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Why Habits Matter—and How to Rewire Yours for Good

No one knows habits better than author Nir Eyal. Follow along as he demystifies how these patterns form and why they’re not set in stone.

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Everyone has at least one habit they’d love to shed, and at least a dozen they dream of picking up. But what is it that makes nail biting so irresistible—or daily exercise so elusive? While there’s an entire subsection of the internet devoted to figuring it out, it’s easy to find oneself surrounded by information and advice but unable to put anything into action.

Enter Nir Eyal. His site, NirandFar, explores some of the best ways to tackle habits (both good and bad), as well as the psychology behind our relationship with them. He also ties those very concepts in with personal development and business strategy in his books Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life and Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

We called on Eyal to curate a collection of resources for people eager to overhaul their habits, but first, understand how they’re formed and tweaked. Read on as he helps us navigate self-help, endocannabinoids, and major habit myths.

Image by Mykyta Dolmatov/Getty Images

Stop Confusing Habits for Routines: What You Need to Know


Nir Eyal: “There’s so much people get wrong about habits. Before you try and build or break one, make sure you know what a habit is and when it’s an appropriate method of behavior change. If you don’t know the difference between habits and routines, you likely regret your efforts.”

Why Is It so Hard to Take Your Own Advice?

Melissa Dahl
The Cut

NE: “More often than not, we already know what to do, we just don’t do it. Why is it so hard to take our own advice and how can we use self-talk to find our way? Melissa Dahl explains how perspective gets in our way.”

The Lost Hope of Self-Help

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

NE: “What is ‘self-help’ for anyway? Are we taking ourselves too seriously? This Aeon piece explores if self-help is just another form of self-absorption or if it can be a tool we use to actually improve ourselves and the world.”

Train Your Brain to Break Bad Habits

Elisha Goldstein

NE: “It’s easy to think of habits as simple behavioral triggers, but there are often much deeper physiological levels to be aware of. Breaking a bad habit requires a very different approach than making new habits.”

How the Brain Makes and Breaks Habits

Neuroscience News

NE: “This deep dive into the neuroscience of how habits are made explains the role of neurochemicals in turning on the brain’s autopilot setting. Habits are more about inhibiting a stopping cue than being motivated to action.”

Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth

Jason Selk

NE: “Another habit myth debunked! Habits don’t take 21 days to form. Rather, they are contextually specific based on the person, the behavior, and the frequency of action. The lingo in this Forbes piece helps you identify where you are in your journey.”

Stress Can Boost Good Habits Too

Maia Szalavitz

NE: “Internal triggers are just as important as the external triggers that lead us to bad habits. In 2013, a USC study explored the upside of internal triggers, like uncomfortable emotional states, that typically power ‘bad’ habits, but also have the potential to drive us to healthful behaviors as well. This Time article summarizes the findings nicely.”

Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. He previously taught as a lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford and has been called “the prophet of habit-forming technology” by MIT Technology Review. Eyal is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, and his writing has been featured in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today—as well as his blog, NirAndFar.com.