Why Should You Change One Habit at a Time?

Have you ever tried to change your routine all at once? It can be pretty daunting, especially if you’re trying to establish new habits. You can quickly get overwhelmed and end up reverting back to your old ways.

Instead of trying to overhaul your entire routine at once, it’s better to focus on changing one habit at a time. This is more manageable and less overwhelming. Plus, you’re more likely to stick with it this way.

If you’re thinking about making some changes to your routine, here are some reasons why you should NOT try to do everything all at once & what you SHOULD do instead.

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Why Change Your Habits?

Many research studies pointed out that establishing new habits or breaking old ones can positively impact our mental and physical health. It can also increase our happiness and satisfaction with life.

Changing your habits, whether it’s your morning routine, work schedule, or exercise regime, can have many benefits. It can improve your productivity, help you break bad habits, and lead to a healthier lifestyle. 

For many people, habit change is a way to reach their goals and improve their overall well-being. For others, it can be a necessary step in coping with stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Some times, these changes come out of necessity, such as a change in circumstances or a wake-up call from a health scare. Other times, it’s simply a desire for personal growth and self-improvement.

Whatever your reason for wanting to change your routine, it’s important to approach it in a sustainable way. Trying to change too much at once can lead to burnout and make it harder to stick with the changes in the long run. 

The Habit Loop Trap

The original idea of the habit loop consists of three parts: the trigger, the routine, and the reward, in which the routine is a repeated behavior. 

We have a cue that triggers a specific behavior, and we receive a reward for completing the routine. This loop can be beneficial when it comes to creating healthy habits, but it can also work against us.

An example of a habit loop is the trigger of seeing your running shoes, which prompts you to go for a run (the routine), and the reward is feeling energized and accomplished afterward. 

According to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” our brains are wired to create and follow this loop. It’s what allows us to perform everyday tasks without constantly having to think about them.

However, this same habit loop can also work against us when we’re trying to change our routines. When we try to change too many habits at once, it’s like throwing a wrench into the well-oiled machine of our brains. 

It disrupts the habitual pattern and can make us feel uncomfortable and uneasy, making it harder to commit to the new changes.

Imagine trying to cut out sugar, exercise 5 times a week, and meditate every day all at once. It’s likely that you won’t be able to keep up with all of these changes and will end up feeling overwhelmed and defeated. 

To put it simply, our brains can only handle so much change at once. By trying to change everything all at once, we can overload our brain and end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

Although the idea of the habit loop is to make habits automatic, changing habits requires conscious effort and willpower. So, it’s important to focus on one habit at a time to give ourselves the best chance of success.

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The Problem with Changing Everything at Once

As mentioned earlier, trying to change your entire routine at once can be overwhelming and unrealistic. 

It’s not sustainable in the long run and can lead to frustration and disappointment. And, sad but true, it’s the reason why our New Year’s resolutions often fail.

When we try to change too much at once, we’re essentially setting ourselves up for failure. By taking on too many changes, we increase the chances of slipping back into old habits because it’s hard to stay motivated and committed when there are too many changes happening all at once.

You’re More Likely to Get Overwhelmed and Give Up

That is exactly what is going to happen if you keep piling on a bunch of new habits to start at once. You will quickly get overwhelmed and won’t want to do anything. This can cause you to give up on your goals entirely.

When you’re trying to make a change, it’s important to ease into it. If you try to do too much at once, you’ll just end up feeling burnt out and frustrated. You won’t be able to focus on anything and will probably end up giving up altogether.

You Won’t Be Able to Focus

When you’re trying to change multiple habits at once, you won’t be able to focus on any of them. This is because your brain can only focus on so many things at once. As a result, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and it can lead to you not making any progress at all.

It’s much better to focus on one habit at a time before moving to the next habit. This way, you can give that habit your full attention. Once you’ve got it down, you can move on to the next one. It also makes sense since it takes time to form a new habit. 

You Won’t Be as Motivated

When you’re trying to change multiple habits at once, it can be hard to stay motivated. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see results right away as you would if you’re just focused on one habit. And, when you don’t see results, it’s easy to give up.

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You Might Not Be as Successful

If you’re trying to change multiple habits at the same time, you might not be as successful as you would be if you only focused on one habit since it’s harder to stick to multiple habits than just one.

