5 Reasons Small Habits Are The Recipe For Success


Research, personal experience, and common sense teaches us that success doesn’t happen overnight. Consistent daily practice is the best recipe for success. Creating BIG life-changing habits is a difficult process that usually leads to failure. Stop relying on willpower and good intentions to change your life for good. For real change that lasts, focus on small daily habits for lasting results.


Creating New Habits Doesn’t Have to Be a Struggle


I know it’s tough sometimes. There are so many goals in life that you want to do. Building new habits can feel like swimming upstream. Like you are fighting for every breath as life pushes you back, wave after wave.

You know what I am talking about…

  • You get a great idea for an ebook you want to write. You sit down to write the first draft and the words just aren’t there. You stare at the blank screen. The anxious feeling creeps in and you decide to take a break and come back to it tomorrow. Only to never touch it again.
  • You decide it’s finally time to drop the pounds you’ve put on over the last few years. You lace up your shoes and go out for a run. Half way down the block you are gasping for air, your heart is pounding, and your legs feel weak. You spend the next two weeks on the couch recovering as you watch TV and eat ice cream.
  • You see your friends on Facebook going on exotic vacations. You get motivated to head out on your own adventure so you look up plane tickets online. You start to realize how much hotels, airfare, and food is going to cost. You feel overwhelmed so you close the laptop. You promise to look again in a couple of weeks to see if prices have gone down. You never go on that trip.

We have been seduced to think that we can magically become a new person overnight. We buy a book or online course promising us the world. It’s not long before our desires and motivation are squashed by the sobering reality that real change doesn’t come in a box. It takes time.

Trust me, there are many who would lead you to believe that you can change your entire life in an instant. They are the ones usually selling you the product that promises to make that change happen fast and painless.  You don’t need a magic box to make positive changes in your life. Real change is the result of consistent habits guided by the intention to become more tomorrow than you are today.  


5 Reasons Small Habits Are The Recipe For Success

#1 Small Habits Build Momentum

Focusing on small habits is important for building momentum. Take losing weight as an example. Dropping 20 pounds is hard, but doing one pushup is easy. By starting small and building upon your success, you get in the habit of creating results daily.

Starting small means only doing a single, small amount of effort. It could be doing one pushup, one bodyweight squat, or just running to the end of the driveway and back. Tomorrow go for two pushups or run to the end of the street and back.

Small incremental improvements creates a habit of achieving. When you achieve your goals you feel good. When you feel good about something you want to do it more.

With small consistent effort you will quickly build up to a big result. In a few weeks you could have a recipe for success that generates 50 pushups at a time or running 5 miles.

The alternative is to go from out of shape and lying on the couch to trying to run 5 miles on your first day. Your body won’t be able to take that much of a pounding. Soon you will be back on the couch feeling sore and defeated.


#2 Small Habits are Easier to Track

When building a new habit it’s important to track your progress. Large habits tend to be more abstract and harder to quantify. Large habits like exercising daily, eating healthy, saving money, etc are all abstract ideas made up of smaller micro-habits.

For example, making a habit of saving more money can be broken down to the micro habits of placing all your loose change in a jar or transferring a small percentage of your paycheck to your savings account every 2 weeks. By focusing on the micro-habit you have a greater ability to track your progress in a more meaningful way. If the money isn’t in the jar, you know what you need to adjust.  

For tracking habits, you don’t need an app or high powered analytics software to check your results. A notebook or journal to write down your results is all you need. The important thing is to be honest, not ideal. Track your successes and your failures to find where you need help along the way. Creating a recipe for success sometimes means removing what isn’t working. 


#3 Small Habits Free Up Mental Space

What do Barak Obama, Chris Nolan, and Steve Jobs have in common? No, this isn’t a bad joke, I’m actually trying to make a point.

Besides being massive achievers in their respective fields, all three men are well known for wearing a uniform every day.


Obama: Grey or Blue Suit

Nolan: Blue sports coat, white button down, jeans

Jobs: Black mock turtleneck, jeans


So why wear the same thing everyday? The answer is to limit the number of decisions you make in. A study on self-control by Kathleen Vohs and her team’ concluded that making small decisions, even if they are pleasant or mundane, depleted the mental energy of their subjects.

In a Vanity Fair article, Obama said, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

According to Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Me 2.0, “Famous business people and politicians are known to be consistent with their wardrobe because it’s their brand identity. It’s who they are, how they want to represent themselves and make a statement. It’s not about what you wear, but what you accomplish. [Mark] Zuckerberg, for instance, wears casual clothing because he represents the entire generation of young people who don’t want to wear suits to work.”


#4 Small Habits Have A higher Success Rate

Building a new habit feels unnatural at first. Sometimes it can seem downright painful. Your mind and body need to stretch their capabilities to build new habits and that burns energy. With time the discomfort goes away as you stabilize the new behavior. But there is always a period of transition.

This is why starting super small is so important. To build a new habit that takes up a large amount of mental and physical energy you will burn out fast. Once you burn out you no longer have the resources to carry on with the rest of your daily responsibilities. Other areas of your life will suffer. Then it’s only a matter of time until you give up and quit.

By focusing on small micro-habits you are limiting the energy cost of building the habit. Small habits do not tax your system to the same degree. By building small habits you will still have enough mental and physical energy to live your life.


#5 Small Habits Are Like Dominos

If you’ve ever played a game of dominos you know it takes a while to set them all up in rows. You line them up one by one and with the flick of your finger they all fall down in a chain reaction. The force of your finger is multiplied as the effort to knock over one domino transfers to all the others.

Now imagine, instead of lining up all the dominoes in a line you stacked them like bricks in a tower. It would be difficult to knock them all over at once. Their structure would make them stronger as a group. It would take several flicks of your finger to knock the entire structure down.

In this example, the tower is like a big habit and the rows of dominoes are small habits. Focusing your efforts on small habits will create a chain reaction into other areas of your life. This explains why people who start an exercise program ususally end up eating healthier and getting better sleep. The exercise makes you want to eat better and when you are healthy you appreciate a good night’s sleep.

If you want to create lasting change in your life then start small. Over time your efforts will multiply and you will create a foundation for building new habits that can last a lifetime.

Erik Mercer

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