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Habit formation: 3 stages of forming a habit

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It’s as simple as this: good habits get sh** done. Developing good habits is key to accomplishment. No matter how substantial they may seem, they allow us to perform behaviour that breeds success. These small adjustments in the way we think and act, can lead to the completion of important tasks which would otherwise be left until “tomorrow”. So why do most fall at the first hurdle, unable to turn good habits into nothing more than good intentions?

If you’ve ever tried to form a new routine or swap bad habits for good ones, then you will already be familiar with the struggle. The rollercoaster ride of motivation and temptation. To help you understand why, we’ve broken habit formation into 3 stages, and even added a tip to help you successfully move from one stage to the next, until you make it all the way to success. Ready? Here we go.

Stage 1: The honeymoon period

What happens – Everything is easy, you are inspired by something – maybe a tv programme, or something online – and motivated to start.

Our tip – It’s great to set a goal. But at this point it’s important you stay realistic. Don’t try to do everything at once. Focus on one goal at a time, breaking it up into stages. Make small changes – also known as “keystone habits” – in your lifestyle. It’s all about getting used to a habit so that it becomes a normal part of your everyday life, rather than a chore.

Stage 2: Small battles

What happens – Overtime we forget the thing that inspired us to start. Motivation fades. We remember our old habits and begin to miss them. We question if our goal is worth it and begin to face temptations and obstacles on a regular basis.

Our tip – We know temptation is not easy to fight. But the important thing here is that you take each obstacle as it comes and focus on beating one battle at a time. Looking at the bigger picture and trying to reach your overall goal will only leave you disappointed, especially when you feel as though you are not making progress. Whether it’s resisting dessert when out for dinner with friends, overpowering your inner voice telling you to stay in bed tomorrow morning or the burning in your legs making you want to quit during your next Aphrodite, every small obstacle you overcome should be seen as a success.

Stage 3: The breakthrough

What happens – It is consistent commitment that results in a breakthrough. Most of the time this stage goes unnoticed, because we are in the zone. With every victory, the habits we once set our sights on slowly but surely begin to become a part of our daily routine. It’s no longer a struggle to fight our bad habits. Instead, things like avoiding the sweet isle in the supermarket or getting out of bed an hour earlier to workout become second nature. But this does not mean we no longer have to work to stay on top of our game.

Our tip – Be prepared for setbacks and interruptions. Things like going on holiday, getting sick, a nasty comment or feeling way too comfortable can cause you to fall out of your routine and end up back at stage 2. Don’t worry if this does happen, because it will. Certain situations are unavoidable. Instead, we encourage you to stay prepared by taking pictures of yourself when you are at your fittest and happiest. These will act as useful sources of motivation when you are faced with those small battles again. And once you’ve beaten a few temptations you’ll be back on track again.


Good habits come down to persistence, commitment and hard work. Each and every day. It’s not a walk in the park at first but as long as you stick to it, overtime these habits become your lifestyle and will be the reason for your success.

Want to know how long it takes to form a habit? Stay tuned. There will be more interesting information on habit formation on the Freeletics Blog.