You’ll have to be extra diligent in order to make sure you’re successful. However, it’s not a sustainable way of changing your habits since it’s harder to maintain. 

At the end of the day, it will just make you more frustrated than anything, and this will lead to a higher chance of you giving up. So, what’s the solution?

It’s Easier to Make Excuses

When you’re trying to change multiple habits, it’s easy to make excuses as to why you can’t do them. This will eventually develop into a never-ending cycle where you’re constantly making excuses and not making any progress. You could end up developing bad habits this way too.

For example, if you’re trying to eat better and exercise more, you might find yourself making excuses as to why you can’t go to the gym or cook a healthy meal. “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t have the energy” are all excuses we often use.

You Might Miss Important Details

The last thing you want to do is miss important details when you’re trying to change your habits. However, when you’re trying to focus on multiple things at once, it’s easy to let some things slip through the cracks.

For example, if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight, you might find yourself not paying attention to how much sugar is in your food or how many calories you’re eating. As a result, you might not see the results you want because you’re not being as diligent as you should be.

Or, assume you’re trying to be more productive and organized. You might start off strong, but then find yourself forgetting to follow through with certain tasks or letting your inbox get out of control. Suddenly, you’re back to where you started!

The point is, when you try to change too many things at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and make mistakes. It’s better to focus on one habit at a time so that you can give it your full attention and make sure you’re doing it right.

What Is the 1% Habit Rule?

For those unfamiliar, the 1% habit rule is a popular approach to changing habits. The idea behind it is that instead of trying to make drastic changes all at once, you should focus on improving by just 1% every single day.

At first, this may not seem like much, but over time these small incremental changes can add up to significant improvements in your normal routine and overall well-being. The key is to be consistent and patient, as sustainable change takes time.

Scientific research has also shown that small, consistent actions lead to lasting changes in our brains. The science-based reason behind this is that our brain gradually rewires itself based on the habits and behaviors we consistently engage in.

So, by focusing on just 1% improvement each day, you are essentially training your brain to adopt these changes as automatic habits over time. This makes it easier to maintain them and make even more progress towards your goals.

On the other hand, psychology research has also found that trying to make too many changes at once can lead to decision fatigue, making it harder for us to stick to our goals and create lasting change.

In other words, when you’re trying to make multiple changes at once, you’re using up a lot of your mental energy and willpower. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where it becomes too much to handle and you’ll revert back to old habits.

This approach also allows you to focus on one habit at a time, rather than trying to juggle multiple changes at once. By mastering one habit before moving on to the next, you can build a strong foundation for lasting change.

Now that we’ve discussed the problem with trying to change everything at once, let’s dive into how you can effectively use the 1% habit rule to make positive changes in your life

The Snowball Effect

One of the best things about focusing on one habit at a time is that it creates a snowball effect. Think about it — when you are consistent with one habit, it makes it easier to add and stick to another. And then, another.

This is because you’ve already built up the discipline and routine for one habit, making it easier to incorporate another into your daily life. It’s like building a strong foundation before adding on more layers.

For example, if you want to start eating healthier, you might start by incorporating one serving of vegetables into your meals each day. Once this becomes a habit, you can then add on another healthy behavior, like drinking more water or limiting your sugar intake.

Before you know it, these small changes will have added up to a healthy diet that you can easily maintain. This snowball effect applies to any habit you want to change — from fitness to productivity to self-care.

Better habits lead to better routines, and ultimately, a better life. So, if you want to see long-term results and avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one habit at a time and watch the snowball effect take place. 

How to Change One Habit at a Time

In the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, he explains that changing just one habit can create a ripple effect and lead to other positive changes. By focusing on one habit at a time, we can break the cycle of the habit loop and create lasting change.

Whether it’s your daily habit (e.g. skipping breakfast), specific habit (like biting your nails), or just tiny habits (a small action you do regularly), if they’re not serving you well, it’s time to change things up for the better.

And, obviously, if you can see the results of your new good habits, you will be more encouraged to stick with it. By focusing on one habit at a time, you can make sure you’re doing the right things to see progress.

