Habit Creation 3 - Why habits are more effectful than one-time actions

Habits create sustainable change – one-time actions often don’t

‘What you do most days matters more than what you do once in a while.’ (Gretchen Rubin)

The results created by one-time actions are often not sustainable.

Yes, of course, one-time actions can create changes in our life. Even big changes. But do they last?


Think about a cluttered garage.

A big one-time action, like working a whole weekend in the garage, can definitely create visible and real change: at the end of the weekend the garage is (ideally) clutterfree and organised.

But how will it look like in 4 months’ time?

The success of many one-time actions is short-lived because we do change our external environment, yes, but we don’t change ourselves (our thoughts and feelings), and we don’t change what we do on a regular basis.

New habits help us create reliable and lasting results.

It’s when we build new habits – when we start to do new things consistently, every day, again and again – that the real change is happening.

Back to the example:

Instead of doing the work in one go, we can decide to do it step by step, to divide the work in small and easily doable portions.

Like starting to invest 15 minutes each Saturday morning to declutter and reorganise a small area in the garage. Depending on the current state of the garage, it might take many weeks or even months to sort it all out.

But at the end of these weeks or months, not only will the garage be free of clutter, we’ll also have built the habit of taking care of it consistently. And this new habit is going to create sustainable change:

If we stick to our new habit (every Saturday 15 minutes organising work) the garage will never get cluttered again.

One-time actions usually don’t have consequences on our habitual behaviours, they don’t change us and they don’t change what we do or don’t do on a regular basis.

If we want to change our life in a sustainable way, we need to change our habits.  

So how do we change ourselves and our behaviours?

We need to change the way we are thinking – because our thoughts determine what we do or don’t do.

The next articles of the ‘Habit Creation Series’ are going to analyse the close relationship between our thought patterns and our behaviour patterns in more depth.

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