Mastery Moment: Starting and Stopping Habits

Your beliefs shape your thoughts.

Your thoughts shape your words.

Your words create your actions.

Your actions create your habits.

Your habits become your destiny.

I’ve been studying and teaching personal development and self-mastery for a long time, and it just keeps getting better! The words above hold so much truth and power, and today, I’m focusing on the fourth line… Your actions create your habits.

Your brain is wired to do two things. 

First, it wants to keep you alive and safe. Second, it wants to do that using as little energy as possible. So to conserve energy, your brain will turn any repeated behavior into a habit. Relegating repetitive behaviors to the realm of “automatic” frees up precious mental resources for its primary function, like watching out for rabid bears and land sharks.

Actions that make life easier and more comfortable are so easy to form, and once in place for a long time, they can be hard to replace. Conversely, self-mastery requires more effort, and we already know our brain isn’t excited about exerting more effort. New habits require attention and discipline and are more difficult to make stick. It’s the difference between floating with the current and swimming against it.

The easiest way to change your life is to change your behaviors. The hardest thing is to sustain the changes. Sustaining behavior change long enough for the new behaviors to “stick” and become habits requires inquiry and deliberate action.

Two Questions That Can Change Your Life

Here are the two simple (but not easily answered) questions to ask when seeking to change your life.

1. What behaviors and habits do you notice in yourself that you know for sure aren’t moving you toward becoming the best version of yourself? 

Perhaps these behaviors could include:

  • Gossiping
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Negative self-talk
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Overeating
  • Too much television or video games

Whatever they are, list them.

Cartooned human with a question on its head

2. What things would move you toward being the best version of yourself if you were to do them consistently? 

Maybe it’s actions like:

  • Paying attention to your diet
  • Shifting your language
  • Putting boundaries on the time you spend on social media
  • Exercising
  • Going to bed earlier
  • Or communicating differently with your partner or children. 

Whatever they are, list them. 

Now you have two lists — one list of behaviors you’d like to STOP doing and one of the behaviors you’d like to START doing. 

Now CHOOSE THE ONE BEHAVIOR from each list that will have the biggest positive impact on your life. Don’t jump to conclusions on this choice. Choose the behavior from each list that will influence the others the most.

Afterward, set a daily reminder in your calendar, leave sticky notes to remind yourself, and ask for accountability from your family or friends; or whatever you need to do that will serve as “training wheels” for the new plan. 

Every day you succeed, give yourself a virtual high five, a gold star, or a circle on the calendar. Acknowledging each win and stacking as many days of wins as possible is key to long-term change. 

Stick with this stop-start program for thirty days, then go back to your lists and choose one more item from each. Go another thirty days and watch the magic happen.

 Health and Arȇte,


A picture of Monica Ricci

Author’s Bio:

Monica Ricci spent 20 years as an organizing and productivity consultant, speaker, and trainer. Today she coaches busy professionals and business teams, replacing unproductive habits with powerful ones so they can create the life and business they desire and deserve. Monica enjoys strength training, baseball, photography, travel, and high-quality butter.

PS: Email “TEAM” for info on group coaching for your team and “MOMENTUM” to be invited to a monthly self-mastery Zoom!

Related Arrticle:

Mastery Moment: Every Day Is Day One

How Journaling Five Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life

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