How to change your life for the better without drastic changes

Too many good intentions

If you want to acquire several good habits at once (not for a couple of days, but for good), you need to understand how not to abandon everything halfway.


Research confirms that your chances of establishing new habits increase 2-3 times if you make a specific plan: when, where and how you will adhere to the new behavior.


For example, one study asked participants to write the following phrase: "During the week, I will exercise for at least 20 minutes on [start date, time, place]." It turned out that people who simply wrote such a sentence began exercising two or even three times more often than participants in the control group who made no plans. Psychologists call such concrete plans the realization of intention.


That planning actually helps has been confirmed by hundreds of different psychological studies. For example, the realization of the intention increased the likelihood that people would start exercising, give up trash for recycling, spend more time studying and even quit smoking.


However, subsequent research found that intention realization only works when you focus on one goal at a time. It turns out that people who intend to achieve several goals at once are less likely to succeed.

What happens when you focus on one goal

When you first start a new habit, it takes a lot of conscious effort to remember to do the right thing all the time. After a while, the new behavior comes easier for you. Eventually, the new habit enters firmly into your life, and you begin to perform the action unconsciously.


There is a special term for this in psychology: automatism. Automatism is the ability to do a thing without thinking about every step or step, so the pattern of behavior becomes habitual.


But here is what is important to understand: automatism does not arise by itself. It is the result of a lot of repetition and practice. The more times you repeat an action, the faster you can make it automatic.


The graph below illustrates how long it usually takes for people to get into the habit of walking for 10 minutes every day after breakfast. In the beginning, the degree of automatism is low. After 30 days, the habit becomes common. After 60 days, the habit is done on automatic.


The most important thing in this case is to overcome the tipping point at which performing the habit at least to a small extent becomes automatic. The time it takes to acquire a new habit is different for everyone and depends on many factors: how difficult the new behavior is, the environment, genetics and more.


Nevertheless, scientists have concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a habit to become automatic. There was a large-scale study, from which we can draw the main conclusion: it will take a few months for new habits to become commonplace for you.


Change your life without changing your lifestyle

Let's take another look at all of this and draw three important conclusions from it.


You are two or three times more likely to get used to a new behavior if you develop a specific plan in which you specify how, where, and when you are going to implement it. In psychology, this is called implementing the intention.

You must focus all of your attention on one habit. It is proven that the realization of intention does not work if you try to acquire several habits at once.

Any habit can be done on automatic if you practice it a lot. It takes a couple of months to bring a habit to automatism.

Although it defies logic and common sense, the best way to change your life is not to change it. At least radically. Instead, you should focus on one particular habit, work on your behavior, and bring it to automatism. Then you just need to repeat the same routine for the next habit.


If you want to achieve multiple goals in the long run, just focus on one goal right now.


The conclusion from all of the above is this: develop a specific plan for when, where, and how you will stick to your new habit - it will dramatically increase your chances of success. As long as you go for one goal at a time.


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