Does Creating Habits Get Harder as You Get Older?

Nope, creating habits doesn’t get harder as you get older… everything gets harder.

I heard on The Brian Buffini Show a story of a golfer who won whatever golfers win (golf is totally NOT my thing) after 50.

This golfer said he realized he just needed to put more effort than previously into his practices when he got older. He still could be an excellent golfer; he just needed to try harder.

Good News

But it only goes as far as your physical limitations. You try to exercise more and your body is more prone to injury. You are trying to develop a new habit, but your memory cheats you and you forget about starting the habit in the first place.
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Where Do We Get Bad Habits?

What kind of obnoxious question is this? Of course, I have no bad habits! I’m perfect!

Gotcha! 😀

There are no perfect people on this world. Our habits make us who we are, so lack of perfection suggests at least some bad habits.

My Bad Habits

I don’t go to sleep early enough to have a truly productive morning.

I don’t praise my children often enough (read: I almost never praise them).

I binge-eat on sweets all too often.

Stop! Enough of this embarrassing list! I hope you got the point. I have “some” bad habits.
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Three Specific Ways to Maintain a Habit for a Long Time

Photo by Barbara Olsen from Pexels

The key to maintaining your habits for a long time is an intention to do so. If you aren’t mindful about your habits, sooner or later, you will slip. Then, you will either go back on track, or you will just let it slip further. If you don’t care about your habits, not continuing them doesn’t seem to be a big deal, right?

So, how to care about your habits?

You need to realize their utmost importance. You cannot be indifferent about your habits.

Maybe the message from James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, will do that for you:
How long does it take to build a habit?
21 days? 30 days? 66 days?
The honest answer is: forever. Because once you stop doing it, it is no longer a habit.
A habit is a lifestyle to be lived, not a finish line to be crossed. Make small, sustainable changes you can stick with.

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Resisting the Siren Song of Social Media

Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Recently, I had an unproductive week and I spent a way too much time on YouTube watching “Pitch Meetings” – a hilarious series of videos where a YouTuber pretends to be a screenwriter and a producer at the same time and is “pitching” existing movie ideas revealing weaknesses in plots, acting, and everything between.

“Way too much” in my case is about two hours that week. But it was still more than my second weakness in order – news websites.

I confessed my struggles to my mastermind buddies, and we talked it over for some time.

During our conversation, I realized I didn’t have such problems with other platforms and media I have been using on a daily basis. I’m at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium and Quora every day, yet I didn’t waste my time there. How come?


After a moment of reflection, I discovered the crucial element which makes a big difference in using or wasting my time at online platforms: intentionality.
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Turn your Dumbphone into a Smartphone Again: One simple habit to protect your mind – and sanity!

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

There is no greater misnomer than a “smartphone.” The device in itself is not smart at all; it’s just a thing. It is as smart as a vacuum cleaner or a hammer. And smartphones make 99.99% of their users dumber, not smarter.

Yes, there is an incredible computing ability. Yes, you can access with your smartphone the Internet – the biggest knowledge database ever created in human history. Yes, you can leverage incredible applications to track your habits or finances, to do your daily tasks more effectively, to manage your calendar or a to-do list.

So what?!!

This device also bombards you with a zillion notifications beeping in the least desirable moments. When you pick it up and check one thing, you are mysteriously drawn into opening another app, then scrolling through its feed, watching funny videos, then reading another thing. Now, you are not only distracted, you actually wasted several minutes of your precious time on this planet.

That’s not smart at all. That’s dumb. Thus, this device deserves a more apt name – a dumbphone.
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Getting Bored with Habits vs. Living More Spontaneously

Getting Bored with Habits

Hi. Meet reality. It looks like this:(The Slight Edge chart)

Only what you do consistently over a long period matters.
The consequences of your spontaneous actions are irrelevant in the long run. Today you spontaneously decide to sit on a couch and binge-watch a series on Netflix. Tomorrow you spontaneously decide to go for a bike ride. In the long run, those one-time actions mean nothing.
But develop a habit of binge-watching on a couch or biking, and you will relatively quickly (in weeks, I suppose) see the difference.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.” ― Gandhi

So, Mr. or Mrs. Bored, the only long-term effect of your spontaneity, in the long run, will be a more spontaneous lifestyle. We always get more of what we practice. BTW, it’s been proved at the neural level, not just the philosophical one. That’s why Gandhi’s quote is true.

You Lie to Yourself

We are habitual creatures TO THE CORE. We share the parts of our brain where habits are formed and stored with reptiles and birds. Habits are as primal as an adrenaline rush or pangs of hunger.
Scientists determined that about 40% of our daily actions are habitual, completely automatic. Whether you decide to be more spontaneous or not, almost half of your actions are automatic. But if you decide to not develop good habits, guess what kind of habits will stick?
The bad ones. They are easier to sneak into your life because they use the immediate reward system of your body. You scroll through the social media feed and your brain is bombarded with dopamine. You inhale cigarette smoke and you immediately feel how your system is soothed.
Thus, you don’t notice you formed a habit before it is solidified and starts weighing you down.
But for 99.9999% of people who choose the ‘spontaneous’ route, end up at the downward curve.

