Forming Foundations: A Practical Guide to Building Healthy Habits for Life

You might be familiar with the story of the grasshopper and the ant.

The diligent ant works hard to secure enough food for winter while the lazy grasshopper wastes his days relaxing and hitting up ‘bug clubs’. When winter strikes, the grasshopper is left cold and hungry, while the ant is safe inside his home, warm, comfortable, and with a full belly.

The grasshopper’s bad habits gave him immediate satisfaction in the short term but sabotaged his happiness in the long run. The ant’s good habits, while challenging in the short term, achieved him his goal in the end.

Other than teaching us that life is harsh in the bug-kingdom, this story also hints: if you want something, you need to build a habit to make it happen.

Habits help you achieve your goals… or hinder them

Habits are those little choices that almost make themselves on a day-to-day basis, such as choosing a salad over fries, the stairs over the elevator – and deep reading over your favorite show on Netflix.

Those small decisions add up over time and have a heartless, mathematical outcome. If you add in an extra helping of ice cream every night for a year, it will likely equal extra weight gain. A (extra ice cream) + B (time) = C (weight-gain). Now we know why we don’t like math...

But creating good habits like eating healthy, taking proper vitamins and supplements, meditating, regular exercise, etc., also works this way. And we think we may have cracked the code on how to make those good habits stick!

How to build a habit

Based on James Clear’s ideas in his book, Atomic Habits, the anatomy of a habit looks like this:

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

An example of this would be:

Cue – you’re thirsty
Craving – you fill up your water bottle
Response – you guzzle water
Reward – your thirst is quenched and you’re satisfied

James postulates that by recreating the framework of a habit and populating it with the behavior you want to emulate, you can make that habit stick!

In order to create the habit, he says, you need to:

  • Make it obvious (cue)
  • Make it attractive (craving)
  • Make it easy (response)
  • Make it satisfying (reward)

Healthy habit framework

Here’s an example of a habit we want to adopt:

Goal: We want to read more

  1. We make it obvious by leaving our book on our pillow in the morning so it’s the first thing we see when we go to bed.
  2. We make the idea of reading more attractive by ensuring there’s a steady stream of books available that we are actually interested in.
  3. We make it easy by reading for just 10 minutes (or a couple of chapters) each night.
  4. We make it satisfying by keeping a list of books we’ve read or by discussing the book with some close friends. This makes us feel good about our accomplishments!

Stick to healthy habits, but don’ be afraid to get a little ‘buggy’ once in a while.

While building good habits takes focus, discipline and perseverance, be patient and forgiving of yourself if you slip up. Pick yourself up where you left off the next day, and try, try again.

But remember, everyone needs a dash of whimsy now and again. It's those serendipitous moments that give you life and splash color on your soul! If you ask us, that diligent ant sounded like he could have used a whimsical night off work for some bug-club hopping with his pal, the grasshopper!

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash