How to build good habits for Resilience

Hello everyone Floyd Meyer here I am a Physician Assistant with a Master’s in public health, a degree in molecular biology, and I am currently working in physical medicine and rehabilitation. 

Today we are continuing our series on Resilience which is the ability to remain well, recover, or even thrive in the face of adversity.

Now more than ever, it is important to build a foundation of resilience so that you can positively adapt to and rise above adversity.  This adversity can come in the form of something physical like needing to run away from a dangerous situation, mental like adapting to new social unrest, or as we have recently seen immunological where your body needs to fend off a novel viral infection.

The key to being resilient is CONSISTENCY.

In order to have physical resilience you need to be consistent with your lifestyle choices. Consistent action is how you build the foundation of resilience.

Let’s imagine a situation that you would need to be physically resilient, meaning you would need to quickly adapt to a physically stressful event. Say you are walking with a small child maybe it is your own child maybe they are a niece or nephew, and just then a fight breaks out right in front of you.

In this moment you need to have the capacity not only to get away from the situation yourself, but you may need to pick up the child and run away carrying them.

Do you think you would be able to handle this increased capacity without injury if you only exercised once per month? Do you think that will be enough? And say you were consistent exercising 3 times per week for one month, do you think that will be enough if this happens 5 years later?

We never know when difficulty will arise, but we can be sure it will happen eventually, and because of this we need to remain resilient to handle these situations.

To be consistent you need to form good habits. Most people think of forming new habits at the beginning of the New Year, but you can form good habits at any time.

Habit transformation is an obviously a difficult thing otherwise we would all have tons of good habits and no bad habits, but just because something is difficult doesn’t mean we don’t have any control over it.

Real Sustainable Habit transformation comes down to 3 main things the cue, the habit, and the reward.

Many people think that when they are doing things that they know is wrong it is because of a lack of willpower, but not only is that way of thinking wrong it is dangerous.

Most of our life is spent running subconscious programs that are activated based on cues or triggers in our environment.

Some people believe that this mindset makes you a victim, but it’s the opposite because we have control over our environment which puts us in control of our habits and behaviors.

Habits are broken down into 3 main parts. The cue, the habit, and the reward.

Let’s go through some simple examples of good and bad habits to clarify.

Say someone has a good habit of drinking a glass of water when they wake up in the morning. When they wake up, they go down stairs, and sitting there on the counter is an empty glass. This is the cue in the environment. The person then takes the glass, fills it up, and drinks it just as they have been doing for years. The reward then is the relief of that dry mouth feeling most people experience in the mornings. The reward reinforces the habit of drinking the water.

Now let’s look at a bad example. Say you have someone who eats late at night. They are sitting on the couch watching TV and a pizza commercial comes on. This is the cue in the environment. The person then gets up and walks to the fridge, opens the door, and sitting right there is some left over pizza from the weekend. The person then acts out the habit by putting the pizza in the microwave and eating it. The reward is the satiating feeling they get from the high fat, high carb, artificial flavoring combination that lights up our internal reward pathways.

In neither of these examples was willpower involved. They were simply responding to a cue in their environment with a behavior they have been doing for a long time and receiving a reward.

When you are looking to create new habits or get rid of old ones you need to be acutely aware of these 3 things if you want to give yourself the best chance of succeeding.


Really take the time to figure out why you do the things that you do. What are the triggers in your environment that are cuing you to act out certain behaviors? What rewards are you getting for acting out that behavior?

Something I frequently talk about with my patients is when you are looking to add in new habits or behaviors it can be easier to focus on the things that you are already doing, and link your new habits to those same cues and rewards.

Say for instance that you already do a good job of walking each day, but you want to drink more water. If you take a step back and think what is cuing me to walk? Is it an alarm you set on your phone, is it your dog barking at you to take him out, is it your tennis shoes sitting by the door that is cuing you to get up and walk? Once you figure this out then you can link your new habit of drinking water to this same cue.

Now when your alarm goes off to tell you to walk, you put on your shoes and link your new habit of drinking a glass of water before you go out.

This is how you make real sustainable habit transformation!

And if you want to make it extra resilient reward yourself doubly either with something tangible or saying out loud Yes I am doing this I am achieving my goal of drinking more water. I can do this!

If you can think about your habits and behaviors through this lens of cue, habit, reward you can more easily make meaningful change to your life regardless of what time of the year it is.

One more important point is that when you are adding in new habits pick something that is so easy that you can’t not do it. So many people pick new habits like I am going to go to the gym and workout for an hour every day. That is WAY too much.

When you are forming new habits make it SUPER SIMPLE! And I mean really simple. So simple that you almost have to do it.

Going back to the previous example of drinking more water. You have already done a great job by figuring out that the alarm on your phone is the cue in your environment, and you are linking your new action to this cue. Now you could say you need to drink a big glass of water, but even this is too big of jump for many people. So instead, change your new habit to when the alarm goes off I am going to put on my shoes and take one sip of water.

That’s it just one sip of water.

You are making the new habit so easy to do that you would feel silly not doing it. You are removing any barriers that will stop you. You don’t even need to get a cup to take just 1 sip of water. And if you do more great, but no matter what you are going to at least take one sip of water every time that alarm goes off and then reward yourself for it.

Once you do that for a few weeks or maybe even months, and you have really solidified the habit, you can then start to increase how much you drink each time. 

I want to credit James Clear as many of these ideas come from his book on habit transformation called Atomic Habits so if you are interested in learning more on this topic I would recommend starting there.

Remember consistency is the foundation of resilience. We will be building on this topic of increasing resilience in the coming weeks and months.

If this resonated with you please share with your friends and family and subscribe and follow for more of this content. The time for action is now. Again this is Floyd Meyer. Have a great day!


Bircher, J. (2005). Towards a Dynamic Definition of Health and Disease. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 8(3), 335–341. doi:10.1007/s11019-005-0538-y 

Clear, J. (2019). ATOMIC HABITS: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones. Random House Business.

LeBrasseur, N. K. (2017). Physical Resilience: Opportunities and Challenges in Translation. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 72(7), 978–979. doi:10.1093/gerona/glx028 

Matuska, Kathleen. (2014). The Art and Science of Resilience. OTJR : occupation, participation and health. 34. 2-3. 10.3928/15394492-20131211-01.

Whitson, H. E., Duan-Porter, W., Schmader, K. E., Morey, M. C., Cohen, H. J., & Colón-Emeric, C. S. (2015). Physical Resilience in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Development of an Emerging Construct. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 71(4), 489–495. doi:10.1093/gerona/glv202 


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