Break bad habits and reach your goals

Our brains evolved to help us survive in an age where food and rest were hard to come by. To help you stay fit and healthy in the modern world here's how to game your brain


“JUST do it,” they say. If only it were that easy. It doesn’t seem to matter how much you want to get fit, eat better, spend money more wisely or work towards a promotion, something always comes along to knock you off course.
The good news is that it doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human. The human mind didn’t evolve to love exercising and eating veg. The reality of the hunter-gatherer life that shaped us was that exercise was non-negotiable and if you found something sweet, fatty and edible, resistance was an option – just not a very sensible one. As for sitting still and concentrating for hours on end, forget it. Our minds were shaped to scan the horizon for danger and opportunity.

Unfortunately, this means that most of our long-term goals work against what our bodies and minds have evolved to do. So, what’s a modern human to do? The only thing for it is to game your brain. So here are the most scientific ways to do just that and reach your goals, in spite of yourself.

Change your surroundings

We like to think we are creatures of reason and purpose. In reality, we mostly sleepwalk our way through life, responding to whatever is under our noses. “Environments cue our behavior – often without our awareness,” says Theresa Marteau, director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge. Worse, the environment often has a stronger influence on our behavior than the beliefs we …

Focus on the Benefits

Make a list of all the positive changes that will occur once you have broken the bad habit. Include the improved health factors, the opportunity to improve your personal relationships, or the emotional benefits.
Refer to this list every time you believe your resolve is under threat


Real change is gradual

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” — James Clear
Now you may have noticed I said I used to be a smoker. So how did I eventually succeed? The answer is simple — but not easy. I did it gradually.
The secret I unwittingly stumbled upon is that changing any habit begins with a single step. If you make one small change today and stick with it — day after day after day — you can change your life.
James Clear calls these small changes “atomic,” in the sense that they are at once tiny, yet capable of producing remarkable results. As James writes, “The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them… It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

Maintain your momentum

Real, lasting change isn’t easy, but it is possible — I haven’t smoked in almost 13 years. The key to creating good habits — and eliminating bad ones — is to start small, identify the effects of the Habit Loop in your life, and build systems to help you shift your focus from what you want to achieve to who you want to be.

Focus on the process, not just the results

Stop looking for short cuts. Getting rid of a bad habit is like any other long-term goal. It won’t magically happen overnight.
It requires daily commitment, reminders and trial and error. Sticking to just one method might not work for you, perhaps you need to try another method. So it’s also important to review your progress every single day.
This might be tough at first, but if you stick by it, eventually you’ll start to follow a new positive routine without realizing. And that’s when you have succeeded.