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How to change life for the better without radical changes
How to change life for the better without radical changes

Entrepreneur and blogger James Clear talks about why you should rebuild your habits gradually and not strive to achieve a hundred goals at a time.

How to change life for the better without radical changes
How to change life for the better without radical changes

Many people, myself included, want to do better in several areas of their lives at once. For example, I want my articles to be read by as many people as possible, I want to lift more weight in the gym, I want my actions to be rational and deliberate. These are just a few of the goals that I would like to achieve. I think you too have a long list of things that you would like to change.

The problem is that even if we persist in pursuing these goals, at some point there will be a desire to return to old habits. Lifestyle changes are actually very difficult.

Recently I have read several scientific studies from which it becomes clear how best to change lifestyle. You will find that the desire to change everything and immediately contradicts common sense.

Too many good intentions

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

Research confirms that your chances of reinforcing new habits are two to three times greater when you plan for when, where, and how you will stick with the new behavior.

For example, in one study, participants were asked to write the following phrase: "During the week I will do the exercises for at least 20 minutes [start date, time, place]." It turned out that people who just wrote a similar sentence began to do the exercises two or even three times more often than participants in the control group who did not make plans. Psychologists call such specific plans the realization of intention.

Hundreds of different psychological studies have confirmed that planning does help. So, the realization of the intention increased the likelihood that people will start playing sports, will give garbage for recycling, will devote more time to study and even quit smoking.

However, subsequent research has found that intent implementation only works when you are focused on one goal at a time. It turns out that people who are going to achieve multiple goals at once are less likely to succeed.

The takeaways from all of the above are: Develop a concrete plan for when, where, and how you will stick to a new habit - this will dramatically increase your chances of success. Provided that you will go to one goal at a time.

automatism: one goal
automatism: one goal

What Happens When You Are Focused on One Goal

When you're just starting to develop a new habit, it takes a lot of conscious effort to remember all the time how to do the right thing. After a while, the new behavior becomes easier for you. Eventually, a new habit becomes firmly established in your life, and you begin to perform this action unconsciously.

In psychology, there is a special term for this - automatism. Automatism is the ability to complete a task without thinking about each step or stage, so the pattern of behavior becomes habitual.

But here's 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 will bring it to automatism.

The graph below illustrates how long it usually takes people to get used to walking 10 minutes every day after breakfast. At the very beginning, the degree of automatism is low. After 30 days, this habit becomes common. After 60 days, the habit is performed automatically.

automatism: schedule
automatism: schedule

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

However, scientists have concluded that it takes 66 days on average for a habit to become automatic. A large-scale study was carried out from which the main conclusion can be drawn: it will take several months for new habits to become commonplace for you.

Change your life without changing your lifestyle

Let's take another look at all that has been said and draw three important conclusions from this.

  1. You are two to three times more likely to get used to the new behavior if you come up with a concrete plan in which you indicate how, where, and when you are going to implement it. In psychology, this is called the realization of intention.
  2. You must focus all your attention on one habit. It has been proven that the implementation of the intention does not work if you try to acquire several habits at once.
  3. Any habit can be done automatically if you practice a lot. It will take a couple of months to bring the habit to automaticity.

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

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