Each night before I went to sleep, I wrote out a plan for where I would exercise in the morning and what parts of my body I would focus on. Then, I put my sneakers right by my bed. Finally—and most important—I just went to sleep in my gym clothes. (And my mom wonders why I'm not married yet.) But the clothes were clean, and I had essentially decreased the activation energy enough so that when I woke up the next morning, all I had to do was roll off my bed, put my feet (which already had socks on them) into my shoes, and I was out the door. The decisions that seemed too daunting in my groggy morning state had been decided for me, ahead of time. And it worked. Eliminating the choices and reducing the activation energy made getting up and going to the gym the default mode. As a result, once I ingrained a lifetime positive habit of morning exercise, I now don't have to sleep in my gym clothes anymore.

Subsequently, in talking to athletes and nonathletes worldwide, I hear the same from both: Something weird happens in the human brain when you put your athletic shoes on—you start to think it is easier to just go work out now than to "take all this stuff back off again." In reality, it's easier to take off the shoes, but your brain, once it has tipped toward a habit, will naturally keep rolling in that direction, following the path of perceived least resistance.

This isn't just about getting yourself to exercise. Think of the positive changes you want to make at your job, and figure out what it would mean to "just get your shoes on" at work. The less energy it takes to kick-start a positive habit, the more likely that habit will stick.

Reprinted from the book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. Copyright 2010 by Shawn Achor. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.