5 Mistakes That Cause New Habits To Fail
Written by: Lombe Mwansa
Published: 16 January 2023


The need to know everything before getting started can leave you stuck.

Tired of setting resolutions that don’t stick? Trying to create new habits but they keep failing? We are told that our habits determine how much money is in your bank account and the size of our waistline. Our habits determine the quality of your life. 

Before I share the 5 mistakes that caused new habits to fail you should know I am still working on building better habits. Some new habits I have gained really stuck with me to the extent that I don’t even have to think twice about doing them, but I still have habits I am developing that require more thought and deliberate action. Some days it seems impossible to break my bad habits or to create new, positive habits but as a dad focused on personal growth I owe it to myself to find ways that make these seemingly impossible habits possible. 

Let me take you back to when I started “getting in shape” or “getting healthier”. When I first started, like most people, I had an ineffective approach. I tried to go cold turkey and rely on willpower to force the necessary changes I needed to make. [SPOILER ALERT!] In case you didn’t already know this doesn’t work unless you’re incredibly motivated simply because motivation isn’t reliable. It’s here one day and gone the next. 

Create new habits more effectively by avoiding the most common mistakes:

1.     Changing too much, too soon.  

man juggling

I got it wrong a few times before I realised that a new habit is best installed in small steps. Take writing for example, I’m not great at it right now BUT let us imagine that I want to spend two hours each day writing my first book. A good place to start would be for me to write one sentence each day. Writing one, single sentence accomplishes something exciting: one single sentence gets me in the habit of sitting down and writing when it’s time to write.  

That’s the most important first step. 

  • Start with small changes. Then increase the amount of time and effort when the habit of beginning is in place. 
  • Make behavioural changes that are so easy, you can’t possibly fail. 

2.     Relying on self-discipline.  

image 1

When my habits required self-discipline, they didn’t last long.  
At most, self-discipline should only be required to make a habit of getting started. Habits are automatic. For most of us self-discipline isn’t needed to eat sweets, watch TV or stay in bed instead of getting up earlier and making time for exercise. Once I created the habit of going to the gym, exercising and moving my body daily I don’t need self-discipline required for either. 

  • Self-discipline is a short-term solution. 
  • Make behavioral changes that are so easy, you don’t need self-discipline. 

3. Expecting a new habit to be easy to take up.  

handstand dude

Change isn’t easy. You’ll become complacent and lazy if you expect a new habit to be easy to implement. We’d all be rich, in shape, and speak five languages if creating new habits was a simple matter. 

  • Some new habits will replace poor habits you have developed over time. You may not enjoy moving out of your comfort zone immediately because your mind hasn’t faced these challenges before or in a while. 

4. Expecting a new habit to be difficult to take up.  


The opposite of being complacent is also true. If you expect the process to be exceptionally difficult, you’ll also struggle. The thought of doing anything that’s hard can be sufficient reason to never get started in the first place. 

  • New behaviors are easy to implement IF you start slowly and have patience. It’s moving ahead slowly and having patience that are difficult. 

5. Relying too much on information.  

info overload

Our society is blessed, or cursed, with access to an excessive amount of information. This can create two challenges: 

  • It’s very easy to believe that you don’t know enough to take the first step. There’s always something out there that you don’t know. The need to know everything before getting started can leave you stuck. We get no prize for knowing the most. There is great success in doing the most, though. 

Thinking that knowledge alone is sufficient is just as harmful.
You might know how to do pushups, but that doesn’t provide the same results as doing 100 of them each day. I think taking action is the best research you can do. For an overthinker like me one thing I have been working on is spending more time doing and less time thinking. If I get it wrong it just means I have eliminated a way that doesn’t work and I try again. 
I used to read up on the best workouts for weight loss and on the internet found 100s of options to read up on and “analyse” before choosing the best one. What actually worked to help me lose over 50lbs and keep it off was picking a workout program, following it as best as I could and finishing it. Even though took me about 75 days to complete a 60 day program, it was the workouts that gave me the most useful information I needed to know to get the job of losing weight and getting in better shape done.  
Have you ever found a description that tells accurately what a burpee will feel like? Before you starting thinking about the best way to do burpees just do a single burpee. It may not be pretty or sexy (taking action rarely is) but at least you are taking action, action you can measure and improve upon. 

thinking about running 1

My final thoughts

Eliminating your negative habits and adding new, supportive habits is the key to changing your circumstances. Unfortunately, our instincts about change are incorrect. 

Tiny changes are easy to implement and build upon. But this approach requires patience and the belief that it can work. Remember: small changes add up to big results. 

Avoid the most common mistakes when attempting to add a new habit to your life and you’ll find greater success in adding habits that make a positive impact on your life. 

It wouldn’t be right of me to share my tips on habits without sharing knowledge from a guru on the subject. Atomic Habits by James Clear is a book I highly recommend for anyone trying to master a new habit, set goals and smash them in a sustainable way they use for the rest of their life.  

Click here to get the book  

Thank you for taking time out your valuable day to read this post. If you found value in it please share it with others and please leave me comment to let me know what you thought. 

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