02/04/2014 07:08 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2014

Connecting Habits to Change

"I want to lose 15 pounds."
"I want to be more confident."
"I want to get a promotion this year."
"I want to run a half marathon."

These are things I hear all the time from my friends, family, and clients. Many of them accomplish the goals they set, but those who don't are left discouraged, six months later, having not affected any change. What could they have done differently to succeed? I'm sure if they thought about it, the list could be endless: wake up earlier, eat more greens, stop drinking sugary drinks, put in extra effort on work projects, save money, etc. But I believe that's part of the problem. The list is too long! Instead, having one thing on your to do list and committing to changing just one habit could unlock the door to success. Even the smallest adjustment can impact major change. So, how can you break a habit?

I recently read a blog by James Clear in which he details how to kick a bad habit. What I love about Clear's approach, though, is that he breaks down the process of habit-breaking with the same specificity and clarity as I break down an exercise for my clients. There's good form for exercises, and there's good form for mental activities such as breaking a habit: it all ties into the mind/body connection. Choose a goal (here, a replacement for your habit), maybe work or share with a friend for support, and visualize your success! It might sound too simple, but isn't that better than seeming too hard? Choose a singular focus, and stick to it; you can succeed.

In my experience, once you've zeroed in, focused, and conquered one bad habit, it's out of your life, and your brain has space to adjust something new. Think about a toddler and his/her potty training. At age 3, his only real goal is to get out of diapers. No one's saying, "Little one, please begin using the bathroom on your own, wash your sippy cup when you're done, work out every morning before your nap, and make extra time for your mommy and sister after preschool." That's too much for his young brain to handle! With children, we pace out their changes and give them the freedom to focus on one goal at a time. Once they're potty trained, then we present a new goal/change to them. Why don't we give ourselves the same luxury?

Replacing an old habit with a new one connects you to the change. In the same way we talk so much about connecting to your One Word, here we want you to connect to just One Goal. Maybe a long-term goal is to lose weight, but in the short term, why not to commit to never skipping breakfast? Several weeks after you make that change, and what do you know? You're down 8 pounds with just one habit replacement. If you allow change to be that simple, it can be.

Recently on the Dr. Oz show, a woman was profiled for her health achievements and commitment to a singular goal. She inspired the whole Nalini Method team, and her commitment and focus represents exactly the point we're trying to make. If you didn't watch the video, her story in a nutshell goes like this:

LaKeisha committed to going to the gym for 100 days in a row. That sounds ambitious, but her singular commitment became part of her routine -- eat breakfast, brush teeth, work out! While her goal was to become physically healthier -- and she did! LaKeisha lost a whopping 50 pounds! -- what she didn't realize when she began was that her One Goal could make her emotionally healthier as well. Her self-confidence soared in ways that she didn't expect, so much so that her 100-day challenge has now evolved into a lifestyle. Going to the gym every day is second nature at this point, so there's mental space to continue making healthy choices.

LaKeisha's success bottles down to her focus. If in her example 100 days seems daunting to you, break it down further for your circumstances. "I have a habit of sleeping in late on Sundays. Instead, I'm going to replace that habit with getting up at normal time and hitting the gym". My guess is, after three or four Sundays of working out, you'll be craving a Wednesday workout too.

The opportunities for habit replacement and thus, change, are endless: Eat a frozen banana instead of ice cream, walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, turn of the television by 9 p.m. every night. But always remember the luxury we give our children and LaKeisha gave herself: one goal, one focus at a time. That's where change can really happen.