Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Have you ever tried to change a habit or implement a new behavior?
Did you have the best of intentions to do something new or different only to see your motivation fade and the new habit fizzle out?
Yeah. Me too.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t tried (probably more than a few times) to change some behavior or start a new routine, but without it successfully becoming integrated into their life. I know I’ve been there, done that.
I’ve gone “all in” on some super big change that I’m super excited about - until the initial thrill wore off and I’d be back to where I started.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the science of habit change and what actually works when it comes to modifying our behaviors. And luckily, there are some simple steps – backed by research! – that can help you change or create a habit and make it last.
These three steps can get your new habit started, create momentum, and build successes, so you keep it up and establish a solid routine:
1) Take action
This probably seems obvious, but change occurs because of action. Unfortunately,
we tend to get caught up in the planning, prepping, information gathering etc., and
fail to actually *act* and move forward.
You feel like you are moving forward – I’m learning all this stuff! Making all these
plans! Getting so much knowledge! – but in reality you are still in the same place as
You have to create an actual action step to begin.
For example, if you want to eat more healthy foods, what is a specific action you can
do to make that happen? Eat a vegetable at every meal? Remove all the less-healthy
options from your house? Drink a glass of water each morning?
Get super clear on the actual action step you will take, which leads us to step
2) Make it super tiny and easy
When you’re excited and motivated and embarking on a new change adventure, it
feels thrilling to make a huge overhaul and have grand plans for what you will
accomplish. (I’m going to cook all my own food! And go to the gym 5 days a week!
And drink a gallon of water every day! And never eat sugar again! You get the idea...)
And then real life happens, and it becomes clear that there’s no way you could
sustain that plan for any length of time.
Instead, make your action step so ridiculously tiny and easy that you could do
it even on your very worst day – when you got 4 hours of sleep and the kids are
screaming and the dog threw up on the carpet and you have a big presentation at
If you create a super simple, easy step you can take no matter what, you’ll make it
happen, build momentum, and start making progress. Your brain won’t rebel
against the change because it doesn’t even feel like change!
To go back to the previous example, if you want to eat more healthy foods, and you
decide you will do that by incorporating more vegetables into your meals, what can
you reasonably expect yourself to be able to accomplish even on your worst day?
Eat one veggie at two meals a day? Eat one veggie with dinner every day? Eat one
veggie with dinner 3x per week? Scale it back until you find something that feels
TOO easy, that you are 100% confident you can do for the next two weeks.
Once you’ve successfully integrated that action step into your life, if you want to
make it a little bit harder, go for it! But start small. The tiny thing you do consistently
is far better than the huge thing you do once.
3) Track and celebrate your progress
Whenever you successfully complete your action step, celebrate like you just won a
gold medal at the Olympics (or the Super Bowl, or Stanley Cup, or insert huge
trophy/award of choice here).
You don’t actually have to make a huge show of it, but find a way to acknowledge
your accomplishment and cheer yourself on in some way – maybe a little high five
or a simple “go me, I did it!” or a little dance move...whatever works for you is cool.
Yes, I know this also sounds ridiculous. But it works.
When you celebrate, you create happy vibes in your brain and actually begin to
rewire your experience of whatever you just did, so you want to do more of it. Even
if it feels a bit staged or you have to act it out, it’s still beneficial.
Celebrate even your tiniest “wins,” and find a way to keep track of your progress. It
can be a simple X on a calendar, a note on your phone or notebook, or whatever is
easy and convenient for you. Having a concrete method for tracking will help
solidify your practice and keep you moving forward.
Tracking + celebrating = habit change victory!
With these three simple steps, you can begin implementing any new habit or behavior into your life. Identify your action step, make it (really, really) small and easy, and celebrate and track your progress.
*BONUS STEPS 4 and 5*
Just those first three steps alone will get you on your path to whatever new habit you choose, but there are two “bonus” steps that can be game changers:
4) Start from a place of compassion and acceptance
Yeah, I know. This can sound a little woo-woo, but it’s important to consider. You
can only make a change when your brain feels safe and secure, and accepting what
is happening right now or where you are starting and giving yourself a bit of
compassion and grace along the way makes all the difference.
This doesn’t mean you have to love everything about yourself or that you don’t ever
hold yourself accountable, it just means that you take into account the reality of
your situation (whatever it is at the current moment), and that you treat yourself
with kindness and respect.
One way to go about this is to look at your own situation as if it were your best
friend presenting it to you – what would you say to them or how would you respond
if someone you love were in your shoes? Show yourself that same empathy.
5) Get a coach (or some kind of social support)
I mean, what kind of coach would I be if I didn’t emphasize the impact that support
and guidance can have on your change journey?!
In all seriousness, having the support of a friend, family member, group, therapist,
neighbor, random person on the street, or a coach really does affect your ability to
keep going when the going gets tough.
It can simply be someone you talk to about what you are working on, or a trained
coach who can assist and encourage, and is able to help you navigate, troubleshoot,
and celebrate along the way. Finding some sort of social support can be the
difference between kinda-sorta reaching your goals and totally crushing it.
So, there’s your habit change plan a nutshell: Take action. Make it tiny and easy. Track and celebrate. Give yourself some compassion. Enlist the help of others.
Ready, set, go!
What habits have you been able to successfully change in your life, and how did you go about it? What’s the next habit you’d like to change or implement into your life? Let me know in the comments!
And if you’re in need of guidance on your own change journey, I’m here for you: I can help you clarify your goals, simplify your action steps, implement a plan, track progress, celebrate the wins and navigate any challenges along the way. Send me a message or schedule your free consultation call today!
...for your free 30-minute consultation call or visit https://calendly.com/meganfschall/consultation-call to get started.