How to Use Small Habits to Create Big Change


Every January, gym memberships increase and facilities are packed with well intentioned people who have made a New Year’s resolution. They want to start exercising and eating better to lose weight and get healthy. So why after just a month or two are some back to sitting on the couch at night watching television and eating junk food? Their enthusiasm has died, motivation has disappeared and they have fallen back into their old routines. Statistics show that eight out of ten times that you attempt a new habit, you will fall back into your old routine. Don’t lose heart though because there are strategies to use to be successful. In today’s article, we are going to discuss one such strategy for success in making habit change.


When a person is excited about starting a new habit they want to or feel that they must do everything at once plus we are very impatient by nature. If exercising three times a week is what is recommended by a fitness coach then exercising five times a week will be better. Along with exercise, they feel they have to quit drinking soda, eat more vegetables and get up earlier to make breakfast. They might maintain this momentum for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months but suddenly they are overwhelmed and give up. They made the common mistake of changing too much at once and it became too difficult. They focused on doing too many things perfectly and wound up not doing anything very well. What would have increased their chance of success would be to start by choosing one thing to work on and do it well. For example, get your exercise habit established and the food will follow. One small area of focus to start the change and then build on the success.


 In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg calls this a keystone habit. A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. He explains that some habits matter more than others in transforming lives. A keystone habit influences how people work, eat, play, live, spend and communicate. They start a process that over time changes everything. Keystone habits are what begin the Domino Effect.  A better approach might be to start exercising one day a week and do this every week until it feels incredibly easy. Make it so simple that you can’t find an excuse to not be consistent. Once you experience success then build on it and add in another day and so forth. Before you know it, you will be exercising three times a week, eating and sleeping better plus have more confidence in yourself.


Research shows that the keystone habit of exercise spills over into other areas of life. People who exercise focus better, sleep better and eat better naturally. They also change their environment to foster success by being around like-minded people. To identify keystone habits, they must have three components:


  1. They give you small victories frequently. Making your bed daily is linked to increased productivity and better budgeting skills.

  2. They are the launching point from which other habits grow. Families who eat dinner together help children have better homework skills and do better in school.

  3. They are contagious and build confidence. A small success in one area helps build momentum and increase your desire to make changes in other areas.



These are just a few examples of keystone habits. They all seem very small but can have a major impact on other areas of life. Whatever change you desire to make, figure out the keystone habit and do it well. Be consistent, have patience and watch the ripple effect.

Spread the Word!

Treves Janszen

Treves Janszen

Nutrition Coach at Thrive Fitness
Treves is a Level 1 Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition. She has been involved with fitness & nutrition for almost 10 years. Along with being a Nutrition Coach, Treves has 30+ years of healthcare experience as a Registered Nurse. In her spare time, Treves like to read, cook and lay by the pool (when it's sunny, of course!).
Treves Janszen