How a Change of One Habit Can Change Your Life

Change of habitWhen you read the title of this post, you may be thinking: “Pretty bold claim there – are you really saying that you can change your life by using changing one habit?”

The short answer is: “Yes you can – with a replacement habit”.

The idea of the replacement habit is very simple – yet it is very powerful too. That’s why it is a life changer, if done consistently.


Replace a bad habit with a good one

In essence, the replace habit is just choosing one action instead of another. In other words, you are not sticking to the same old way of acting anymore – you perform the action differently.

Let’s say that you have been eating a daily chocolate bar. To improve your health (and lose some weight in the process) you decide to replace the chocolate bar with a daily green smoothie.

If you keep executing the replacement habit (and choosing the green smoothie) consistently, you will start to see changes in your body. This will also improve your self-confidence because you realize that you look better when looking at yourself on the mirror.

The crucial part of the replacement habit is changing a less-desired habit with a good one. Replacing a bad habit with another bad one will make your situation even worse (for e.g. choosing to eat two chocolate bars on a daily basis instead of one).

You are not just replacing, but you are also choosing

Something very important happens before you actually execute the replacement action: choosing.

You do the choosing in your mind and the actual replacement is a concrete action step in this process. That’s why you need to think carefully in every situation what you choose to do.

Just replacing (taking action) something is not enough. Your whole mindset has to change too, so that you make favorable decisions on a continual basis. Otherwise your replacement habit will die soon.

Replacement habit and your goals

Replacing one bad action with a good one is a critical component when you want to move towards your goals.

If you have set a goal to lose 5 pounds of your weight, there are many elements that you need to get right: nutrition, exercise, mindset and rest. In those four elements I would like to stress the importance of the mindset, because without a proper mindset you are making your journey too hard on yourself.

Mindset plays a big part in the replacement habit too. If you don’t see your decisions (and your actions) important to you, then reaching your goal becomes very hard. On the other hand, if you realize that (almost) every decision and action step counts and you act accordingly, then you will be amongst the winners.

Space rockets face the resistance in the beginning too

When your mindset is like: “I choose to replace that chocolate bar with a green smoothie” and you actually implement that mindset in practice over and over again, it becomes a habit.  The next time you don’t have to think so hard whether you should choose the chocolate bar or the green smoothie.

However, in order to make the replacement automatic, some initial effort is needed. The fact is that when you start with a replacement habit, you are going to face internal resistance

change of habit

Photo by jurvetson

from your part.

This is called “escape velocity”: it’s like a rocket that is going to need all the possible thrust force to escape from the atmosphere to space, where the earth gravity is less existent. Earth’s forces are it’s strongest in the beginning but after reaching the space, less energy and force is needed to move the rocket.

The same it is with new habits and when replacing a bad one with a good one: In the launch phase the old habits are come back very easily if you are not careful. However, once you reach the “space”, this is when you have “escaped” from your old habits and a new one comes more and more automatic.

The best way to get into the “space” is to clearly describe the scenario in your head in which situations the possible replacement action is going to happen.

Also, it is important to see the exceptional situations when the circumstances make the replacement harder than usual (for example when travelling it is easier to grab a chocolate than a smoothie). That way you can prepare and have a plan b for exception times.

Like with all the habits, the beginning phase is the most crucial. If you really want to implement a new habit successfully, you have to make the effort. Forming new habits is not impossible – it just takes some time and patience to master it (depending of course what you are going to replace with what).

Start out small

To succeed with your replacement habit, you have to start out small. Don’t try to replace old action pattern to a new one too fast.

For instance, if you have been a late riser, but you decide to become an early riser, my best advice is to start out small. Wake up earlier bit by bit until you have reached your target wake up time.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that you cannot make big habit replacements at once – yes you can (like waking up the next morning at 5 AM)! But for most of the people, the gradual change is better than changing too much at once.


When changing your current action patterns, one powerful way to do it is to apply the replacement habit.

The idea behind is that you replace a bad habit/action with a good one – for example a chocolate bar with a green smoothie.

If you are consistent with your efforts, the replacement habit has a potential of changing your life for good.

It is also worth noticing, that the replacement is just an action step you take. Your mindset plays a much bigger role in this game. That’s why you need to have the right mindset for making right justifications for your actions and decisions. These will lead to replacing the bad action with a good one.

Your next tasks:

1. Put this blog post into action!

  • Figure out what small action you would like to change in your daily life
  • Create a plan for executing the replacement action (the bad with the good one) on a daily basis – this forms a good new habit
  • Once you master changing one aspect in your life, focus on another replacement action

2. Share your experiences and tips on the comment area:

  • What bad habits/actions you have replaced with a good one?
  • How long did it take to form that a habit?

3. Spread the word:

  • I would appreciate it if you share this post on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or on BizSugar (click the vertical share bar on the left).
Timo Kiander

  • Excellent post, Timo, on a subject close to me.

    Tony Robbins (one of the masters I model), has a process for changing habits (which I adapted into a digital tool). He also emphasizes the importance of powerful questions.

    Where I once habitually dispensed wisdom and advice, I used the habit-changer tool to replace that habit with one of asking influential, high-leverage, focused questions.

