Whenever I want to change, I always want to do it in an extreme way.
If I want to move house, I get the urge to throw away all my possessions and start fresh. If I get a new business idea, I feel like I need to go all in and ignore my current career responsibilities. If I go through a relationship breakup, I decide that I am going to be single forever.
I’m not sure if you are this extreme, but I am sure you can relate.
I think this is because when you decide to make a change, you have an ideal in mind. You see yourself as becoming someone totally different, and the fantasy of it is exciting.
But what I’ve discovered is that extreme changes tend to freak people out. I think I have become more used to them over time, as I have made more of them, but generally speaking, too much change too fast causes a backlash.
Too much change causes our comfort zone to kick in. It causes us to start to rationalize who we are, and yearn for the familiarity of what we had.
Something I learned a few years ago is a nifty technique called The 30 Percent Rule.
I’ve discovered that whatever change I want to make, if I make it about 30% of the way, this is a good starting point. I still have the majority of my life the same as before, but I have enough of a change to make me feel momentum.
Of course, the extreme part of me wants to go all in immediately, but the act of going about 30% in seems to work better. I get some real experience doing what I want, and I make some small progress pretty quickly.
I’ve also heard people suggest just making a 1% or 10% change in their life, but to me, this isn’t bold enough. You don’t feel the change enough to be growing. Hence I think that 30% is the perfect amount to get you started.
I used the 30% rule earlier this year to get myself to a healthier weight.
Instead of going on a crash diet and exercising everyday (which is what I wanted to do), I decided to change one thing: I ate a very small, healthy meal at night. The rest of the day, I ate the same. This change was tough because night time is when I have the least amount of willpower. But because I knew I could eat what I wanted in the morning, it became easier.
Soon enough, I added in another change. I decided to exercise two days a week. Monday and Fridays worked for me. One session to kick off the week, and one before the weekend. Again, this wasn’t super difficult, but it got me a little bit of a routine.
Within a few months, I had lost almost 15 pounds and was feeling better. I kept to my routine and added in drinking a liter of water early in the day. I bought a bottle that was one liter and drank it until it was empty.
These simple changes helped me to reach my ideal weight within about 6 months, and since then the changes have stuck.
If I had taken an extreme approach and tried to be 100% healthier, I know I would have regressed. I would have been fighting so hard against my comfort zone that I wouldn’t have had the willpower to be consistent with the change.
Whenever I want to change, my urge is to try to do it in an extreme way.
Yet the much more effective method is to make a 30% change, and let my action start to work in my favor.