As I’m geeking out on habit-formation, I’m seeing how one of the hardest parts of making a new habit become part of your life, is this: how to make new habits stick .

You decide that you’re going to start doing something differently—maybe you’ll start getting up earlier, exercising more often, no more biting your nails. Or, maybe the habit that you want to create has to do with your way of being—getting into the habit of responding to stressful situations by bringing your attention to the present moment, for instance. (I’m a fan of how to create courageous habits, responding to life’s stressful circumstances with a habit of courage!).

But the tricky part is how to make new habits stick, because we can usually do something once or even for a week—but turning it into something that we’re going to keep doing, consistently, feels harder.

How to Make New Habits Stick

From the research I’m reading—Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and a treasure trove of articles that I’ve been digesting over the past year on habit-formation (heaven help you if you set up a google alert!)—the concept of the “keystone habit” is one of the most critical to forming new habits.

With a keystone habit, you create an artificial trigger of sorts, for the new habit that you want to create. The keystone habit acts as a kind of tripwire for what comes next. Let’s say that you want to start going to the gym, first thing in the morning. Having your clothes laid out the night before and putting them on as soon as your alarm clock goes off can be the keystone habit that makes the next natural step—going to the gym—seem easier.

When it comes to creating personal habits of courage, such as realizing that you want to start responding to your inner critic differently, a keystone habit might be making a point of jotting down what the critical voices say on a small notepad, every time you notice them. The actual habit that you want to create—responding differently—becomes dependent on the keystone habit that comes before it—writing down what the voices say when you hear them.

When Making New Habits Stick Seems Hard

One thing I try to remember as I create new habits, myself, is that one point, everything that we do was not a habit. The route that you take to work, the way that you walk through a grocery store, and, yes, the way that you respond when you’re stressed, the way that you react to challenges as you pursue a goal, and the way that you then view yourself and your life from there, has some basis in habit. Charles Duhigg, writes in the Power of Habit that behavioral scientists believe that approximately 40% of all of our behavior is based in habit. That’s nearly half!

When it seems hard to make new habits stick, consider what keystone habits you might apply to the habit your trying to change. What could be the “tripwire” that precedes the actual behavioral change that you’re creating?

The Courage Habit

The Courage Habit is a four-part process for responding to fear, differently. Learn more, here: The Courage Habit.