10 early signs a new habit will stick, according to psychology

Setting up a new habit can be a challenging endeavor. The early days are crucial to determine if it’s going to stick or simply fade away.

You might have tried to pick up a new habit and struggled to maintain it beyond the initial excitement or wondered if you’re just not cut out for certain pursuits.

How can you tell if a new habit will actually stick, or if it’s destined to be another failed experiment?

According to psychology, there are subtle cues that reveal whether you’re on track for lasting change or if you’re destined for a short-term fling with your new habit.

After delving into the world of psychology and reflecting on my own experiences with habit formation, I’ve compiled a list of 10 early signs that indicate a new habit will likely stand the test of time.

If these signs ring true, you’re probably on the right track towards achieving your goals.

1) Consistency is key

One of the first signs that a new habit will stick is consistency.

You might have heard the saying, “consistency is key,” and when it comes to habit formation, this couldn’t be more accurate.

Psychology tells us that habits are formed through repetition. The more we repeat an action, the more it becomes ingrained in our neural pathways, eventually becoming second nature.

If you’re consistently performing your new habit every day, or at the same time each day, this is a promising sign. It shows that you’re making a conscious effort to incorporate this new routine into your life.

It’s the act of showing up every day that builds habits, not the intensity of the action.

So if you find yourself naturally gravitating towards your new habit without a great deal of mental effort or persuasion, that’s a strong sign you’re on the path to long-term success.

However, don’t be discouraged if you find this challenging at first. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are habits. The important thing is to keep going, even when it feels tough.

Over time, your consistency will pay off and your new habit will become just another part of your daily routine.

2) You find joy in the process

A crucial sign that predicts the longevity of your new routine revolves around one simple emotion: joy.

This may seem obvious, but it’s critical. If you enjoy the new habit you’re trying to form, you’re far more likely to stick with it.  

When we find joy in the process of doing something new, it becomes less of a chore and more of a pleasure.

It’s the intrinsic motivation – doing something because you enjoy it, not because of an external reward – that really seals the deal.

It means you are not simply focused on the end goal but are finding value and happiness in the journey itself. This joy can act as a powerful motivator, turning your new habit into a consistent part of your life.

This shift in perspective can make all the difference when trying to build a new habit.

However, it’s important to remember that joy doesn’t always mean ease. Even tasks we love can be difficult at times, but it’s the overall enjoyment that keeps us going and helps cement these habits for the long term. 

So if you find yourself genuinely looking forward to your new routine, and even missing it when you skip a day, it’s a strong indication that this habit is here for the long haul.

3) It aligns with your identity

Did you know that habits are closely tied to our sense of identity?

This might seem like an abstract concept, but it’s rooted in a basic human instinct: we are more likely to do things that resonate with how we perceive ourselves.

If your new habit aligns with the image you have of yourself or the person you aspire to be, it’s much more likely to stick.

For example, if you see yourself as a healthy and active person, you’re more likely to stick with habits like regular exercise or a balanced diet.

On the other hand, if you identify as a lifelong learner, you’re probably going to find it easier to maintain habits related to reading or continual learning.

So, when adopting a new habit, consider whether it syncs with your personal identity or the identity you’re striving towards. This alignment could be the key to transforming the habit into an integral part of your life.

4) It feels natural

start doing these 7 things every morning 10 early signs a new habit will stick, according to psychology

When I first started practicing yoga, it felt anything but natural. The poses were awkward, the breathing techniques were unfamiliar, and I was constantly checking the clock.

Fast-forward a few months and it was a completely different story. Yoga had become a part of my morning routine. It felt as natural as brushing my teeth.

That’s when I knew yoga was becoming a habit. The awkwardness had disappeared, replaced by a sense of familiarity and ease.

This is something psychologists often talk about – when a new behavior starts to feel natural, it’s a strong sign that it’s becoming a habit.

So if you’re finding that your new routine is starting to feel like second nature, it’s a good sign that it’s on its way to becoming a fully-fledged habit.

5) You focus on progress over perfection

When you’re more focused on making progress rather than achieving perfection, you’re setting yourself up for success in forming a new habit.

Why? Because perfection can be discouraging. If you don’t meet the high standards you set for yourself, you may feel deflated and give up.

But when you start celebrating small victories, like sticking to your habit for three days in a row, or increasing the time you spend on it each day, you’re building momentum. And that momentum can propel your new habit into a long-term routine.

So if you find yourself more invested in the progress you’re making rather than reaching an ideal state, this is another sign your new habit might just become a regular part of your life.

