When Big Changes Actually Work

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In my previous blog I explained how small actions are able to create larger change than big ones. But can big actions ever bring about larger lasting change? Of course they can, but mostly through changing your environment.

You can use a big action to create changes in the environment such that the good choice or behaviour becomes automatic, or at least much easier. For example take my sleep tip to sleep in a completely dark room; the majority of the effort on your part is spent going to the store to buy the blackout blind, installing it when you get home. After that there is almost no more effort required on your part, just lowering the blind before bed. And it is not possible to do this slowly over time; you can’t install blind a little bit at a time, one screw each day, you have to do it all in one go. And for many environmental changes like this, if you don’t do it all at once procrastination takes over and it ends up never being finished and you end up never feeling the benefits as the blind just sits gathering dust in your garage.

Big actions can also remove obstacles in the way of other good behaviours. Let’s say that you do your workouts at home in the living room, but since it’s a shared space you always have to clean up and move furniture before you start. Now unless you are super dedicated, chances are that you are going to miss quite a few workouts just because you don’t feel like cleaning up. Now let’s say you figure out a way to relocate the rooms in your house such that you get a dedicated workout room, or at least dedicated space for it. It’s a huge effort moving all your furniture around, but once it’s done it’s done, and it’s much easier to get your workouts in even when you don’t want to.

You can also do the reverse of these in order to make bad behaviours or choices more difficult by creating obstacles. Instead of keeping a candy bowl on your desk, keep all your candy in the pantry so it is not as easy to access. You could map out a new commute so you don’t pass the donut store twice a day. You could put a timer switch on the wifi-box so you don’t stay up all night surfing the internet. These are the same sort of changes as before just with the intention of preventing a bad behaviour instead of encouraging a good one.

So can a big action ever stand on its own and not just be supporting  a smaller action? Yes, when it is removing something that is harming you. This is obviously true for an acute problem; when I had appendicitis my appendix had to be removed in one go. But this can also work for problems based on chronic exposure: if you have a toxic mold growing in your home you would want to remove it all in one go before it spreads again. In cases like these a fix only sticks if it is done in one go and not over time.

As you can see big actions that take place in one go can have lasting effects, but mostly by changing your environment to encourage good choices and discourage bad ones. In this way they are similar to support habits, but just take place in one go. If you liked this blog and would like to learn more about lasting change you should subscribe to my newsletter so you never miss a new posting.


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