How to Know Which Habit to Start With (When You Want to Change Them All)

Habit to start with

Habit changing can be a little overwhelming sometimes, can’t it?

You take a step back to see which areas of your life you’d like to improve, and several things come straight to your mind. It’s almost as if you’ve asked a friend to point out a few of your flaws, and right away they give you a list as long as your arm…

So you want to change your diet, exercise more, meditate, and quit smoking… Great job. But you realise that it’s probably not a great idea to attempt all of these at once. Maybe you’ve tried that before, and found out the hard way that it doesn’t work too well.

This is something I’ve battled with for some time, and I’ve noticed that quite a few Health Room readers are experiencing the same thing.

As some of you will know, when you subscribe to the blog, I ask you to tell me the one thing you struggle with the most when it comes to changing your habits, and then I try my best to help you out with an email back.

This is a recent message from Shelagh:

Hey Luke,

My biggest problem is knowing which habit to start with! Do I do more core work, eat less sugar, cook more from scratch, begin a meditation practise, drink less alcohol… So I get disheartened and then I don’t do any of them!

You’re definitely not alone Shelagh. It’s such a common issue that a lot of people face.

The truth is, I don’t think there really is one true answer as to which habit you should start with, but there are a few ideas we can explore that might help us out.

Let’s take a look.


1. Start with the habit that excites you the most

This is the technique that I feel works best for most people.

When I first became interested with changing my habits, I knew that I wanted to make a shed load of changes, but there was one that really stood out.

I was passionate about nutrition, and became obsessed with eating a healthy, plant based diet. It was something I had been reading about for a quite a while, and I was really determined to do it. It excited me and scared me at the same time.

So I focussed on that to start with. Over time, as the habit started to cement itself, it then became the catalyst for many other changes. Meditation and movement felt like natural progressions once I had sorted out the food on my plate.

So if there’s one habit in particular that really stands out to you as being particularly exciting or scary, I’d say go for that.

If something is really interesting to you, it’s much easier to apply yourself to it.

Changing your habits can be difficult at the best of times. For most of us, our natural reaction is to resist change and hold on to what’s comfortable. But just think how easy it would be to get up and do what you love everyday as opposed to something you’re not at all passionate about.

And if you have success with that first habit change, your confidence builds and you can carry the momentum on to tackle new challenges.

2. Start with the habit that‘s really holding you back

If there’s no one clear habit that excites you, or if they all excite you a similar amount, maybe consider which habit is holding you back the most.

What’s the biggest crutch that’s keeping you in your current situation? What’s the one thing that’s making you feel bad, and preventing you from reaching your potential?

Maybe it’s smoking. If so, start taking steps to quit. Maybe it’s your diet. If so, start making improvements.

You might find that by really focussing your efforts on that one difficult change, future habit changes become much easier.

In a way, it’s similar to prioritising your work schedule. When I sit down to start my day, there are a whole load of different tasks I could do to distract myself and make myself feel busy, without getting much work done. Checking email, updating twitter, replying to comments…

But I know that the most important thing to get done is to write or record videos. So I try to make that my priority. Once my main tasks for the day are done, I feel much better about myself, and it’s easier to move onto the stuff that’s less important to me.

3. Start a few habits at a time

Say what?!

I know, changing more than one habit at a time is almost considered sacrilege in the world of habit changing. I realise that as you add more changes, your chances of success diminish pretty rapidly. But hear me out…

If no habit in particular is holding you back or exciting you, but you still want to make changes, consider starting with two or three. But keep them really small.

As an example, let’s pick meditation, movement, and healthy eating. Sure, they all kinda go hand in hand, but if you tried to go fully plant based, start running marathons and mediate for an hour every day right off the bat, no doubt you’re gonna slip up pretty soon.

But if you start really small, you might be able to handle it. I’m talking one minute of meditation, followed by one minute of movement (some stretches or core work), followed by a green smoothie kind of small. Really simple, and really achievable.

When you’re comfortable with that, maybe add twenty seconds onto your meditation and movement. Next, you might want to take the healthy eating habit further by adding some wholefood snacks throughout the day.

Take each habit forward very slowly. If you get too eager, there’s the risk that the whole web of habits could fall apart, so be extra cautious.

4. Remember that perfection is an illusion

Last but not least, if you can’t figure out what to do next, it might be because you don’t need any improvement. Maybe you’re just great the way you are!

We all get that itch to make changes at some point. Whether it’s because we’ve read an article, watched a video or seen a friend succeed.

Sometimes it’s great. You could argue that changes are needed for us to evolve and learn more about ourselves.

But there’s also a darker side to the coin. The pressure to always improve and be better can make us feel that we’re inadequate. It can lower our self esteem and make us feel like we’re never going to be good enough.

Sometimes, there’s no need for changes. Maybe you’ve reached a point where you’re eating pretty healthily, living mindfully and moving often, or maybe these things are just not that important to you.

Either way, practice being satisfied with where you are.

Sure, you can still make changes in the future if the time is right and you have a big reason why. But even so, gratitude is always a great place to start.

Don’t forget that perfection is an illusion. It’s something that none of us can attain. Working to better yourself can be great, but keep in mind that you’ll probably never have everything down to a tee, let alone straight away.

So if you’re ever feeling disheartened and like you should be doing more, remember that habit changing is all about the process and journey, not the destination. Embrace it, and let go of the fantasy that you should be getting everything right.

Over to you

Now it’s time to put the theory into action.

The truth is, when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t really matter too much which habit you start with. What matters most is that you take action, and keep moving forward.

So if you’re at a cross roads and you feel like you’re dithering, just take that first step. Whether it’s with your diet, movement, mindfulness – whatever! Just start something, and persevere.


What was the first habit that you started to change, and why? Let us know in the comments section below!


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Luke Jones
Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

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