Build Better Habits (and Break Your Bad Ones!)

Nov 3, 2020

Having the right habits is more important than ever as you navigate a busy school year, especially one with more screen-time and less in-person structure. Read on to learn how you can create better habits in any area of your life, plus our tips and tricks for getting rid of your bad habits for good!

Build Better Habits

1. Stack Your Habits:

Use your current habits as a foundation to create new ones with habit stacking, an approach that recommends scheduling a new habit to occur immediately after an existing one. For example, if you wanted to develop a daily stretching habit, “stack” that habit to happen after something you already do daily, like brushing your teeth. This method creates a consistent trigger for the new behavior you want to build, making it easier to remember your habit goals at the right moment.

2. Bundle Temptation:

Similar to habit stacking, temptation bundling associates a new habit you want to build with something you like to do (the “temptation”). For example, if you love frequently treating yourself to fancy coffees, allow yourself to do that only when you also add a desired new habit to that routine—like studying for your competitive event or reading the latest business news. Your new, good-for-you habit will form quickly when bundled with something you find so rewarding!

3. Break It Down:

DECA members don’t lack ambition, which means you may aspire to create some major new habits all at once. But trying to change too many behaviors too quickly can be a recipe for failure. Instead, break down the bigger habits you want to form into smaller “mini-habits” that you can master and expand upon over time. For example, if you want a habit of eating healthier, start small by asking yourself to master the mini-habit of eating an extra serving of vegetables every day. Once that becomes routine, add on another mini-habit, like preparing your breakfast the night before. Over time, your mini-habits will add up to create some pretty big habits you can be proud of!

Break Your Bad Habits

1. Master Your Mindset:

When it comes to breaking a bad habit, adopt a mantra of who you want to be without the habit, like “I am not the kind of person who is late for meetings.” While this mantra alone won’t break the habit for you, it will get your mind focused on your improved, future self and remind you what you’re capable of!

2. Swap the Bad for the Good:

Habits are repeated behaviors triggered by certain cues – that’s why habit stacking works for forming a new habit. But getting rid of a bad habit doesn’t mean the cue will go away – you need to adopt a better, substitute habit to replace the bad one. For example, if you have a habit of constantly checking your phone at the dinner table, replace that behavior by instead taking a sip of water every time you feel the urge to grab your phone. If you stay committed, your mental “muscle memory” for the old, bad habit will fade away over time.

3. Use Positive Peer Pressure:

Finding an accountability partner is key to making your new habits stick and breaking old ones. For example, if you want to stop hitting the snooze button a dozen times, find a friend or family member who is an early riser and ask them to send you a text each morning until you confirm you’re awake. If your habit goals involve making larger lifestyle changes, like dedicating more time to studying or spending more time on physical fitness, start surrounding yourself with people who have these same goals and habits. The positive “peer pressure” from this group will make sticking to your habits seem like the normal thing to do!

No matter what habits you’re hoping to build or break this school year, find the method that works best for you and always stay focused on your goals.

Tips in this article are inspired by the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Learn more at


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Discussion Questions

  • 1
    List one new habit you would like to build. Which technique will you try?
  • 2
    List one bad habit you would like to break. Which technique will you try?
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Classroom Connection

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