How to build a habit that sticks

One of the easiest ways to build a habit, is to build it on top of an old one. This is called habit stacking.

For example, you always get your coffee in the morning, so if you want to build the habit of reading more, you can place a book next to your coffee machine. Picking it up and starting to read, becomes almost automatic.

But there’s a problem with habit stacking for me. After a while this “sequencing” starts to feel too mechanic, and it’s hard to maintain long-term. It’s too susceptible to mood changes and will power.

What works better personally, is building a new habit using the guiding principles of a current habit. Let’s call it “habit mapping”.

This works well with meditation. Meditation can be mapped on top of a ton of other habits.

I used the principles I’ve learned in Vipassana meditation (keeping a balanced mind, resisting craving and aversions, opening up to the discomfort) to build my bodyweight workout habit.

Sitting in meditation for an hour straight without moving is very close (mentally) to doing 500+ burpees in the same square meter for an hour.

You chart the territory with a habit, and use the map to build anew one.

Mapped habits have deeper roots because they’re based on existing mental models. In the long run maintaining these is easier than stacking.