September 15, 2017

How To Create Healthy Long-Lasting Habits Using the ‘PERSIST’ Model

How To Create Healthy Long-Lasting Habits Using the 'PERSIST' Model
Unlocking Happiness at Work Cover

Have you ever struggled with building new habits?And even when you do create new habits, how successful are you in sticking with them long-term?

The following is an excerpt from Jennifer Moss’s book Unlocking Happiness At Work: How A Data-Driven Happiness Fuels Purpose, Passion And Performance on how to create lasting habits.

To ensure I formed new and improved current leadership habits, I developed my own standard for building habits that stick.  

The PERSIST model continues to support my happiness routine, and hopefully it can support your efforts as well:

P – Practical:  

Building a habit isn’t about making it into the Guinness Book of World Records.  Attempting to only eat potatoes for an entire year isn’t a habit that is necessarily worth building.  

Trying to increase the automaticity of practical applications of our life adds so much more value than attempting to make something novel part of our every day.  Although novelty is important to infuse in our lives, habit building is about opening up bandwidth in our brain to attend to other aspects of our life.  And by other aspects I mean the ones we take for granted, or ignore because we are too emotionally bogged down.

E – Enduring:  

Keep in mind that building good habits should not reach an end point and looking for that ‘out’ will actually derail your efforts. Focus instead on thinking about this effort as a permanent change to your ingrained, patterned behaviour. And remember to choose your habits wisely because the change often has a ripple effect.

R – Repeatable:  

Make it a daily intervention.  Going back to the benefits of neuroplasticity and those lazy heuristics, we want to get our highest-performing thoughts to travel the easiest neural pathways.  

If we reinforce a behaviour through repetition, our brain will start to naturally select that behaviour over another.  We are not dieting.  With effort, we’ll aim to change our behaviours permanently.

S – Simple:  

Keeping the tasks simple will yield a quicker path to automaticity.  More complex habits will take longer.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to attempt more complicated habits;  we should just start with quick wins.

I – Incremental:  

Want to get up earlier?  Rather than make a big move and setting your clock for 4 am, start by setting your clock five minutes earlier until the desired wake time has been reached.  Incremental changes will develop more sustainable habits than will sweeping changes.

S – Short:  

Keep the amount of time spent on developing a habit inside a short timeframe.  We don’t require hours of yoga every day to become more mindful.  Start with two minutes of quiet, focused breathing once per day – then twice.  It should feel like more of the same activity versus a huge investment of time all at once.

T – Targeted:

Keep in mind that 21 days to build a habit is a myth.  Trust that by following a routine and making small, incremental steps (whether it takes 18 or 180 days) will eventually build the behaviour that forms a habit.

PERSIST was a terrific way to keep me motivated and on track

And, I continue to enjoy all positive benefits of a more organized personal and professional life.  My brain bandwidth is focused on the immediate decisions at hand, and my subconscious brain is reminding me to act with compassion, emotional control, hopefulness, gratitude, resilience and a host of other traits that maintain my happiness on a daily basis.

Now that we have the science to explain how habits are formed in the brain and a few examples of how that healthy habit can be formed into everyday behaviours, let’s put the learning into practice.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, from Unlocking Happiness At Work: How A Data-Driven Happiness Fuels Purpose, Passion And Performance (Kogan Page/2016). For more information, please visit

About the author

Honored as the 2016 Canadian Business Innovator of the Year, Jennifer Moss and her groundbreaking work on the power of happiness are transforming hundreds of schools and companies. Moss is the Cofounder of Plasticity Labs, a tech company that provides organizations with the tools to tap into employee sentiment and increase workplace happiness.

Moss is the author of Unlocking Happiness at Work and also the Cofounder of The HERO Generation, a non-profit that is implementing Moss’ gratitude-based HERO model in schools with the aim of decreasing teacher and student stress and increasing well-being and performance. Moss speaks frequently to general audiences about how happiness in the workplace or classroom gives companies and schools a competitive advantage; most recently she has presented at SXSW, TEDXWomen and the Chatelaine’s W100.

To learn more, visit her website

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