The hardest part about making a new change is undoubtedly the first few weeks. We move from a comfortable lifestyle into one we are not so familiar with – full of distractions pulling us back into comfort. A lot of the time these distractions are out of our control, but we often set ourselves up for failure without even realising…
This advice came out of one of the self-development books I have read over the last year called ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. One of the ideas in the book helps split the work you put into a new habit in one of two categories.
Motion and Action.
What Are Motion And Action?
Simply put, being in motion is the feeling of preparing to make a change without actually changing anything. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in motion to learn more about how we can go about improving our lives. Other times, however, we fall back on this idea of motion as a way of telling ourselves that we are progressing without having to try and fail. This kind of motion is familiar to us all.
In case you are still unsure about this idea of motion here are some examples I have put together alongside some of James Clear’s:

  •  If I want to start running once every week, spending my time looking through catalogues of running shoes is motion
  •  If I want to improve my diet, reading articles about all sorts of diet plans is motion
  •  If I want to launch a start-up with a new business idea. Telling my friends and family about where it is going to go is motion

Nowadays, we are too concerned with not failing. We miss out on lessons to help us the next time around – those of us that thrive will be the ones who are not scared to go ‘the next time around.
After an hour of shopping for running shoes, it is easy to tell ourselves that we have already started making a change. If we think about how much running has really been done, the ‘progress’ no longer seems so promising. Most people will not acknowledge that they have spent too much time in motion as like I have said before – it sounds too much like failure. Realising when you are caught up in motion can already put yourself ahead and help filter out time spent doing unproductive tasks.

Unlike motion, we often find ourselves in real action a lot less. A big reason that many people give up on new habits or goals is that they feel as though they are not seeing any improvements. A lot of the time, it is a result of not enough time being spent in real-time action. How well you can make a change or how long a habit can last will ultimately depend on the amount of action you have taken. The more we integrate action into our efforts to form a new habit, the better progress we can make.
Here are some of the earlier examples – in action:

  • If I want to start running once every week, going for a run is action
  • If I want to improve my diet, cooking my own healthy meals is action
  • If I want to launch a start-up with a new business idea, putting my product out on the market is action

Common Problems People Run In To
Like anything new, a balance must be found between time spent in action and time spent in motion. Completely eliminating motion can cause progress to backfire if you walk into an unfamiliar lifestyle change without any planning beforehand. Walking into a new habit unprepared can even drive you away from making a change because of how sensitive we are to failure. Shifting yourself from a state of motion into real time action is also a common struggle for many people. They may have decided that now is the time to change but they can easily become demotivated because of how much easier it is to spend time in motion. However as I mentioned before, progress can only be measured by time spent in action.
How You Can Take Action
Fortunately, James Clear recommends another habit-building strategy to help combat these common issues. Personally, making lifestyle changes has become easier using these methods (as with any advice, no single strategy can produce instant results).
This way to help shift into action is to set yourself a landmark ritual. A landmark ritual essentially acts as a start button – once the ritual is completed the action begins. Ritual landmarks can help to differentiate the time spent working on a new habit from time spent relaxing or working on other tasks. An example of a ritual landmark can be putting on a certain gym t-shirt. Once that specific top is put on, you can go workout after. Once you change out of that top, you can focus on other things. Almost all of the time spent after the landmark ritual should be pure action.
We already have certain landmark rituals in our lives like putting toothpaste on a toothbrush. Using brushing your teeth as the habit, once the toothpaste is on only pure action follows.

There are so many ways to make a change in our lives – recognising that you want to is the first step. Take the advice and my experiences with a pinch of salt and do not be afraid if you ‘fail’ the first time. No teacher or advice can help more than us looking back on our mistakes.