Blog Post - The Key To Success: 9 Bite-Sized Habits

When was the last time you were engaged in something challenging, absorbing and fun? Was it hard to continue with that activity? Probably not. That’s what we call intrinsic motivation. It means doing an activity because of the joy and satisfaction it gives you. Whenever you experience feelings of enjoyment, mastery, personal accomplishment, and excitement, you are intrinsically motivated to go on. If a habit consists of these, it is easy to keep it up. 

But too many people focus on their extrinsic motivation. They do an activity for instrumental reasons or to obtain some outcome separable from that activity. That could be the time on a race ( not how running provides you with mental clarity) or the weight on a scale (you love how much energy you get from eating well). Extrinsic motivation looks enticing at first because it usually provides a number we can fix our goal too. 

The problem: It also provides little enjoyment. Habits based only on extrinsic motivation are much harder to keep up. The likelihood of positive long-term outcomes for health and happiness is much higher if you focus on your intrinsic motivation. 

If you want to change your lifestyle for the better, no matter in what area, these 10 bite-sized habits will help you: 

1. Keep the healthy options close

Proximity is an important factor. We engage with what is near us and ignore what is far away. Research shows that those that keep sweets on their desk weighed at least two stone more than those that didn’t—so keep fruit or cut-up vegetables close to you.

2. Increase friction

We want to increase friction for unhelpful behaviours and decrease it for those that lead you to your goal. Companies are well aware of this option: Netflix reduces friction to binge-watching by preloading the next episode. The next time you are using the app, turn the autoplay option off. 

3. Find your Why

“I want to lose weight/get fit” is a very vague goal. What is the real reason you want to achieve this? Do you want to have more energy, feel better at work, be a good role model for your kids? Dig deep it may take 4-5 whys to get to your true why? For example, if it's important for you to feel fit, why is that important? Because it gives you more energy? Why is that important? Because you feel like you can make a greater contribution to your life when you have more energy. Why is that important? Because being a positive role model is important to you, or excelling at your job is important or being able to show up for others helps you come alive and spend some time on that question- research shows that this inner motivation sets us up for success.

4. Make it social

There is a reason the buddy system is so popular across organisations. Working out with another person forces you to show up and stay in lane. When you hit a low, share it with someone in the same position as it can keep you from falling off the bandwagon. Accountability is key to sustaining habit change. 

5. Choose a method you like

It might sound obvious, but too many people take on tough mudder because their friends do it or jump on a trend because they saw it on Tik Tok. The same goes for health apps. While there is nothing wrong with that, you must find a method that works for you, not anyone else. Try a few options, and don’t feel bad to give it up if it doesn’t resonate with you. 

6. Look for the phased approach

We tend to forget that we reach our big goal in small steps. Break down your goal into smaller steps you can follow, so the journey there doesn’t feel too overwhelming. If you like, use visual cues such as calendars or a list you can tick off to keep you going. 

7. Strengthen your inner voice

We tend to focus on our weaknesses, not on our strengths. If you start criticising yourself in your head, say those things out loud- would you talk to a friend like that? You deserve respect for your efforts- also from yourself. Keep post-it notes with positive phrases nearby and remind yourself daily how far you have come. 

8. Think purposefully

Thinking purposeful thoughts stimulates the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that relates to identity. When we try to make changes in our lives without purposeful thinking, we often react defensively. The amygdala usually starts panicking, and you’re stuck with fear and aggression- negative emotions that stop us from learning. Purposeful thinking is a great exercise to begin reducing defensiveness to change, becoming more open, and nudging users along in their readiness for change. How do you think more purposefully? Ask yourself why? Why is this goal important to me? Why is this task meaningful? How does this make me feel?

9. Visualise yourself succeeding

Your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between past, present and future- it will always react in some way to what you are thinking. That is your chance to change your story. For 5 minutes daily, imagine yourself in all details where you want to be. How does it feel to be here? What are you doing? Who are you with? What choices are you making? The more you go into depth, the more powerful this habit becomes. 

43% of our daily life is based on habits. If you want to see some positive changes in your life, changing your habits is the first step- and more effective than sheer willpower!


If you want to kick start your habit changes, why not sign up for the free “Small Changes, Big Results” masterclass! Click here to access it now: FREE Habits Masterclass



Published on 15th Jul 2021 at 12:00 by Heather McKee

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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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