    The results have “changed my life” as you say :D

    Thanks for this, it helps many!

    • Timo Kiander


      Thank you :)

      Is your tool publicly available or is it just for your internal use?


    • Hi Jason, I’d like to know more about that app too – sounds very useful :)

  • Habits, good or bad, are formed through repetition. It’s pretty simple when we look at it that way.

    Any one thing that we may not be happy with or would like to change in our lives is a result of (like you mentioned) choices. Our decisions.

    When I first started on my quest for personal development this philosophy was a game-changer for me. If I wanted different results in my life, I’d better start doing things differently.

    It’s funny because it’s so easy to understand, but often overlooked and under-implemented by many. Great inspiration here, Timo!

    • Timo Kiander


      It makes me wonder though, why all those bad habits seem to be formed so easily …

      I wish we could turn that around – good habits would come easy instead :)

      But yeah … making one good decision after another is important and eventually you have a good habit which will possibly change your life.


  • I heard that it takes somewhere between 25 and 30 days to form a habit. Although I’d be sceptical about that in cases of trying to kick a serious addiction, it seems something of a yardstick.

    12in12 is an interesting concept http://fitarella.com/12in12/ whereby you take things in small steps, doing one 30-day challenge every month.

    • Timo Kiander


      Thanks for posting this resource – I’ll check it out!

      Yeah, sometimes 30 days may not be enough to change something for good. It depends of the habit you are trying to change.


      • Changing one habit every month is an excellent way forward to change habit and this is one of the top priority for 2012.

        You are right Timo that 30 days depends on the habit and I guess person as well. But in my experience 30 days often work well. Key is 30 days continuity

  • Hey Timo!

    Productivity experts should talk more, like you do, about habits. Our days are made of a series of habits.

    I would add to step 1 (figuring out which action) that you can do a CRT (Current Reality Tree) process to figure out which action has the highest leverage on your overall situation. The CRT is one of the Theory of Constraints by Eli Goldratt.

    Here is an example: http://fluentbrain.com/current-reality-tree/

    One you’ve identified the root cause(s) for your situation, then all you have to do is ask yourself what solution you can implement to solve that root cause.

    Ok, it’s a bit more complex that this, but you get the idea :)



    • Timo Kiander

      Hi Matt!

      Thanks fort this information … I’ll check out the link!


  • Aparna

    A nice article Timo.

    I have started with the habit of setting up at least 3 action items on my personal and professional list based on my goals.

    Generally, for me to pick up any habit, it takes about 21 days. I set up small habits that can be formed in 21 days and later build upon it

    • Timo Kiander


      Thank you!

      Yes, I think that implementing new habits in 21 days will work if they are small enough. In fact, your strategy is a great way to get started with habits and develop them further.


  • This reminds me of a great quote:

    “Watch your thoughts; they become words.
    Watch your words; they become actions.
    Watch your actions; they become habits.
    Watch your habits; they become character.
    Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

    • Timo Kiander


      Great quote, thank you :)


  • Timo,

    I love the idea of “replacement habit”. I don’t think most people think about it when they try to make changes. Out with cold turkey and in with replacement habits! I also agree that one small change can have a big impact. I’m looking forward to trying your process out.

    • Timo Kiander



      Yes, sometimes even the smallest things make all the difference and can have a huge impact in your life when done consistently.


  • Great post and very timely, I am in the process of replacing the normal tea I drink with white tea which is much better for me, it also means I have less milk as there is no need for it and less sugar (I am slowly working my way down to no sugar!)
    Thanks for the advice :)

    • Timo Kiander


      Thank you!

      You know … I’m working on my sugar use too :)

      But as in your example, doing something simple can cause other positive side effects happening (like no sugar).


  • Incremental is key for me. Can’t go all the way from entire chocolate bar to green smoothie – but could do just a snack size snickers versus a king size snickers. I get in my head the results will be faster if I make bigger jumps – but I fear the back slide and the sense of deprivation. I guess the key is focusing on what I’m moving towards versus what I’m moving away from. Escape velocity – love that!

    • Timo Kiander



      When you take small steps, you are not overwhelming yourself and you can handle the change easier.


  • I recently passed the 4 year non smoking point in my life. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But ironically like you mentioned I replaced it with another habit. Every time I needed to have a smoke I would simply drink water. Eventually I found myself drinking water on a regular basis and now I no longer smoke.

    You know something I have noticed, if my glass of water is empty or I’m really thirsty I sometimes find myself thinking about cigarettes. Is that normal? Once I drink water the craving goes away it’s so strange lol…

    P.S. Tthe blog looks really nice Timo!

    • Timo Kiander


      Thanks :)

      That’s great to hear that!

      Replacement habit is very powerful indeed when you can quit even smoking!


  • Hi Timo,

    I believe it’s better to sometimes take the large leap rather than the getting-there-slowly approach. For example waking up earlier is easier for me if I make the decision to wake up at 5am and make the change in one night. That way I’ll flip my sleeping rhythm instantly and I skip the “hardest” part almost completely. Maybe that’s just me… ;) And it doesn’t work with everything…

    • Timo Kiander


      Although I think that doing things gradually is the best option for the most of the people, I also agree with you. In fact, this is what I did when I started to wake up at 5 AM.