The New Habit Challenge: Trick Yourself Into Accomplishing Your Goals

Use visual cues to remind you on a daily or even hourly basis about your goals and the tasks needed to accomplish them.

The New Habit Challenge: Trick Yourself Into Accomplishing Your Goals
[Photo: Flickr user Josiah Mackenzie]

Editor’s Note: This story is part of 5 Habits Changes You Can Actually Make In 2015. Check out the full list here.


From Got Milk ads that make us crave a glass of milk each time we eat a chocolate chip cookie to big, jolly depictions of Santa Claus that make us thirsty for some Coca-Cola, marketers have been using visual triggers for a long time to trick us into associating one thing with the need to buy their products.

What if we could use the same concept for good and remind ourselves to accomplish our goals?

Dan Heath and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, suggest placing visual clues from our daily lives in prominent places to trick yourself into accomplishing your goals.

Here’s how to do it: Start by making a list of goals you want to accomplish. Next, think of what environmental cues you would associate with each goal. And lastly, place these cues in a prominent place where you’ll see them. These visual clues will elicit the lasting effect you need to create psychological connections between your goals and the things you commonly encounter in your daily regimen.

For example, you could place pink running shoes in front of your bedroom door to remind yourself to work out. Or you could change your computer and online passwords to phrases that remind you of your goals. This man used passwords like Forgive@h3r to recover after a depressing divorce and Quit@smoking4ever to stop smoking overnight.

For the next week, I plan to see if establishing visual cues can help me accomplish my goals. I hope you’ll join me.


Log on to our New Habit Challenge Live Chat on Friday, December 5 at 11 a.m. EST to find out how it went and share your thoughts. Or send an email with what you loved or hated about the challenge to by end of day Thursday, December 4.

About the author

Rachel Gillett is a former editorial assistant for’s Leadership section. Her work has been featured on,, and elsewhere.