The Game Is Rigged

You cannot change your biophysical structure by the decision you are going to be more spontaneous. Bad habits will glue to you along the way. You will feel free like a bird and spontaneous like a leaf moved by wind. But you will finish at the destination of the downward curve: failure.

(The Slight Edge chart – the downward curve)
“More spontaneous” is a nice narration for your lazy brain to not use your willpower and energy.
Another quirk of the subconscious mind is that it always tries to save your energy and BS stories you tell yourself are the cheapest way to avoid any effort.
Be a human. Smartly exercise conscious control over your actions.
Decide what habits you want to have and put your attention, time, and energy into building them.
Without direct access to your bodily reward system, you need to supervise the process with a plan, determination, and giving yourself rewards of your choice.
Or be spontaneous and slide down. Your choice.

Three Effective Ways to Kick a Bad Habit

Deconstructing a few success stories from my life.

Image by Mohamed Nuzrath from Pixabay

The difficulty level depends on the habit very much. I’ll give you a few examples.

1. Gaming Habit

Success in Kicking Bad Habits

The trigger for my gaming was a pang of escapism. Whenever I felt bored, tired, and most importantly — purposeless, with no meaning in my life — I played. Getting new levels and killing artificial opponents was a substitute for achieving something in my life.

(Hacking the habit loop — created by author)

2. Tougher Cases — Installing Boundaries

(… or a giant pancake)

3. Reading Fiction — Avoiding the Trigger

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How Will Good Habits Give Me Benefits in the Future?

Extrapolation based on experience

First of all, thanks to my good habits I will have a future worth looking forward to.
Habits compound. Bad habits lead you into a worse future. Good habits led you into a better one. This is the reality:

(The Slight Edge chart)

By the way, this is how I discern between good and bad habits:
Good habits are the ones that provide good results after ten years of practicing them.
Bad habits are the ones that provide bad results after ten years of practicing them.

My Story

In 2012 I read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. The book’s message is based on those two principles:

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” — Jim Rohn
“Failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” — Jim Rohn

A Few Examples


2013 vs 2010
I shed excess weight. My look improved. My self-confidence improved. My health greatly improved. My chronic allergy almost disappeared and I was getting sick once in two years, not twice a year.

Some of my books

Habits Are Not a Silver Bullet

But they are close to it. Despite all the successes I enjoyed in the last years, my family life has been troublesome. My kids have problems with depression. My marriage too often reminds me of balancing on a rope over an active volcano.

Habits Are Holistic in Nature

When you build a good habit you don’t improve just one area of your life. You improve yourself.

Good habits will provide good results in my life in the future.

Six Atomic Habits to Have a Brighter Future Personally, Professionally, and Financially

Your personal development encompasses it all

(me, doing pushups…)

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Four Self-Improvement Habits which Had the Biggest Impact on My Life

Small activities that provided great benefits

It’s hard to say which of my self-improvement habits has had the biggest impact on my life. I have too many of them and introduced them into my life in a very rapid fashion. So, it is really hard to measure and recognize which habits have been the most impactful.

Maybe gratitude journaling?

Quite possible this habit won this small contest.

For years, I hadn’t even considered it very impactful. But in hindsight, it was powerful. And when I described this discovery in my Quora answer, it became my most popular answer ever (over 400k views and 3.5 upvotes):

Or maybe it was journaling?

Six days a week, I journal for 10–20 minutes. I’ve been doing it for eight years.

(my journals)

You see, when you write things down, you need to process them through the prefrontal cortex — the part of your brain responsible for the higher thinking functions (like abstract thinking, language, logical thinking, and the like). In effect, you process a bigger portion of your life through logic and a smaller portion through emotions.

Nine years ago, I was a total mess. Nobody ever taught me how to process my own emotions. Well, not purposefully. Like most of us, I learned how to deal with my emotions by observing and mimicking people around me. However, most of them were as clueless about emotion management, as was I in the first place.

Years of writing about my plans, dreams, aspirations, obstacles, hardships, heartaches, failures, relationships, faith, and everything else that makes a full life, allowed me to get SO much better. at emotion management.

I also get some “me time” every day, introduce silence into my life, have space to actually plan long term, analyze myself, and reflect on the big picture.

This is invaluable.

Maybe exercising?

I’ve been exercising every day since 2006. I missed maybe 50 days in 15 years, mainly when I was bedridden with a fever.

(me, doing pushups…)


Thanks to this discipline, I internalized the value of persistence. When I read The Slight Edge in August 2012, its message clicked in. I had relevant points of reference already instilled in my life. I was able to embrace the Slight Edge philosophy because of my own experience. And when I embraced it, my whole life, hmm, not just “changed” — it exploded.

However, physical exercises are hardly a self-improvement technique. In fact, it’s a universal human activity. Surely, I consider exercises as such. Everybody should move their body on regular basis.

The last candidate: smiling.

I had been extremely shy toward strangers at the age of 33.

As a part of my self-improvement quest, I tried to develop a habit of talking to strangers. I flatly fell on my face. I just couldn’t do it. It was beyond me. Cold sweat on my forehead, butterflies in my stomach, collywobbles, a lump in my throat. I could not open my mouth and utter a word.

So, I retreated and regrouped. What I could do? I could smile at people.


And I did.

I built up my self-confidence, and soon I was talking with strangers on an everyday basis.