Habit Stacking

Jun 23, 2021

Are you struggling to break bad habits? Or to create new habits? 

You probably know what you SHOULD be doing to be healthy, happy and have the lifestyle you’ve always wanted, but you actually struggle to make the changes you need to make, to create new, long-lasting behavioural patterns - and a new life.

Now I could write a thesis about all the neurological, psychological, mental-emotional, generational reasons why you struggle to change your habits. But I’ll leave these theories for another time.

Today I want to share with you a really practical, handy little tool that can help you start creating new habits - TODAY. Many of our clients use this tool, with great results. It’s ridiculously simple. 

Creating a New Lifestyle By Habit Stacking

I’ll share this tool with you real soon, but first I wanted to talk about habit stacking. When you stack habits upon each other, you create for yourself a lifestyle, a type of body, and relationships. You see, the things that you do repeatedly aren't just one action within themselves, they're a bunch of habits that you stack up on top of each other. 

For example, when you have the habit of flossing your teeth every morning you're not just going through the motions of flossing your teeth every morning. You are actually stacking habits, one on top of the other. Flossing your teeth requires a number of little habits stacked up on top of each other. 

For example: where do you keep your floss? Is it in your bathroom drawer? By the sink? Or somewhere else? When you’re getting the floss, do you open the drawer with your left hand or do you grab it with your right hand? Do you have the floss on a little stick, or do you use floss string that you break off from the container?

When you have a habit - be it a good or bad habit - it is never one single habit. It is always a bunch of things that you do repeatedly over and over again. You rarely even recognise that you're doing them. The moment you stop to break down the components of your ‘habit’ is the moment you go from being unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent. Once you become conscious of the things you are doing (or not doing), then you can move to become consciously competent, until finally, you are living a new unconsciously competently. When this happens, you're getting into FLOW by stacking little tiny habits you just don't even think about anymore. 

It’s kind of like tying your shoes, yeah? Do you remember when you learnt to tie your own shoes? We recently taught our daughter how to tie her shoes, and she had to consciously think about every little step of tying her shoes. I bet now, as an adult, you can tie your shoes without even thinking about it.

So guys, finding a way to stack habits on top of each other in a way that you can successfully implement big things into your life.


Using A Habit Tracker

This is our habit tracker. This tool helps you to stay on track with new habits, by tracking your behaviour every day (for example, flossing every morning). It’s not a new concept. It’s basically an adult sticker chart. You can slap it up on the fridge and give yourself a little sticker every time you do something! For you parents out there, you know this works extremely well for children. So why not use it for yourself? I find it helps people to:

  1. Stay accountable. Many people need accountability to make long-lasting changes. If you slap this chart on your fridge where the rest of your family can see it, your family can help keep you accountable. Have a chat with your partner and kids about what you’re trying to accomplish, and ask them to check in with you each day to see how you went. Simply ticking off your habit tracker is a form of external accountability for yourself, regardless of if anyone else sees it. Although having others see your chart and check-in, often reaps better results.
  2. Set Intentions. By writing down your new habit that you want to achieve, you are setting an intention for yourself. You are outwardly showing that you want to achieve this new thing. Just thinking and wishing about things changing, rarely leads to change.
  3. Focus Attention. Once you’ve written down your intention, this habit tracker (if displayed somewhere you will regularly see it), will help you to focus your attention on your intention, or the new habit you want to create. Ticking it off daily will constantly reinforce your focus on your new habit. This action alone will help to create new neural pathways that will help to change your behaviour long term.

I would encourage you to think about Habit Stacking when you use our Habit Tracker. Instead of having a big goal of, say, walking 10,000 steps every day (which is a challenge for a lot of professional working parents stuck at desks all day, and then caring for children), you might want to think about the tiny habits that can lead to achieving those 10,000 steps a day. How can you build a routine that will enable you to walk 10,000 steps a day? What smaller habits do you need to achieve, in order to reach 10,000 steps?

Maybe you start off with just walking 2,000 steps a day - or picking a landmark from your office or home, that you walk to and back. Once you have been able to tick off that goal on your habit tracker every day, without missing a day, you’re ready to increase your steps or distance for walking. Over time you increase these markers until you reach your ultimate goal or new habit. You could even look at writing down other little habits that enable you to go for your walk, like waking up at a certain time each morning to make it happen, putting on your shoes, drinking some water, etc. You do not walk - or do ANYTHING - in isolation, there are always a number of habits that create the whole.

James Clear talks more about Habit Stacking in “Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results”. This is a fantastic book which I’d highly recommend if you’d like to learn more about creating new habits. 

I’d love to hear how you went with using the Habit Tracker, with the focus on habit stacking smaller habits on top of each other. Please shoot me a message and let me know. And if you’re struggling to make a change, please reach out to us. Sometimes you need to do more than just use a tool like this, especially when habits are very culturally and generationally engrained. There may be a lot of neurological and coaching work needed, to create new neural pathways that will elicit new behaviour. Or sometimes you can have some nasty physiological imbalances which greatly affect the way you think and behave, like pathogens or depleted neurotransmitters causing food cravings, or mitochondria or toxin-related issues that are sapping your energy and motivation. If this is you, feel free to reach out! 


You can also join our Power Parent Society FaceBook Group for daily tips & support to become healthy & happy - https://www.facebook.com/groups/chrisandfilly/ 


Author: Chris Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. He is an accredited Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner and Life Coach. He has existed in high-performance realms of the sporting (think national athlete) & business industries and knows what it takes to get from struggle-city to thriving.  Together with his wife Filipa Bellette, Chris has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Chris’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from his own personal experience of Daddy Burnout, after juggling the demands of business, elite level sport, family and his own failing health.

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