Want to build new habits in 2023❓ Why it’s essential to start small. Dopamine optimization through daily wins.
All behavioral scientists and habits-building experts agree - if you are serious about long-lasting change - starting small is essential.
And yet again, and again and again most January resolutions start with crazy promises to start doing some intense routine from Monday for days and days ahead.
Like, “I’m gonna work out 7 days a week for an hour starting next Monday”, having no consistent exercise practice for years.
Or, “I’m gonna eat only healthy meals 365/year and no refined sugars or go keto starting next Monday”, having no consistent good eating practice for years.
Or, “I’m gonna wake up at 5 AM every morning this year to work on my side gig”, having failed to wake up at that time for all the days all the years before.
Shouldn’t we get by now that it’s not a working strategy?
Here’s why crazy resolutions don’t work and why you should always start small.
Like, “I’m gonna work out 2 times per week with weights and go for a 20-minute walk after dinner 3 days a week for the next 2 months”
Or, “I’m gonna eat 1 serving of fruit and vegetables with every meal and only one snack/dessert each day for the month of January”
Or, “I’m gonna wake up 30 minutes earlier each day to work on my side gig for the month of January 5 days a week”
1. START SMALL FOR DAILY WINS AND HIGH DOPAMINE
If you start small, start that small that winning is a guarantee - you will get a dopamine release every day.
Dopamine is released when we get a reward.
Winning via succeeding in doing what we plan gives us a psychological reward.
When dopamine is getting a boost every day - your motivation and energy continue to increase every day as well. And that's what makes you want to keep going!
2. START SMALL TO AVOID FAILING THAT DESTROYS YOUR DOPAMINE
When, on the other hand, you set yourself up to fail with unreasonable expectations, demands and promises you lower your own dopamine, motivation and energy for action every day.
No wonder you quit every time!
No dopamine - no action!
Why does the dopamine tank?
Well, if you fail, you know it and your brain knows it. And from your brain’s perspective not getting rewarded means wasting energy. And your brain will never continue to give you a green light for anything that’s a waste of energy. Because you can die if you run out of energy wasting it on meaningless pursuits that have no ROI.
To keep dopamine flowing and motivation going you need to have small wins to celebrate each day!
And that’s exactly what starting small gives you!
3. START SMALL TO AVOID ANXIETY, INCREASED STRESS AND RESISTANCE TO ACT
I’ve already talked about this in my post about procrastination.
Drastic changes to your routine signal to your brain - there’s a good possibility of increased energy expenditure.
Your brain hates spending more energy!
That’s why you’ll feel a lot of resistance to action and starting, when you decide to make a HUGE change to your usual routine.
To avoid this resistance and eventually procrastination you do kaizen - small, incremental, never-ending improvements. That feel like flowing VS jumping over heels and obstacles.
Less change (starting small) - Less resistance (due to perceived and actual smaller change in energy expenditure)
I hope now you understand why starting small is such an amazing, science-backed strategy to make changes that last.
And if you ask me - those are the only changes that are worth making.
A friend asked me,
“Angela, why do I keep putting the weight back on every time I lose it❓”
“Cause you never created new permanent changes to your lifestyle to maintain the change”
Old habits - Old weight
New habits - New weight.
That’s the only way it ever worked.