Just One: A System for Forming New Habits Quickly and Effortlessly

Sep 3, 2019

Just One.

Not two, not eight, not zero. Just… One.

JUST ONE is my system for building new habits.

Want to start writing a blog? Write just one sentence today. Then stop. Repeat tomorrow. Want to get into the habit of working out daily? Do just one pushup right now. Then stop. Repeat tomorrow. Want to be better at meeting people? Say hi to one stranger today. Just “hi”, then you’re done. Repeat tomorrow.

Why does it work? Because one does not meet resistance. One sounds and feels effortless, almost enjoyable. It is an easy win and offers instant gratification. And when one starts feeling natural, you’ll be begging yourself for more. The Rules of the Game:

  1. Do at least one of whatever it is you’re trying to start. One minute. One handshake. One vegetable. Etc.

  2. Do no more than one. One feels easy and can be enjoyed. Thirty, on the other hand, immediately sounds more costly. One will feel ridiculously simple, and that’s the point. Resist the urge of doing more. You may moderately increase the reps after you’ve successfully completed your first 10-day streak.

Tracking your streaks can be very helpful and encouraging. You can do it in your diary or using an app like Habitify. You’re Going to Get Addicted to Your Goals.

No one got hooked on cigarettes by smoking a full pack on their first day. Heck, they would have gotten sick and resented the substance from that day on. No. Instead, they tried one at a party, then another one at the next. Then two, then three, until they started buying their own packs and smoking regularly.

Similarly, you’re not going get addicted to morning jogs if you run to exhaustion on your first day. Instead, how about doing just one lap around your block and calling it a workout? Or try nailing a 10-day streak of jogging for just one minute and see how effortless that feels.

The “Just One” approach is about making things that appear daunting simple so that you look forward to doing them again tomorrow. And again the next day. It’s about doing anything, rather than nothing.