How to Create Healthy Habits: An Interview with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

“The beginning of a habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably, thought and act.”

-Orison Swett Marden

By far, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned this entire year is that habit change is a skill. Learn the skill, and you take control of your actions and life.

Fail to understand your habits, though, and you’re a creature of circumstance — controlled by distractions and a slave to the whims of the present moment. I’ve had plenty of experience with this situation, as most people have. But the important thing to know is that you can learn to change.

You can get a sense of the excitement I felt upon discovering this and putting it into action in my post from the summer called How I’ve Begun Changing My Life, One Habit a Time.

I have Leo Babauta to thank for introducing me to the power of habits, and teaching me to take charge of my own. As most of the internet knows, Leo writes the blog Zen Habits, and I’m grateful today to have the chance to share this interview I did with him earlier this week.

I hope you enjoy it, but more importantly, I hope you use it.

(If you’re reading in email or an RSS reader, you may need to view the video on site or view it on YouTube.)

Simple Fitness Habit: The Fitness Program that Sticks

At the end of the interview, Leo and I talk about his new program, Simple Fitness Habit. Before I say more nice things about it, you should know I’m a contributor to Simple Fitness Habit and an affiliate for it as well. My contribution (so far!) has been in writing the half marathon training section and providing my Marathon Roadmap ebook as a bonus for some membership levels. I’ll also be doing a webinar, a Q&A, and hopefully a lot more with the program in the future.

Anyway, I’m genuinely excited about Simple Fitness Habit, as it’s the only fitness program I’ve ever seen that helps people to change by incorporating these powerful principles of habit engineering, instead of simply relying on willpower to make the changes last. I’m even planning on giving it as a gift to several people I love who have had trouble starting their own exercise habits.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s inside Simple Fitness Habit, check it out here!

Thanks so much to Leo for taking the time to do this interview and share so much good stuff about how to engineer your habits!



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  1. Sounds a lot like the principles behind Spark People works in stages to build upon first small tiny habits. It teaches you how to set goals and work toward them. It really changed my life. 🙂

  2. On one hand, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”

    Others say, however, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    Similarly, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds …”

  3. Thank you, Matt for sharing this stellar interview with Leo. I love the emphasis on baby steps and self-love. Shame and other such self-inflicted violence rarely reverse deep seated habits. Only love, gentle support and fun rewards have ever worked for this Ninja Baker.

    P.s. Although I started exercising to compensate for my sweet tooth, I really became addicted as I discovered it’s a fantastic stress buster!

  4. Great interview, love the part about a gradual shift to a no-animal way of eating. For me, it was gradual and I think you’re able to learn more this way. You really soak up new information on food and your body as you slowly replace meat with lentils. I have a friend who went cold turkey vegan and is 4 months strong, she’s one of those rockstars that simply cut everything or from one day to the next. Amazing, I say!

    • Nicole, I think you’re a rockstar as much as your friend–cold turkey or slow and steady; both are going the same direction and will get the same results. Congrats on making positive changes!

  5. Excellent interview! I really like Leo and his approach to life. Habits are hard to break and hard to form. I am 6+ months plant-strong, having gone cold turkey vegan on May 1st!! I’ve never felt more energetic or healthy.

  6. I love this interview and the important points that you discuss. I never (literally–NEVER!) thought of going at change one small habit at a time. For me it’s always been sweeping change (like becoming a vegetarian on my own at age 9). Sometimes it was successful for me, sometimes not. But I love this approach and am already planning how to implement some of what you and Leo discuss. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  7. Pinned and tweeted your website. Hope you will take a peek at mine. Moving your body is one of my daily 12 emotional fitness exercises. Emotional fitness is what some call Emotional Intelligence. Sharing and caring (Practicing Kindness is another of the Daily Twelve.)

    Stay strong, I am 75 and still working at doing so.


  1. […] This one’s a little controversial, but some people respond more readily to the stick than the carrot. […]

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