With each step forward, no matter how small, you’re laying the groundwork for a new habit that can enhance your life in countless ways.

6) Progress isn’t always linear

Forming a new habit isn’t always a walk in the park. The struggle is real and progress isn’t always a straight line.

You might have imagined a perfect upward trajectory, where every day is better than the last, but reality often paints a different picture.

Some days, you’ll feel like you’re making leaps and bounds in your new habit. Other days, you might feel like you’ve taken two steps back.

There will be days when the comfort of your old routine beckons, promising ease and familiarity while other days when it feels like every ounce of willpower has been drained from your being.

This ebb and flow are completely natural. Struggling with a new habit and wanting to give up don’t necessarily mean it’s not going to stick. In fact, it can often be a sign that you’re on the right track.

Growth and learning often occur outside our comfort zones. The struggle is an indication that you’re pushing yourself,  breaking out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself, which are key components of growth and change.

The struggles go to show that we’re human, not machines programmed for constant efficiency. We tend to have good days and bad days.

It’s how we deal with those bad days, how we pick ourselves up after setbacks, that truly determines the strength of our new habit.

After all, do we throw in the towel, or do we muster the courage to keep going? The latter response is where true habit formation happens. 

So, if your progress isn’t a straight climb to the top, don’t fret.

Embrace the struggles, the setbacks, the ups and downs as part of your journey, and remember: the path to lasting habits is often winding, but it is still leading you forward.

7) You’re making small, manageable changes

When it comes to forming new habits that stick, size does matter – but perhaps not in the way you think.

Often, we are tempted to make grand, sweeping changes in our lives. However, psychology suggests that it’s the smaller, more manageable changes that are more likely to become ingrained habits.

If you’re starting with small steps and gradually building up, that’s a great sign. It shows that you’re respecting your current limits while still pushing yourself towards growth.

For example, if your goal is to read more, starting with a chapter a day rather than aiming for a book a week can make the habit more sustainable and less overwhelming.

Remember, it’s not about making massive leaps; it’s about taking consistent steps, no matter how small. By focusing on manageable changes, you’re setting yourself up for success and solidifying your new habit for the long haul.

8) It aligns with your values

simple ways to start your morning stress free and energized according to psychologists 10 early signs a new habit will stick, according to psychology

One of the most profound signs that a new habit will stick is when it aligns with your personal values or contributes to a larger purpose in your life.

Maybe you’ve started waking up early to have some quiet time for reflection. This habit aligns with your values of self-care and mindfulness, and it’s making a positive difference in your life.

Or perhaps you’re making an effort to reduce waste by bringing your own bags and containers when you go shopping.

This aligns with your commitment to protecting the environment, and it’s making you feel like you’re contributing to a bigger cause.

These types of habits have deep roots. They’re not just about the action itself, but about what that action represents. And when your habits are tied to your values, they’re more likely to stick around.

9) It fits into your lifestyle

A new habit is more likely to stick if it seamlessly integrates into your existing lifestyle. If it requires a complete overhaul of your daily routine, it may be harder to maintain in the long run.

For instance, if you’re trying to exercise more but have a packed schedule, a two-hour gym session might not be realistic. But a 30-minute home workout could easily slot into your morning or evening routine.

So, if your new habit fits comfortably into your current schedule and doesn’t feel like a burden, this is a strong sign that it’s likely to become a lasting habit.

10) You’re patient with yourself

The single most important thing to remember when forming a new habit is patience. Habits take time to form – research suggests it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new behavior to become automatic. 

Being patient with yourself, and understanding that habit formation is a gradual process, is crucial.

If you’re kind to yourself throughout the process and understand that it won’t happen overnight, you’re setting yourself up for long-term success.

If you find yourself practicing patience and giving yourself the time you need to form this new habit, that’s the most promising sign of all.

Final thoughts: It’s all about the journey

The human mind is a fascinating machine, capable of remarkable change. And the journey to form a new habit is as much about self-discovery as it is about consistency or progress.

Forming new habits that stick isn’t an overnight process. It requires consistent effort, patience, and an understanding of your own behavior patterns. 

The subtle shifts, the small victories, and even the setbacks, are all part of this transformative process.

The signs we’ve discussed here are indicators you’re on the right path. But ultimately, it’s the journey that matters, not just the destination.

So whether you’re trying to wake up earlier, exercise more, or learn a new skill, remember to enjoy the process. After all, these habitual changes are not just about doing something new but becoming someone new.

As Will Durant once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” So be patient with yourself and recognize your progress. You’re on your way to becoming a better version of yourself.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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