To Change Your Life, Pick One Thing and Do It
Focusing on one new habit at a time is the key to lasting change.
Posted Jan 04, 2019 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
Are you motivated to make a significant change in your life, right now? That’s a powerful feeling. Let’s leverage that motivation and potential you’ve got right now, and make it really happen for you.
First of all, though you may have several areas of your life that you’d like to see change, you need to pick just one to start. I'll tell you why in a moment.
Let’s get right to it:
1. Pick your “thing.”
Choose something that:
- You really want to change.
- You know that you’d really benefit from it if you changed it.
- You can realistically change, starting now.
For example, I've decided to focus on exercising more. To really get serious about it. I’m a relatively active person (walk the dog every day, get to the gym 2-3 times a week), but the amount I’ve been exercising isn’t enough to be as fit and full of energy and strength as I want to be.
I know, from reading study after study, that working out 4-5 times a week (and pushing myself more with both cardio and weights) will dramatically improve my mood, appearance, health, and overall resilience.
I really want these results, so I’m motivated. I know that making this change would be life-changing. I can make the time in my schedule, and I already go to a nearby gym.
So, what “thing” are you going to do?
2. Decide how, when, and where you’re going to do it.
Research shows that if you are intentional about how, when, and where you are going to do a new behavior, you are more than twice as likely to actually do it.
I’m going to go to the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, because those are the best days for me. I’m going to do a combination of cardio, weights, core work, and stretching each time. This is a realistic commitment.
How, when, and where are you going to implement your new habit? Be realistic.
Sometimes it's a good idea to start small and build up over time. That may give you the best chance at making something stick, versus starting out overly ambitious and then flaming out.
I'm going to start with doing 30 minutes of cardio but will plan to build it up to 45 minutes over time.
3. Imagine your life in 10 years, with and without the habit.
If you implement this new habit or change, and it sticks, what will be the result 10 years from now?
If you don’t take your commitment seriously enough and give up after a few weeks, what will that mean for your life 10 years from now?
As an example, if I exercise this often and this intensely, I will likely look and feel great in 10 years. I’ll age much more slowly and have much more energy to do all the different things I want to keep doing as I get older. If I give in to laziness and don’t make the effort… well, let’s just say that it won't be pretty (I have personally written out a much more detailed, depressing description).
I encourage you, too, to write out a description of both of these options: Describe in great detail how it will impact your life in 10 years if you do this thing, and what your life would be like if you don't.
Writing the two scenarios out will go a long way toward keeping you on track when you’re inevitably tempted to quit.
4. Keep your goal in your mind every day.
When you pick just one thing to change, you can laser-focus on it. It will stay top of mind. You won’t get distracted by trying to do a bunch of things at once. Your excuses will be forced to disappear because you said you’d do this. This one simple thing.
When you get up in the morning, think of your “thing." When are you going to do it today? How? Where? Do this every day. Keep it on the top of your mind.
Try to get it done early in the day if you can. I used to plan to work out at the end of my workday, but fitness would constantly get shoved aside by things that came up. I’d end up running out of time. That won’t happen if I do it first thing in the morning. Doing it first means that when I say that exercising a top priority, it really is.
5. Once it’s locked in, move on to the next thing.
You might resist picking just one thing because you feel like you need to change multiple things in your life. Won’t it take too long for your life and results to change, if you just do one thing?
Not at all. Studies show that implementing one new habit at a time is the smarter way to go. It takes a couple of months for most people to lock in a habit to the point that it becomes automatic.
Once your “thing” has become woven into the fabric of your life, to the point that you don’t need to make yourself do it (or remind yourself to do it) anymore, pick a new thing.
One new habit at a time, you will live your way into lasting, powerful, positive change.
Can you feel how good this feels?
You make a promise to yourself and keep it. Since it’s just one promise, it’s so much simpler.
This dramatically increases the odds that you’ll succeed.
Now go out there and do it!