Start with Small Step and Build Momentum

Changing one simple habit at a time also allows you to start small and build momentum. By starting with smaller, more achievable goals, you can gain confidence and motivation as you see yourself making progress. This will help you stay motivated to continue making changes and building new habits.

For example, if your goal is to exercise more regularly, start by committing to just 10 minutes of physical activity each day. 

As you build the habit and see the benefits, you can gradually increase your exercise time or add in different types of workouts.

It’s More Sustainable

Ultimately, changing one habit at a time is more sustainable. This approach allows you to focus on one single goal at a time, giving it your full attention and energy.

On the other hand, trying to change everything at once can quickly lead to burnout and giving up on your goals altogether.

Since different areas of life will require different amounts of your time and energy (think physical health vs. career goals), focusing on one thing at a time makes it more manageable and sustainable in the long run.

You Can See Results Faster

Seeing the results from your habit change is a great source of motivation. When you focus on one habit at a time, you can see the progress you’re making more clearly and feel more motivated to continue.

Let’s say, your plan is to lose weight and build muscle. By focusing on eating healthier first, you can start to see the number on the scale go down and feel more energized from your new diet. 

This will give you the motivation to continue and eventually add in regular exercise, resulting in even more progress.

All in all, it’s all about building a strong foundation and seeing results along the way, rather than trying to do everything at once and feeling overwhelmed. 

Atomic Habits Make the Differences

In his New York Times bestseller book “Atomic Habits,” author James Clear emphasizes the importance of focusing on small, incremental changes in order to achieve lasting results. 

By making small tweaks or just tiny actions and being consistent with them over time, we can create big changes in our habits and ultimately, our lives.

So remember, when it comes to changing your habits, slow and steady wins the race. Don’t try to do everything at once, focus on one habit at a time, and watch as these small changes add up to big results. 

Back to the example of trying to eat healthier and exercise more, by starting with just one habit – eating healthier – you can eventually build up the discipline and motivation to tackle regular exercise as well. And before you know it, you’ll have created a healthier lifestyle for yourself! 

Or, if your goal is to be more organized and productive, start by implementing a small habit like making your bed every morning. 

As you see the positive impact it has on your day, you can gradually add in other habits like planning out your tasks for the day or decluttering your workspace.

Atomic habits, while they are small and seemingly insignificant, lay the foundation for long-lasting positive changes in our lives. 

So don’t underestimate the power of changing just one habit at a time – it could make all the difference, both in the short-term and in the long run. 

Keep it simple, consistent, and focused, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a better version of yourself. 

Healthy Habit Formation

Habit formation is a definition of the way you do things repeatedly such that it becomes your second nature and part of your DNA. 

When it comes to habit formation, consistency is key. By focusing on one healthy habit at a time, you can create a system for yourself that promotes a lot of conscious effort to make your habits work for you. 

This means that by making small changes and doing them repeatedly, they will eventually become an effortless part of your daily routine.

For example, you start a new habit of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning. At first, it may seem like a conscious decision you have to make every day. 

But over time, it will become an automatic action that you do without even thinking about it. Then, after a certain amount of time, this habit becomes a part of your daily routine without any effort on your part. That’s the power of consistency and building one habit at a time.

Whether it’s eating healthier, exercising regularly, or being more organized, by prioritizing one habit at a time, you increase the chances of successfully forming and maintaining that habit.

So don’t be afraid to start small and focus on just one habit at a time. It may seem slow, but in the long run, it can lead to lasting and positive changes in your life.  

Final Thoughts

Changing one habit at a time may seem like it will take longer, but in the end, it will be more successful, and you are less likely to give up. 

Remember, it’s not a counting game to find out who can change the most habits at once. It’s about making a lasting and positive change in your own life. 

Instead of overhauling your entire routine, it’s much more effective to change one habit at a time. This gives you the opportunity to slowly adapt to the new behavior and make it a part of your daily routine. 

Once you’ve mastered one habit, you can move on to another, and another, until you’ve transformed your life for the better. 

Making a permanent lifestyle change, regardless of how small, takes time and consistency. Your brain need time to adapt and form the new routine and new connections, but once it does, the changes will become effortless.

So be patient, stay focused on one habit at a time, and watch as your efforts pay off in the long run. 

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