Patterns build good habits


People want to improve their lives. They want to improve their code. We start new things and end up giving up on them. We start new diets and eventually stop following them. We learn new ways to do things, try them for a bit and go back to our old ways. Why do we do this? In one word: Inertia.


We inherently don’t want to change. It’s easier and more comfortable to do the same thing everyday. Even if we are unhappy, even if it drives us crazy, we have a built in desire to maintain the daily motions we go through.


We all know people with great habits. Oh so and so, she jogs every other day, or he takes his bike to work or she writes tests for all her code. How did they get there? How do these people establish these good habits in their lives? Habits that we wish we had.


The trick is that these people have patterns that they follow. They make these positive activities part of their routines. They repeat these patterns until they become habits. It sounds simple doesn’t it? So what goes wrong?



Obstacles aren’t always obvious. Someone doesn’t step up and say “Hey you, stop going for a walk after supper!”. What happens is other routines. We have to drive kids somewhere or someone comes to visit. Maybe your friends invite you out. (There goes the diet plan).

The difference is that some people find a solution to the problem and others let the problem revert them to their old habit.


Your improvement will be challenged. Obstacles will appear. It will be easier to go back to your old way of doing things. This is where your will power is tested. Each success makes your will power stronger. Each failure leaves you right where you are or makes things even worse than they were.


It comes down to choice. Do I get off this couch and walk? Do I invest a couple minutes refactoring this code? Do I have some more vegetables and skip dessert? Given a challenge, will I back down or will I stick to my plan for self improvement?



Over years of studying why people, including myself, won’t stick to their plans, I’ve discovered a system that helps keep me and others focused on improvement. It’s a step by step process that repeats itself.


  1. Identify – Determine a change that can be made

  2. Prepare – Make adjustments to allow for this change

  3. Improve – Make the change

  4. Clean – Restore, reduce and simplify the change


It’s easy to fall off the path of an improvement. It doesn’t matter what it is, we sometimes need help. This system can help you stay on track. Think to yourself, what stage am I at? Have I identified an improvement or an obstacle? Do I need to simplify things before I take the next step? I’m sharing this system with everyone I can to get their insights and learn how it is helping them. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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