How To Develop Healthy Habits & Keep Them

You might be expecting a lard load of know-it-all advice from ‘Nikki’s Dad’ about habits and How great I art. Were it only so. On the whole, habits have gotten the worst of me. Play word association, you say ‘Habit’ I say ‘Bad!’.

My strength is to rise with the sun and pledge discipline towards good health, water, exercise, stretching, oatmeal for breakfast, fresh fruits & vegetables….fast forward to 7:00pm, I’m in the lazy boy chair watching Downton Abbey chasing fistfuls of M&M’s with peanut butter ice cream & salty popcorn, washing it down with a glass of wine and a set of fully believable reasons why I deserve this ‘exception’ to my disciplined regiment.

I call it ‘My Daily Exception to the Rule.’ It keeps me plump

“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding.”–Harvey Mackay

Habits crippled me until I had a friend who said, “You know, habits don’t have to hurt you; they can help you, too. You can use the power of habit to make good things happen.”

He taught me a three step process for developing Healthy Habits. He gave it an acronym—the letters are out of sequence, but you can use it to remember how to develop healthy habits by becoming an ‘MVP’ [in sports, an MVP is Most Valuable Player]

Measure—Keep track of your daily action steps

Vision—Choose something you’d like to do

Perform—Take daily action steps, bite sized to-do’s that, repeated daily, will become a habit.

How to Become an MVP:

Step 1: Vision

‘Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.’ –Jim Rohn

Steven Covey says ‘Begin with the End in mind’. Motivation starts here, and motivation is important! What would you like to do? Where do you want to go? What do you wish to accomplish? What good habit do you want to develop? You want to learn a musical instrument? Become a YouTuber? Get married and be a Mom with 4 kids? Overcome shyness? Graduate from college? Become a writer?

Give yourself the freedom to dream and the liberty to get excited!

As one writer said, “Decide to give yourself an extremely important gift: a goal.”

Listen: you may argue that you’re not in a situation that allows you to dream. I say dream anyway. Nothing happens until first you have a dream, a goal, a desired destination.

Step 2: Perform

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” —Lao Tzu

What steps can you do today that will move you towards your goal? It doesn’t have to be big or monumental. Just take a step. Practice scales for 10 minutes. Read one page of a book. Eat fruit for snacks. Identify a plan that moves you towards your goal, define a step or activity you could do today, that you could repeat tomorrow—something you can do every day. Then DO IT.

Step 3: Measure

“What gets measured gets done.” —Sum Wun

Take a step today, and and then keep track of your daily steps. It will keep you focused and motivated. I use an app called Check it out. It keeps track of your daily actions, your progress towards your goal.

For example, I love skiing, but I have a bad back. A physical therapist told me I could probably continue to ski if I had a strong core and was flexible. Which meant I had to develop the habit of stretching & core exercises. So I have ’Stretch & Core exercises’ in my app, a 20 minute routine I do while listening to books on Audible.

From November 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015, over 242 days, I’ve done the Stretch & Core exercises 121 times.

‘Feelings. Nothing more than feelings.’ Barbara Streisand

Ok, so watch this: ‘How do I feel about those results?’

On the one hand, those numbers don’t impress me—see how much I have failed? Almost half the time!
On the other hand, hey, I stretched & worked my core every other day—see how much I succeeded? Almost half the time!
For most of my life, ‘feelings’ have been my ally and my enemy. Deep desires for a better life drives me to set goals, make plans, and measure results. But feeling hungry at 7:00pm (and feeling I deserve my ‘daily exception’) has undone many a days’ progress.

But now catch this: Today, the day I wrote this blogpost, I didn’t do the Stretch & Core exercises. You know how I feel about that? Lousy. Do you know that means? It means Stretching & Core exercises have become a healthy habit!

So yeah, even if you don’t feel like: You can develop healthy habits!!

Choose something you’d like to do (Vision),
Take daily action steps (Perform)
Keep track of your daily action steps (Measure).
Do this, and you’ll feel like an MVP.


Dirk Mullenger

Raised in NY, college at University of Iowa, year abroad in Paris. Tight with my wife and 4 children. Business, writer, guitarist, skier, drives a convertible. One person’s hindsight is another person’s foresight.

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Discussion about this post

  1. Lauren says:

    You might have already heard of this but Gretchin Rubin has written a book called “better than before” and it’s all about habit formation. I’ve found it really helpful! It identifies what kind of habit tendencies you have and then gives advice on how best to form habits depending on your tendency. I hope this is useful for you. I really enjoyed your post! And I definitely have shared similar experiences. Good luck with your core workouts 🙂

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