rested and all, as soon as kids got me back on their schedule, mine went through the window! lol

Sanasi Lele December 28, 2018 - 4:45 am

This is indeed a very helpful article. As an arts student, I picked up some habits that I thought would lead me to my goal. Very recently (a few months back) I realized how beneficial my old habits were to my life, health and joy. I am still struggling to get back to my old disciplined self while keeping my new spontaneous self and after reading your article I am convinced that with small steps I will regain those good habits.

Thank you for showing that its not just me that struggles with this daily!

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 6:23 pm

Aww, this is such a nice reflection. Thank you for sharing!

Dubravka December 28, 2018 - 9:29 am

How inspirative text,Jelena! Thank you! I have been trying many times to develop certain habits and I have failed, many times. This article gave me many ideas and reminded me what I have allready read before! Small goals plus ( I just read here) to focus on what I want, not on what I don’t want. Wow!
Thank you! Best wishes and keep posting ♡

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 5:52 pm

I’m glad you found it helpful Dubravka!!! Thank you for your kind comment!

Dana December 29, 2018 - 3:05 am

Great post! I loved the advice on focusing on what you want rather on what you don’t want. I find myself constantly focusing on what I don’t want (mainly when building health/workout routines) rather than focusing on positives such as feeling better, being able to run ha half marathon and so on…thus I fail frequently, as I focus on not wanting to be a certain weight or not eating certain foods. That’s an unhealthy approach all around.

It would be interesting to know what habits you are working on implementing as well and which ones have you struggles with sticking to the most. It might be a bit personal so I understand if you don’t want to share, but it’s nice to get to know you better and see what helps you stick to certain habits?

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 5:51 pm

Thank you Dana! I found that bit helpful as well 🙂

As for my habits:
I am mostly struggling to keep my exercising routines in place. They are the ones that take the most time if I decide to go out to work out (time to get there, time to exercise, time to come back, time to take shower) so I kind of always rationalize to stay out of that one… But, as I said in one of my blog posts – when I am out of my shape, I don’t feel well, so I need to keep pushing through those excuses. Luckily, I am surrounded by athletes and they keep me in check 🙂
I am also bad at keeping in touch with my friends and family… I don’t like calls or texts and that’s why I am bad at keeping in touch. But since I live abroad, away from all of them, this is the only way and I need to embrace technology for its benefits 🙂 I set reminders and that’s what helps sometimes! (although I’m ignoring reminders now too!:())

Dana January 4, 2019 - 9:25 am

Wow, very interesting! thank you so much for sharing 🙂

Jelena January 5, 2019 - 6:49 pm

Thank you for reading! ❤

Nenad December 29, 2018 - 3:56 am

Great article and a very interesting subject.
Choose your habits and it will create your destiny.
Habits are mostly unconscious programs that we run automatically, most like our thoughts are mostly habitual and repetitive.
This is neither good or bad it’s how it is, but it really depends on whether those habits work for us or not.

In my experience, changing habits consciously, with willpower, often leads to poor results and can take lots of commitment.
As so you well said, usually, our habits serve a purpose, some sort of short-term (at least) gratification, or emotional distraction, like a coping mechanism.

Therefore, people change most often when something is chasing their ass, or when shit hits the fan, so to speak.
Because now the pain of staying the same is more than the ‘pleasure’ it brings. hence we rewire ourselves to change that unconscious program.

2 things that has been working very well for me in the past is:
1. Close your eyes imagine 2 roads, and take the one that is the one you are on right now and future place yourself, 1,3,5,10 years down the line, being the same, doing to the same habits etc.. and link massive PAIN to that version of yourselves.
Then bring yourself to the other road, and go to the same process, this time having made changes, seeing how the new habits are massively impactive your life in a positive way and FEEL it.

2. Visualise daily the new habits that you want, or the person that you want to be, and FEEL VERY GOOD about it.

Ok so this is way longer than I intended lol, how it’s useful.
Looking forward to reading your next article.

Jelena January 3, 2019 - 5:45 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts Nenad. Very interesting!

Nataša January 3, 2019 - 7:50 pm

Draga Jelena, upravo sam otkrila tvoj blog iakote redovno pratim na Instagramu, nisam ga do sada otvarala. Kakvo pozitivno iznenadjenje i osveženje! Samo nastavi! Volela bih da saznam tvoj sedmični jelovnik. Da li si vegan? Hvala ❤️

Amanda Kemp January 6, 2019 - 10:20 am

Thanks for a great article Jelena.
I’m determined to make some improvements to my health this year. I suffered an unexplained stroke last year (at age 45) and whilst I have been very lucky not to have any lasting significant health complications as a result of the stroke, my energy levels definitely were impacted and as a result so has my weight.
But I like the suggestion of start small and also to reward yourself when taking the steps to create positive habits.
Thank you again.

Olivera Behara January 13, 2019 - 5:58 pm

Jelena, sjajna si! Ideje koje promovišeš, lifestyle, mindset i vrednosti su zaista ključ za pun i srećan život. Bilo bi vrlo zanimljivo da nam na blogu daš nekad mogućnost da vidimo šta ti jedeš i šta pripremaš deci. 🙂 Samo ovako nastavi, a ja ću te pomo pratiti 🙂 Pozdrav

Catalina Leal January 18, 2019 - 1:37 pm

Hi Jelena
Love your blog. It is very clear, easy to understand and very well documented
I have started many diets and keep getting back to old habits.
I will start with small steps, starting today.
You have a new fan from Bogota Colombia

Andrea February 9, 2019 - 5:08 am

Thanks Jelena,
2019 will be different for me, I was made redundant after 22 years and will be looking for a new job, Not knowing what that will be i will put the small steps in place and meditate to take the pressures of, and these steps will keep me grounded through this period.
Thanks Andrea

Alisha February 23, 2019 - 11:03 pm

Thank you Jelena for this post!
I’ve been struggling with motivation for a little while now which is branching out and effecting various parts of my life, and I think I just needed to be reminded about the journey one has to take, to be patient and forming habits isn’t a bad thing. I think we all want to see immediate success but by forming a positive habit it can feed into other positives in life. Exercise – diet – concentration at work. It’s all combined.
I will bookmark this and re read over and over again to remind myself of the positives of good habits. Thank you. ?

Tobi July 9, 2019 - 9:58 am

Thank you for this very well written post!

One quote very much called my attention: ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. I struggle with a very bad habit of mine being unreliable. I am unpunctual from time to time, but what matters the most, I am inconsistent in my plans and decisions. There’s no accordance between my words at a time and my actions at another. I want to figure out the origin of this. I think I am scared of decision making. Being scared of decision making may be a hint that I may take myself too little seriously and care too much about the opinions of others?

Anyway, Thank you!


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