Habit Formation – Benefits of Starting with Small Steps

When in the process of forming habits, we tend to overlook the importance of small and consistent steps, while only having the “big goal” in mind. Starting with small steps while consistently engaging in them increases the chances that your habit is more likely to be maintained over time because there is little room for failure. You will also be developing a strong foundation that will support you when you endure in greater challenges. Improving a little bit over time consistently makes for bigger improvement and you will eventually be a pro at the regimen of habit formation. 

When we look at Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or any Hollywood star that has a net worth of billions, we tend to overlook their journey. Instead, their wealth becomes a magnet that pulls us into a trance of wanting what they have. Which isn’t wrong of course, dreaming big is often what gets us out of bed in the morning and makes the impossible feel possible. But by going straight for these big ambitious goals, we often give up because we feel as if they’re out of reach. 

The key when beginning to form a habit is choosing a simple habit to start with. Start small – a super small habit that almost leaves no room for failure. Then start improving your habits in extremely small portions.  

This is crucial for getting your habit ingrained into your routine. When starting to form habits, the most important thing is the ability to consistently engage in these habits. Starting off with a highly ambitious habit is more likely to lead to failure which will only hurt your motivation. Here are the benefits of starting off with tiny, simple habits: 

1. Starting with a tiny habit that’s impossible to fail at is more likely to be maintained since the reward of completing it comes easier which in turn makes the action stick. 

2. Starting small can build a strong and encouraging foundation for you to engage in greater challenges. Just like how you need to know the basics of baking before baking a wedding cake.  

3. Using small steps in the process of habit formation can help you focus on the consistency and process of forming the habit. The result is getting the habit solidified. 

4. Improving a little bit over time consistently can bring huge improvement at a later date. Habit formation is a marathon, not a sprint. Just like the tortoise, going slow and steady is key to maintaining habits over time. 

These reasons don’t just apply to forming small habits, but you can also break down complex habits into small chunks. Patience while forming habits will be your best friend, but growing slowly is always better than failing quickly.  

For more information on effective habit formation, check out these sites: 

Fitplan – Tiny habits: A foolproof method for forming good habits 
Harvard Business Review – To achieve big goals, start with small habits 
James Clear – What is your “average speed” in your life, your health, and your work?

Author: Cathy Xie
Editor: Zac Lo
Researcher: Michael Bacci