Blog: How to make healthy habit success a way of living

Recently I have been thinking about success, what real success looks like in habit change. How we can so easily be lured off track due to the trappings of what we typically perceive success to be. There are rakes of studies that show that if you can visualise what success looks like for you, you are much more likely to achieve it. So let’s do that, now!

I’d like you to take a second and visualise your life if you are successful in achieving your habit change goal – what does this life look like for you? Write it down if you like. 

So often when it comes to visualising what success looks like in our health goals, we think of ourselves with the ‘perfect body’ or being the ‘perfect weight’. If this is your vision of success it may be the exact thing that is holding you back from long term success.

Success isn’t about being the perfect weight or having the perfect body. Success, at least, in my opinion (and that of a large number of research studies) is about;

  • Waking up early to make your breakfast and a healthy packed lunch before the children wake up to distract you.
  • Success is leaving the security of a warm bed, putting on your running shoes and stepping out into a frosty street to put one foot in front of each other because you made a commitment to yourself and to your health.
  • Success is having a camomile tea because you really need to unwind instead of a bottle of wine to escape your feelings. 
  • Success is meeting a friend for an exercise class or a run because you promised to support each other.
  • Success is batch cooking dinners as you know you are going to be late in work this week, when every fibre in your body would rather lie on the couch and watch Netflix.

The power of having a plan

A lot of the above exaples involve planning. Yes planning! It doesnt sound sexy but it gets results. 100’s of studies have shown that having a plan, known as implementation intentions – has consistently been linked with long term habit adherence

I always say to my clients, plan everything! Plan how you are going to act when you have low mood, plan how you are going to adapt to the weather, plan what you will do when you go travelling.

By having an alternative plan, it helps you overcome excuses, unproductive habits and develop a system for change in all circumstances rather than relying on your unreliable willpower.

People who plan succeed.

Ultimatly, we are what we repeatedly do.

Habits are formed through context dependant repetition.

Do the same thing in the same context enough times and it will become a habit.

Therefore, we need to start thinking about success in these terms. Thinking about a particular outcome alone (e.g. weight lost on the scales, fitting into x size) is not helpful or supportive in getting you there. Rather, its thinking about the day to day processes – your routines, habits and systems and how you embed these in your everyday life, this is what success looks like.

Yes, some of it can be incredibly boring. That’s normal! It's not all about reaching the dizzying heights of the mountaintop. Maybe you can be creative and look for ways in which to overcome the blandness of it all (this is strongly encouraged!). For example; by doing exercises you don’t loathe, creating a Pinterest page of a variety of healthy recipes that take 15 minutes to cook, listening to an engaging audiobook or podcast whilst walking or even watching Netflix or a motivating Ted talk whilst you prepare meals will help. Maybe, some of these will remian boring but necessary tasks but maybe, just maybe, in time, you can even learn to love some of these little things.

The key is to keep putting one foot in front of each other – day in day out – that’s what breeds success.

Success is not about fitting into an awkwardly sized pair of jeans that you bought in the 90's. The jeans that you still keep in your wardrobe to punish yourself with every now and again (If this applies please throw these out with zeal immediately!). Success is about knowing what you enjoy isn’t just the extrinsic rewards but becoming a better version of yourself, improving, becoming 1% healthier than you were yesterday, feeling like you're progressing, knowing you're investing in yourself, your wellbeing, your happiness, and your longevity.

When you start to focus on being successful on a daily basis. When habit mastery, planning and creating healthy systems, you enjoy becomes what drives you. When every small step you take each day is the reward.

Success no longer becomes a destination but a way of living.

So, I’d like you to ask yourself again……what does success look like for you in your habit change goal?

What will you be doing on a day to day basis? Who will you be with? Where will you be? Who is supporting you? What will you be eating, drinking, thinking? How will you recover from setbacks? How will you engage in your habits when you are tried, busy or bored? And most importantly, what does success feel like for you?


Creating a system for change, the routines, habits and behaviours is what breeds success.


So ask yourself, what one small thing can I do today to make success a way of living?


Published on 6th Feb 2019 at 09:00 by Heather McKee

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Copyright ©2024 Dr. Heather McKee

Dr. Heather McKee is registered in Ireland Reg. No. 687397 with the registered address at 314 Mother Teresa House, Loreto Abby, Rathfarnham, D14 NR20, Co. Dublin, Ireland

This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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