Your habits can either make or break you. Habits, of course, are all the things you do so routinely every day that you don’t even have to think about them—they just happen. At their worst, bad or unproductive habits (e.g., mindlessly surfing social media) can lead to days, months, and even years of wasted time. Our bad or unproductive habits cause us to fail to do what we wish to accomplish consistently. Good practices (e.g. spending half an hour reading the Bible and praying every morning) can gradually change the trajectory of our lives for the better and ensure that we accomplish far more of what we plan.

I learned about Dr. Art Markman while taking a class that he taught about habits on the platform CreativeLive. You might have heard him on NPR or seen him on Dr. Phil. Dr. Art Markman is a psychologist, professor, and author whose work focuses on helping people understand how their brain works so that they can remember and create the changes they want to see in their lives.


When we are trying to accomplish a goal (like writing a book or losing weight), Dr. Markman encourages us to look at two things: Our motivations and habits. 

Motivations can, of course, be positive or negative. You want to start going to the gym, and you want to stop eating so much unhealthy food. Accordingly, our brains’ motivation centers are made up of a “go” system and a “stop” system. The “go” system (“do x”) has a lot of energy behind it and is effective at driving your brain to action. Unfortunately, the “stop” system (“don’t do x”) is much more fallible. It takes a lot more effort for this system to come to work, and something as simple as stress can quickly shut it down. When you get stressed, you will do the most natural thing: continuing the bad habit. It’s clear that when you’re trying to change your behavior, your goal cannot be to lean on your “stop” system. That means that the key to stop doing the wrong thing is not to try to will yourself to stop, but to instead focus on starting to do the right thing. 

What about habits? What are they? Dr. Markman defines habits as a set of memories. To form sets of memories, you have to repeat what you’re doing again and again. Consistency is the only way to create a habit. So if you are trying to write a book or exercise, the way to accomplish it is by doing. And then doing it again. And again. That’s common knowledge. The secret that Dr. Markman shares that to create good habits, you have to enjoy them. If you do not find enjoyment in what you’re doing, you won’t keep doing it. It’s as simple as that. 

Dr. Markman also focuses on the dangers of perfectionism, which destroys progress. He reminds us that when we see successful people, we are rarely aware of how often they failed. So don’t lose heart, and don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve. Keep track of your progress, and watch yourself growing and getting closer and closer to your goals.

Highlights from Today’s Episode:

  • Why habits are  important
  • Stopping systematic failure
  • How motivation works
  • Why we focus on the negative
  • Developing a  habit of continual learning

Resources from today’s show 

Click to Tweet 

  • “If you’re trying to accomplish some big goal and you’re not sure what the first thing to do is, find someone who knows how to do it and ask.” ~Art Markman
  • “Make sure you treat yourself at least as well as you treat your friends.” ~Art Markman
  • “It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.” ~Art Markman
  • “If you don’t keep track of what you’re doing, you won’t notice your improvement.” ~Art Markman

Other Stuff to Check Out

Let’s Talk!

After you’ve listened to the podcast, I’d love to continue the conversation. Be sure and leave a comment!

  1. What healthy habits do you plan on beginning? Do you have a positive motivation to begin them?
  2. In what areas of your life can you offer yourself more grace?
  3. In what concrete way will you track your progress toward a specific goal?
  4. Who are some people that are already doing some of the things that you desire to do? What can you learn from them?
  5. What is something that, later in life, you will regret not learning? How can you start learning it today?

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How to Listen to The Podcast

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