How to Replace Your Bad Habits with Good Ones

UPDATED: October 22, 2015
PUBLISHED: April 29, 2015

We often think that if we had more choices, it would be easier to change our lives. In fact, we do have plenty of choices, but we don’t change.

What we really need in our lives to make a positive change are fewer choices.

In The Happiness Advantage, I wrote about the 20-Second Rule. This principle shows that by making small adjustments, we can replace our bad habits with good ones. One way to do that is by setting rules for ourselves. Psychologists call these rules “second-order decisions”—they are decisions we have made in advance for our own good.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz says that setting rules ahead of time frees us from a constant barrage of choices that depletes our willpower and also helps us make a real difference in our lives. For example: Make a rule to never take the elevator. Decide to check email only once per hour.

Setting rules like these can make an incredible difference in your productivity and even your health. Over time, you’ll find that you won’t need these rules because they’ve become habits. What rules can you set for yourself to improve your health, your career or your relationships? Brainstorm some ideas. The fewer choices you have to make, the easier it can be to make a positive change.

Check out another shortcut to personal growth—a life hack called “Tiny Habits” that will help you create positive behavior, aka good habits.

Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.