Creating Anticipation: The Key to Successful Habit Formation

Learn how to create anticipation and make habit formation successful with this practical guide.
Creating Anticipation: The Key to Successful Habit Formation


Habits are the cornerstone of our daily lives. They dictate our routines and determine our actions and behaviours. However, forming new habits can be challenging, and often we give up before we even get started. What distinguishes successful habit formation from unsuccessful attempts is the ability to create anticipation. When we can anticipate the outcome of a particular habit, we are more likely to stick to it.

In this article, we will explore the concept of creating anticipation as the key to successful habit formation. We will discuss the science behind anticipation, its benefits, and provide actionable tips on how to integrate anticipation into your daily routine. Whether you aim to exercise more, eat healthier, or read more books, the principles outlined in this article will help you achieve your goals.

So, buckle up and get ready to learn about the power of anticipation in habit formation.

The Science of Anticipation

Anticipation is defined as the act of looking forward to something with eagerness or excitement. In the context of forming habits, anticipation plays a crucial role as it helps in building momentum and motivation towards achieving a particular goal. The concept of anticipation is based on the psychological principle that the brain thrives on rewards, and the anticipation of a reward triggers the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation.

Anticipation is key to habit formation for several reasons. First, it creates a sense of excitement and positive anticipation, making it easier to stick to a habit even on days when motivation is low. Second, it enables individuals to link the habit with a reward, making it more meaningful and reinforcing the behavior. Third, it creates a virtuous cycle of reward and motivation, leading to an increased likelihood of sticking to the habit long-term.

Studies have shown that the anticipation of a reward can be more motivating than the reward itself. For example, a study published in the journal Neuron found that the anticipation of a reward triggered the release of dopamine even more than the actual reward. This suggests that creating anticipation is a powerful tool for habit formation.

Benefits of Building Anticipation

Building anticipation has several benefits when it comes to forming habits. Firstly, it helps in creating a sense of excitement and eagerness towards the habit. This, in turn, makes it easier to stick to the habit and overcome any initial resistance or discomfort. Secondly, it increases the perceived value of the habit, making it more meaningful and reinforcing. Finally, it strengthens the neural pathways associated with the habit, making it easier to perform the habit automatically over time.

Research has shown that building anticipation increases the likelihood of forming lasting habits. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals who anticipated the positive outcomes of their goals were more likely to pursue their goals and achieve success than those who did not. This suggests that anticipating the benefits of forming a habit can make it easier to stick to the habit long-term.

Overall, creating anticipation is a powerful tool for habit formation. By understanding the psychology behind anticipation and its benefits, individuals can leverage this tool to form successful habits and achieve their goals.

Actionable Tips for Creating Anticipation

To create anticipation for habit formation, try these practical tips:

1. Setting a specific goal

Setting a specific goal is paramount when it comes to creating anticipation for habit formation. According to research, setting a goal increases one’s focus and motivation, which in turn promotes habits that are more likely to stick. To set achievable goals, consider the following tips:

  • Be specific: Avoid setting vague goals that can be easily forgotten or ignored. Instead, make sure your goals are clear and concise.

  • Make them achievable: Setting unattainable goals can be counterproductive as they can lead to disappointment and frustration. Instead, aim for goals that are challenging yet realistic.

  • Write them down: Writing down your goals can increase your commitment to them and make them more tangible.

2. Visualization

Visualization is a powerful tool that can help create anticipation for habit formation. By visualizing yourself performing a habit, you activate the same neural networks in your brain as if you were actually performing the habit. Here are some practical examples of visualization techniques:

  • Create a mental image of yourself performing the habit in vivid detail, including the sounds, smells, and sensations associated with it.

  • Use affirmations to reinforce the habit and motivate yourself, such as “I can do this” or “I am capable of forming this habit.”

  • Create a vision board that illustrates your desired outcome, including images, quotes, and phrases that inspire you.

3. Habit Stacking

Habit stacking is a technique that involves linking a new habit to an existing one. By doing so, you create anticipation for the new habit by associating it with an existing habit that you are already accustomed to. Here’s how to implement habit stacking:

  • Identify an existing habit that you perform daily, such as brushing your teeth.

  • Link a new habit to the existing one, such as doing push-ups after brushing your teeth.

  • Make sure the new habit is small and manageable, so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

4. Tracking Progress

Tracking your progress is essential to creating anticipation for habit formation. When you track your progress, you become more aware of your habits and gain insight into what works and what doesn’t. Here’s how to track your progress effectively:

  • Use a habit tracker app or a journal to record your progress daily.

  • Celebrate small victories along the way to motivate yourself.

  • Be consistent and committed to tracking your progress to see the best results.

By implementing these tips, you’ll be able to create anticipation for habit formation, making it easier to stick to your goals and develop successful habits.

Overcoming Common Challenges

Habit formation is not an easy process, and it is common to face several challenges along the way. Here are some of the common challenges that individuals face when forming habits and practical tips on how to overcome them.

Lack of Motivation

One of the most common challenges individuals face is a lack of motivation. It can be daunting to start a new habit, and when the initial excitement fades away, it can be challenging to maintain consistency.

To overcome this challenge, it is essential to remind yourself of your why. Why are you trying to form this habit? What are the benefits of this habit? Write down the answers to these questions and review them frequently. Also, try to break your habit into smaller chunks and focus on progress instead of perfection.


Procrastination can be a significant obstacle when it comes to habit formation. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll start tomorrow, and before you know it, days turn into weeks into months.

To overcome procrastination, try the 5-second rule. Whenever you’re tempted to postpone a task, count down from 5 and take action when you get to 1. Another technique is to break down the task into small, manageable bits and tackle them one at a time. Also, create an accountability system to keep you motivated and on track. This system can be a friend, coach, or app that reminds you to work on your habit.


Temptation can derail your habit-forming process. For instance, if you’re trying to form a habit of eating healthy, and someone offers you junk food, it can be difficult to resist.

To overcome temptation, try to eliminate or reduce the triggers that pull you towards the undesired habit. For instance, if junk food is your weakness, try to avoid places where you’re likely to encounter it. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks that you enjoy. Additionally, try to create a reward system for yourself. When you successfully resist temptation, reward yourself with something that aligns with your values.

Lack of Time

Many individuals find it difficult to form habits because they feel like they don’t have enough time. With work, family, and other commitments, there never seems to be enough time in the day.

To overcome this challenge, prioritize your habits and schedule them into your day. When you schedule your habits, you’re more likely to follow through. Additionally, try to eliminate distractions that steal your time, such as social media or excessive TV watching. Finally, learn to say no to commitments that don’t align with your values or goals.

By implementing these tips, you can overcome the common challenges of habit formation and achieve success in forming new habits. Remember that habit formation takes time and consistency. With perseverance and determination, you can create the life you desire.


Successful habit formation is essential for achieving personal and professional goals. Creating anticipation is the key to making that happen. By anticipating the rewards of positive behavior, we can guide our decisions and actions towards the accomplishment of our goals.

In this article, we’ve explored the importance of building anticipation and provided practical tips for doing so. We discussed the psychology of anticipation, the benefits of such anticipation, and the value of setting specific goals, visualization, habit stacking, and tracking progress.

Remember, creating anticipation is not always easy. There will be challenges along the way, but by following our guidance, readers can overcome common issues and succeed in forming long-lasting habits that help them reach their objectives.

So, if you want to create lasting changes in your life, start working on building anticipation today. We encourage you to apply the tips shared in this article and share it with others who could benefit from the insights as well. Success is within your reach, and it all starts with creating anticipation.