The Three Steps to Habit Transformation

How do you define a winning habit? It's important to understand how you define this powerful component of life before you seek to improve or eliminate your current habits. If I asked you to rate your current habits as a whole based on the following statements, what would your ranking be?

My personal habits on a day in and day out basis are consistently:

Poor    Fair    Good    Great    Exceptional

(1)      (2)        (3)          (4)            (5)

My career and work-related habits on a day in and day out basis are consistently:

Poor    Fair    Good    Great    Exceptional

 (1)      (2)        (3)        (4)              (5)

Evaluate your habits rating by adding your two numbers together. For example, if you selected good (personal) and great (career) as answers to the questions above, then your score would be 7/10. This means you are currently operating at a 70% level on the habit potential scale. You have a 30% opportunity for improvement as it relates to your combined habit ratings. Now that we have a baseline established, what can we do to improve our habits, close the gap, and maximize our habit potential?

"Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny."

~ Samuel Smiles

Step One

The first key is to recognize that you never truly remove a habit (good or bad), but you can change the meaning you associate to all of your habits. If you can determine the root cause of your actions, you can then develop a plan and thereby modify the habit to produce great results. We all have the power to go through this modification process.

The Power of the Pen

In order to take control of your habits, use the power of the pen (write it down!). Start with creating a series of habit-related "I will" commitments. I have taught this process for three decades because it produces incremental positive change that is sustainable.

Let's examine the formula for success.

Anytime (blank happens), I will  (do the following) because I know and believe that it (results in the following).


"Anytime I (record new content) I will (prepare a spider web template) because I know and believe my (content offering) will be more dynamic and the learning objective will be clear to my audience."

"Anytime I (coach a team member), I will (clear the time and allow no interruptions) because I know and believe my (complete focus) will allow me to provide the team member with better advice and support."

"Anytime I (am upset), I will (slow down and investigate what I am feeling) because I know and believe my (decisions and actions) will be more congruent and aligned with my value systems and beliefs."

Take the time to write "I will" commitments to begin making a positive change in your daily habits. Look for steps 2 and 3 next week! Make a difference today.

Step Two

In order to use the "power of the pen," you must take the time to define three key areas as they relate to your current habit patterns. This part of the formula is an essential element of the habit transformation process. Let's examine the process together:

Activator          Actions            Results

Every habit in your life is activated by something or someone, and you act in response to this activator. Your action sets in motion the real cause and effect, and your behavioral response thereby creates the result. By understanding the activators, you can then make a connived and congruent decision to shift the actions in order to modify the result in a positive way.


Habits are a continuum that will run interrupted based on your established response, routine, and desired results in life.

"When I wake up (activator), I will (action) immediately make (a pot of coffee) because coffee gives me energy (reward or result)."

The Shift:

"When I wake up (activator), I will (action) (immediately read positive information) because I know and believe this will provide me with positive energy (reward or result) for my day."

Please note, only one thing changed in our habit transformation process. The activator and desired result remained the same. The shift occurred in the action or response to the activator. This is the secret ingredient in the formula that makes it work.

Warren Buffett chuckled and said to me, ‘I hope it’s not my bad habits.’ Good habits once established are just as hard to break as bad habits, and bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow. So what are you going to do about it?
— Lucas Remmerswaal

Step Three

You have now written "I will" commitments and evaluated your habits based on the activator, action, and result desired. To transform your current habit patterns, you must create a shift in belief regarding what you think you must do daily. You may think you "must" look at your phone every time it beeps. You may think you "must" have a big cheeseburger and fries at lunch because you're so hungry. You may think you "must" have more coffee after lunch to get through your day. You may think you "must" respond to inadequacy or insubordination with anger. The truth is, the "must" is not actually tied to these actions. You have the power to decide what you "must" do. To achieve the result you are chasing, simply shift your definition of what you "must" do. 

Let's say more energy is what you are striving for. In order to stay energized, I must:

  • Eat Healthy
  • Exercise
  • Drink Water
  • Read Positive Information
  • Review My Goals and Dreams

These actions must then be placed between the activator and the result.

Activator          Action                Result

Hungry            Healthy Meal      Energy

Wake Up          Exercise              Energy

Thirsty              Water                  Energy

Prep for Day  Review Goals      Energy

Prep for Day  Read + Info         Energy

Make the "must" shift. Take actions that align with your new "musts," and watch the progress as your daily actions become constant traveling companions (habits) that guide you on the pathway to your dreams. You have the power to take small steps ("I will" actions) to drive profound and sustainable improvements in your life.

Make A Difference Today,


About the Author: Paul Cummings’ latest book is called It All Matters and it contains 125 strategies to help you achieve maximum confidence, clarity, certainty, and creativity in your personal and professional life.  It All Matters will be released by Wiley Press on October 9th, 2017. Are you a thought leader? Preorder your copy today!

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