Why stick to one habit at a time?
This is a tip that I’ve learned from years of “failure”. Sometimes, we feel that we need to improve everything in our lives right this very minute, but for most of us that is just not sustainable. In fact, the best way that I’ve found to do it is by changing only one habit at a time. Stick to one habit at a time in order to:
- Prevent getting overwhelmed. Building habits is not always as easy as putting your mind to something, more often than not, you’re going to experience trial and error, along with self-reflection and research before you get to where you want to be. This effort can take a huge toll on your mental energy, which in turn takes a toll on your self-control (Resistance Training For Your ‘Willpower’ Muscles). Without some level of self-control, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish everything you want to accomplish.
- Help stick it out. Jamesclear.com makes some really interesting, research-based points about sticking to only one habit at a time. The one that stuck out most to me was the fact that, “researchers found that people who tried to accomplish multiple goals were less committed and less likely to succeed than those who focused on a single goal.” The more habits you add to your list, the harder it’s going to be to stick to all of them.
- Boost your confidence. If you’re able to stick to a habit, you will feel like you can stick to another and another. According to medium.com, “If you can succeed in changing one habit, you’ll start to believe that you’re capable of change which will eventually create a ripple in all your other habits.”
In summary, by focusing on habit at a time, you’re giving yourself, and change, a fighting chance.
My experience with multiple habits
I’ve had many experiences with trying to implement multiple habits at once, all of which have ended miserably. The closest I’ve come to it succeeding has been more recently, and the only reason I can say it came close is because I was able to learn from that more recent failure. You may know this story if you’ve read my Introduction to Habit #3 post, but I’ll give a brief summary of it here.
When I started tracking my habits, I chose to start by waking up every morning at 6am. After some trial and error, and a bit of research, I decided to add a second habit, hoping that it would help me to wake up on time. My new habit was to go to bed by 9:30pm every night. Because I enjoy sleep, this worked well for a while. But after 30 days, I began to become TOO confident. I added another habit. I tied this habit to an existing routine, so it was decently easy as well. “One more habit,” I told myself after 15 days, “Things are going so well, I’m sure I can handle it.” This is where things began to get tricky. I added a habit that took a lot of thought and a lot of trial and error. Soon, I became overwhelmed, and my first two habits suffered because of it.
After some self-reflection, I decided to reduce my number of habits back to one. This time, I decided to take what I had learned over the last few months and use that to create a new and (hopefully) improved habit, Habit #3.
I’m not sure if I could have continued had I not added that fourth, more challenging habit, but from this experience and all of my past experiences, I’ve come to believe that one habit is the way to go. I know that there are some people out there that can take on more, but that is not the case for me and many others out there. This journey is about knowing who you are, and adjusting for things that happen unexpectedly. That’s all we can do, and I think that that’s okay.
Thanks for reading!