7 Common Mistakes People Make When Building a New Habit

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People have just begun to understand how even the tiniest habit can influence their path to success or failure.

There are so many tasks you do or fail to do each day that shape the quality of your life. You might not even realize you have been doing the same practice every day for ages until someone points it out.

In that moment, you recognize that habit as the reason you are experiencing particular events in your life.

Whether it’s flossing your teeth, pitching potential clients, going to the gym, or saving money, it might not matter today or even a year from now.

But it can matter significantly down the road.

Tiny habits can be compared to small drops of water; they can create oceans or erode mountains.

Imagine two people having more or less the same lifestyle. Each of them has a small habit that is the exact opposite of what the other does. For ten years, they act differently in five situations of their everyday life:

  • One saves 5% of his paycheck. The other one holds nothing.
  • One brushes his teeth every day. The other does it every now and then
  • One reads something meaningful for at least half an hour each day. The other doesn’t.
  • One exercises three times a week. The other prefers to chill on the sofa watching TV.
  • One practices the keyboard for 30 minutes each day. The other doesn’t.

What would the differences be after those ten years are gone?

The first person will have a prosperous savings account, have all of his teeth, gained knowledge from 100s of books, be in great shape, and know how to play the keyboard.

The other won’t have any of the things listed above.

That’s why it’s crucial to recognize which habits are good for our present and future to implement them in our daily lives. Look at your living now; which habits are leading you toward your goals and which are holding you back?

Which new habit can you start today for a better future?

Building a new habit isn’t always a piece of cake, but it can be much easier when you know which common pitfalls you must avoid.

Mistake #1: Trying to build too many habits at once

Changing a little at a time is the key to ultimately growing a lot.

Changing the whole daily routine at once can trigger a stress reaction and a negative emotion related to the change.

“So, how many new habits should I build at once?”

There is no correct answer because it depends on how much the new pattern impacts your life and your attitude toward it.

On Coach.me, people suggest to begin with one habit, and when you’re starting to get used to it, introduce another one.

Generally, you shouldn’t be creating more than two to three new habits at a time if you want to make the most out of them.

Mistake #2: Lack of patience

Habits can take a while to take hold.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009, it takes between 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit.

In his book “Psycho-Cybernetics” (1960), Dr. Maxwell Maltz stated, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena, tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gel.”

His was more an observation on himself and his patients than a fact, but the concept broadly spread, and many people still believe that data is valid. The average number of days a person takes to form a new habit is 66, as reported in Healthline’s article.

Be patient and give yourself time before throwing the towel!

Mistake #3: Not being prepared to face obstacles

When adding new habits to an already formed routine, it is inevitable to come across new challenges.

Some obstacles seem impossible to overcome and make you want to give up after a couple of tries.

Ensure you have all the resources you need to build a new habit before you start and consider potential problems you might face, so you are ready to handle them without feeling discouraged.

For example, imagine you want to start eating more vegetables, you want the best available, grown on a countryside farm that uses no chemicals.

First of all, you must know which vegetables that farm can provide you according to the season.

Then you should create a healthy menu to fit them in, and lastly, make sure you always get fresh food before you run out, or you’ll end up stopping at the first fast food because you are too busy to drive to the chosen farm.

You can also ask the farmer if he can deliver fresh vegetables on a set deadline directly to your doorstep!

Planning these steps can help you keep on with your regime and stay motivated.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

Mistake #4: Choosing a habit that won’t have a great impact on your life

According to mistake #1, building too many habits simultaneously isn’t a shortcut to a better life.

People tend to start with an easy habit because they don’t really want to commit and expect great results anyway.

Make a list of habits you think could improve the quality of your life. Analyze them, understanding that significant impact doesn’t always mean great changes.

A tiny new habit, such as dedicating five to fifteen minutes to meditation before going to bed, doesn’t require a lot of effort but can positively influence your mood, sleep quality, and attitude.

Mistake #5: Assuming that slow progress isn’t relevant

Are you familiar with the snowball effect? A small amount of snow starts rolling down from the side of the mountain. While it goes, it collects more snow from the ground, and by the time it reaches the valley below, it is big enough to kill people.

Start by setting small and achievable goals and keep increasing them day by day.

For example, if you save $1 the first week of the year and keep collecting the amount of money corresponding to each week’s number, you will end up with a total of $1,378 saved by the end of the year.

Every time you think your progress is slow or not worth the effort to build that habit, take a moment to appreciate how many small steps you have done so far toward success and what you can achieve by simply being patient and pushing a little harder every time you can.

Mistake #6: Focusing too much on the benefit of the habit

According to James Clear’s blog, you should “Focus on the behavior, not the outcome.”

If you focus too much on the outcome and it doesn’t match your expectation, you will be disappointed and inclined to give up.

Instead, focus on your attitude, on how you can improve a little day by day.

Imagine you are training for a marathon. Every day you run a little faster for a little longer.

It doesn’t matter if one day you can’t run faster or longer than the previous one, what’s important is that even that day you kept going e didn’t give up on your new habit.

Mistake #7: Failing to control the environment around you

An often underestimates aspects when introducing a new habit is the environment around you.

It’s like preparing for a marathon without buying the proper outfit or choosing the best training track.

B.J. Fogg, psychologist at Stanford University, says, “Goals are harmful unless they guide you to make specific behaviors easier to do. Don’t focus your motivation on doing Behavior X. Instead, focus on making Behavior X easier to do.”

You will never eat healthier if you keep buying junk food and fill the pantry with it because it will be the only food available in your house. Instead, fill your larder with healthy meals easy to prepare.

This principle can be applied to many aspects of daily life.

For example, if you keep procrastinating or get distracted when working, create a room to isolate yourself, and stay focus.

According to Inc.’s post by Melissa Chu, “Making changes to your environment makes it easier to do what’s right without having to think about staying motivated. If you set up your surroundings so that making the best decisions comes easily, then you can set yourself up to practice better habits.”

“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.” — Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford Persuasive Lab


We are not used to evaluating the impact of our habits on our lives but don’t make the mistake of underestimating the usefulness of positive habits and the negative effect of poor ones.

So take action today, pick a tiny habit you can start right away, and that can have an incredible impact on your life.

Start meditating for five minutes a day or go for a short walk, throw away the junk food you are hiding for midnight cravings, and get rid of all the distractions that aren’t helping you get the job done.

Creating effective habits will lead you to a life you can truly enjoy!

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