The biggest mistakes anyone can make in trying to change their habits is thinking that they can:
- Change entirely overnight
- Make the change in one huge leap
- Do the habit once and be “changed”
For any significant change you attempt to make in your life, you’re going to have to find a way to make it easy at the start and reward yourself. “Small Wins Theory” (a very popular idea but my understanding is from Switch) essentially states that we are significantly more motivated by a large number of incremental small wins than by one huge win, and it makes sense due to the diminishing marginal returns of happiness.
Applied to ourselves, it means that we will feel much more accomplished and thus more likely to continue with our new habits if we have ways of very easily and reliably succeeding at them from the get-go.
The First Question You Should Ask for Any New Habit:
A “Minimum Effective Dose” (popularized by The 4-Hour Body) is the smallest amount of something that will produce some degree of the desired effect. For developing a new habit, the first question you have to ask yourself is:
“What is the smallest amount of this that I can do, where I’ll still feel satisfied and accomplished”
Maybe you want to start exercising every day for an hour. That would be a huge change, so break it down to at least 15-20 minutes a day. Or maybe you want to cut caffeine out of your diet. Break it down to no caffeine after 5pm, and then scoot that time forward until it’s gone. Every time you do one of these very easy things successfully, you’re providing yourself with a small win, and ensuring that you’ll be more likely to continue this habit in the future and want to expand it.
(Image source: http://bit.ly/eRr9wf)