The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle taught the following about habits: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." The actions we carry out repeatedly form our habits, and then our habits create our lives. If you put in the effort to create good habits, these habits will help you live your optimal life. On the other hand, if you have negative habits such as smoking, watching too much television, oversleeping, procrastinating, and so on, these bad habits will act as a powerful deterrent to accomplishing your goals.

In order to create a positive habit, or get rid of a negative one, follow the ten steps laid out below:

1. Focus on changing one habit at a time. By putting all of your focus into trying to create one positive habit, or trying to break one bad habit, your chances of succeeding are much higher than if you scatter your energy trying to change many habits at the same time. It may seem to be more efficient to tackle several habits at once, but by doing this you’ll become overwhelmed and will probably fail to create any lasting results.

2. Know why you’re doing it. It will be much easier for you to adopt a habit if you’re very clear on why you want to add that particular habit to your life. What benefits will you derive if you adopt this new habit? Write it down. After truly thinking about why you want to adopt a certain habit, you might decide that it’s not really something you’re interested in after all. On the other hand, a list of benefits is a strong motivator that will help you to achieve those habits that you do decide to take on.

3. Conduct a 30-day trial: Although most people would agree that it takes 21 days to ingrain a new habit, Steve Pavlina—a well-known personal development writer--suggests that you conduct a 30-day trial. He argues that it’s easier to maintain something that you’ve done for a period of 30 days, that the 30 days of success will give you the confidence to continue, and that in 30 days you can gather enough feedback to decide what’s working and what’s not. Also, it’s easier to convince yourself to do something for 30 days, as opposed to trying to talk yourself into doing something for the rest of your life.

4. Make it small and simple. If exercising for an hour each day is too much of a daunting task, start out by exercising 20 minutes a day. You can always increase the amount as you go along. On the other hand, if the task seems insurmountable from the get-go you’ll never get started. For example, you can’t leap from a life of careless spending to a life of frugality. Start off by taking small steps.

5. If you’re trying to break a bad habit, you have to replace it with something else. The bad habit is serving some purpose in your life. By taking it away you’re creating a void which needs to be filled by something else or the bad habit will simply find its way back into the void. If you smoke to relieve stress, you need to find a more productive way to relax, such as getting a massage or taking up yoga.

6. Set up your environment to help you. If you’re trying to stop eating junk food, don’t have junk food in the house. If you want to stop watching television, put the television in the closet. If you want to exercise first thing in the morning, lay out your running clothes and tennis shoes the night before so they’re the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning.

7. Chart your progress. Print out a calendar with 30 days on it and every day when you keep to your new habit mark it on the calendar. Follow comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s advice: for each day he does his task of writing, he puts a big red X over that day, which—after a few days--creates a chain. He adds that you have to make sure not to break the chain.

8. Do it with a buddy or join an online group. It’s good to share your progress, or lack thereof, with people who are going through the same thing you are or have already gone through it. The benefit of getting a buddy to adopt a habit along with you, or to join an online group where everyone is trying to create the same habit, is twofold: it creates accountability and it gives you a support group.

9. Make it visual. Go back to your list of why you want to create a new habit. Do you want to lose weight so that you look great in a swim suit? Find pictures of people with the body you want, cut them out, and place them where you can see them. For any habit you’re trying to create, find images that represent the benefits that you associate with adopting that new habit and create a vision board for yourself with those images. Look at them often.

10. Visualize yourself creating your new habit. Creative visualization is using your imagination to create a clear mental picture of something you want to create in your life. Your imagination is very powerful, and it can be a great aid if you use it correctly. A very useful tool for applying creative visualization is the Silva Life System. The Silva Life System will teach you how to slow down your brain waves to the alpha level, the brain frequency associated with meditation. It has been shown that the use of affirmations and creative visualization is more effective at the alpha level.

If you choose a different habit to work on each month, in a twelve-month period your life will be completely different from what it is today. Follow the steps outlined above and begin creating new habits right away.

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From Marelisa Fabrega, Founder and CEO of