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Starting Small – successfully create a new habit


by Nicola Rankin in habits

Weirdly, starting small is often really hard. You may wonder how can it be good to do less rather than more? And if you need to do 30 minutes of activity a day in order to be healthy, then why shouldn’t you just start with that?

Bear with me.. starting small is one of the most successful strategies to creating a new habit.

In this issue, I’m going to cover:

  • what it means to ‘start small’
  • some examples of starting small
  • why starting small is SO important

What does ‘starting small’ really mean anyway?

Starting small is a well proven strategy for creating a new habit.

Quite simply, it means starting with the smallest action you can take towards your new habit. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame also refers to this as your Minimum Viable Habit – the version of your habit that is so small that you can’t say no to doing it!

How small are we talking here?

Well, I’ll give you some concrete examples from my life.

I have a morning routine of exercise then yoga then meditation.

When I first started on the exercise machine, I would only do 1 minute. Seriously. It was really hard at first so that was just as well. No matter how hard it was, I could always at least do 1 minute.

For yoga, I started with just one sun salute. But you could even start with just one pose.

For meditation, my minimum initially was 3 minutes. Nowadays, if I’m rushed and seriously don’t think I have even 3 minutes, I will just do 5 deep mindful breaths. I can always find time for that.

But why is it so important to start small?

Maybe you think it’s pointless to start that small, but my morning routine of exercise/yoga/mediation now typically lasts 1 hour. If I hadn’t started small, I might still not be doing any of those things at all. And that morning routine has changed my health and wellbeing dramatically.

Starting is often the hardest part of making a change. Starting small reduces the barriers to getting started. It reduces the urge to put it off another day, to decide that you aren’t feeling well enough, don’t have enough time right now, or some other excuse that has popped up. When you are starting with just 1 minute for example, how can you say no? So you just do it.

And because starting small makes starting easier, you can get some early wins. If you have done your new habit a few times, you feel successful. You have kept your commitment to yourself! You have started down the path to whatever goal you have set for yourself. You can feel the momentum building and start believe that you can, in fact, do it!

Even the smallest healthy habit will have a ripple on effect in your life, so don’t underestimate starting (or even staying) small when creating your new habit!

Take action:

Write down some ideas for the smallest version you could do for:

  • a habit you already have in your life?
  • a habit that you want to create in your life?

PSST… if you missed the first issue of Habit Change 101: Why Habits are so Powerful, you can check it out here

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