How to Develop Better Habits in 2019

Forget resolutions—these simple, proven methods can make lasting changes in your life

Ryan Holiday
Dec 21, 2018 · 10 min read
Illustration: Yagi Studio/Getty Images

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Just about everyone wants to cultivate better habits. The problem is, very few of us want to do the work to make those habits a reality. We hope they will magically develop, that one day we’ll just wake up (early, without even considering the snooze button) and head straight to the gym. Then we’ll have a healthy breakfast and sit right down with that creative project we’ve been putting off for months. At some point our desire to smoke or lie or complain will mysteriously disappear too.

The reality? This has never happened for anyone, and it’s never going to happen. This is what inspired Epictetus’ famous quote from 2,000 years ago: “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” He’s really asking how much longer you are going to wait until you demand the best of yourself.

I know I want to eat better and be more present. For a long time, I’ve wanted to do push-ups every day. I also want to work less and spend less time checking my phone. I want to start saying no so I can say yes to things I have been putting off. But I’ve wanted to make these changes for a long time. How do I transform my vague hopes into reality?

To start, I need to develop better habits, better accountability, and a clearer vision for my day-to-day life. Here are the steps I am taking. We are all staring down the barrel of a new year, and if we aren’t going to do it now, when will we?

Think Small—Really Small

Create a Physical Reminder

Lay Out Your Supplies

Piggyback New Habits on Old Habits

Surround Yourself With Good People

Commit to a Challenge

To kick off 2019 we’re doing another Daily Stoic Challenge, this time for 14 days. The idea is that you ought to start the new year right—with 14 great days to create momentum for the rest of the year. If you want to have better habits this year, find a challenge you can participate in. Just try one: It doesn’t matter what it’s about or who else is doing it.

Make It Interesting

It’s About the Ritual

It Doesn’t Have to Be an Everyday Thing

Focus on Yourself

Make It About Your Identity

Keep It Simple

Pick Yourself Up When You Fall

When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better group of harmony if you keep on going back to it.

In other words, when you mess up, come back to the habits you’ve been working on. Come back to the ideas here in this post. Don’t quit just because you’re not perfect.

No one is saying you have to magically transform yourself in 2019, but if you’re not making progress toward the person you want to be, what are you doing? And, more important, when are you planning to do it?

I’ll leave you with Epictetus once more, who wrote so eloquently about feeding the right habit bonfire. It’s the perfect passage to recite as we set out to begin a new year, hopefully, as better people.

From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer…

Ryan Holiday

Written by

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’

Notes on Changing Your Life
Notes on Changing Your Life
Notes on Changing Your Life

About this Anthology

Notes on Changing Your Life

Stories exploring the whys and hows of habits, selected by Medium’s editors.

Stories exploring the whys and hows of habits, selected by Medium’s editors.

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