Whenever anyone wants to make some serious changes in their life, conventional wisdom holds that they should focus on one thing at a time. The thinking goes that you will overdo it if you try to make too many changes at once.
As a psychiatrist, I have often dispensed the good old “one thing at a time” advice. I would caution my overzealous patients, “You cannot possibly tackle everything at once. First things first. Let’s start with improving your mental health. Then you can tackle the other issues like getting in shape and quitting smoking.”
Recent research suggests that this “step-by-step” mindset seriously underestimates our ability to transform ourselves. According to the study, people are capable of multiple simultaneous changes in their mental and physical health and that a comprehensive approach enhances success in all areas. Participants in the study showed dramatic improvements in a number of domains including strength, endurance, flexibility, working memory, standardized test performance, focus, mood, self-esteem, mindfulness, and life satisfaction.
The lead researcher, Michael Mrazek, explains:
“Recent research suggests its often more effective to make two or more changes simultaneously, especially when those changes reinforce one another. It’s easier to drink less coffee if at the same time you get more sleep. Our intervention extended this logic by helping people make progress in many ways, which can create an upward spiral where one success supports the next.”
The results of the study were described as “clear and striking” and they lasted. Even six weeks after the study, participants continued to show improvement in all areas.
The study makes me optimistic about what is possible for all of us. We are capable of far more than we think and realizing our full potential just might be easier than we ever imagined.
William James says it best:
To change one’s life:
1. Start immediately.
2. Do it flamboyantly.
3. No exceptions.