Forget the New Year’s resolution graveyard. This year, embrace the power of small, consistent action. Floss one tooth, read a single page, or do five squats while your coffee brews. This concept, explored in popular psychology books, podcasts, and scientific literature, is a secret to unlocking your health goals, and I will review it in this post. So, how do we execute and maintain these transformations? We have to work these habits into our lives. And we have to make it frictionless.



First, let’s crack open the habit factory in your brain. Imagine it like a conveyor belt: cue, craving, response, reward. A cue triggers a craving, which is the motivation to perform the response. That motivation is based on the history of reward associated with that response. The cue may be external, like exercise clothes beside your bed, or internal, like feeling stressed. Feeling stressed (cue) may trigger a craving to watch TV or scroll social media (response) because your body has learned it will receive a reward of dopamine and feel better (in the short term). Depending on your goals, this particular sequence may not be serving you. Learning how to rewire this sequence by inserting a new response will be helpful.

Tiny habits work magic by making the “response” so easy that even the most seasoned procrastinator can’t resist. What if feeling stressed cued you to go for a short walk or do a few push-ups? These responses also trigger dopamine and provide a reward. If you’ve set a goal to be more active, completing these tasks is even more rewarding. But what if you’re starting from scratch?

Remember that self-imposed 45-minute workout? Replace it with a five-minute “living room dance party” – guaranteed to boost your mood and leave you wanting more (and maybe even ready to jump on the treadmill). Even better, break it down to one push-up or one squat. Create the habit of showing up first, then build on your success. It’s not about the perfect workout session; it’s about building a system of tiny dance parties that lead you there.

 “You do not rise to the levels of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

James Clear



But why does this seemingly insignificant act hold such power? It’s all about activation energy. Activation energy is the mental hurdle that makes starting new things feel like scaling Mount Improbable. That’s the friction we mentioned above. Dr. Andrew Huberman of the Huberman Lab podcast coined the term limbic friction, which he defines as “how much conscious override of your state is required in order to engage in that particular behavior.”

Breaking down habits into smaller tasks lowers that hurdle. It reduces the friction, turning it into a playful hop, paving the way for consistent action. James Clear suggests this is about “making a better decision easy and natural.” Make the “healthy choice” visible in your environment: walking shoes by the door instead of hiding in the closet. The phone charger is strategically in the other room, while a book is on the coffee table, the kitchen counter, and the bathroom… you get the idea.



Next up, dopamine. As mentioned above, every completed habit, no matter how small, triggers a dopamine rush, reinforcing the habit loop. That one-page read? Dopamine! Suddenly, you’re not just reading; you’re finishing entire fantasy series or gaining insights from historical non-fiction or self-help books. BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, calls this making habits attractive – because who wants to do something boring when it can feel like Mardi Gras?

These tiny triumphs boost your self-efficacy, that inner voice whispering, “You can do this!” Feeling empowered fuels your confidence to take on bigger tasks, strengthening the neural pathways in your brain and paving the way for even bigger wins.



But what if the dreaded inertia monster rears its ugly head? You have a secret weapon: flexibility. Missing a day is no epic fail, just a detour on your journey. The barrier to re-entry is practically non-existent, unlike the towering wall of guilt built by abandoned grand ambitions. This becomes even easier if you’ve stacked this habit with other already-ingrained habits (Click here for more on Habit-Stacking). Remember, as Hebb’s Law emphasizes, “neurons that fire together wire together.” Build your new habit alongside an existing one, and it’ll become as ingrained as brushing your teeth.



Maintenance is the other half of the execution equation. To keep things moving forward, we need to address the internal terrain. In most cases, change happens gradually, so we will see the result of our efforts after some time. This delayed gratification makes it easy for us to let unhelpful habits slide. Also, our brain will try to sabotage us because building new neural connections is challenging. So, how can we make things easier?

There is a lot of information out there about visualization exercises. You may be surprised by what the literature shows. It’s not visualizing success that gets the job done; it’s visualizing failure. Emily Balcetis’ lab showed that you can almost double your success rate by routinely visualizing what it might look like to fail in your goal. If you don’t sit down and write every day, will you ever finish your novel? If you don’t exercise routinely, will you be able to keep up with your kids as they grow? Andrew Huberman states this concept “almost certainly has to do with increases in systolic blood pressure and increases in readiness in your system when you imagine failure.” So, if your motivation is struggling, visualize your goal. Now, what would it look like to fail?

Additionally, doing the same thing over and over again can get boring. It’s inevitable. This is a common pitfall with exercise that leads to trying to mix things up too much or giving up altogether. I wish I had some advice, but I think Clear says it best:


“The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom.”  James Clear




Sleep and stress management are critical for habit formation. So prioritize that night’s sleep, practice your favorite stress-relief technique, and you will make it even easier for your brain to become a habit-forming machine. Check out these posts for more information:





Ditch the grand plans and embrace the journey of change. Start with a small habit today, no matter how silly it seems. Remember, our Integrative Health Coach and Nutritionist are here to cheer you on and help you personalize your strategy. They can even help you address sleep and stress, smoothing your journey through habit-change territory.

Remember, you’re not just flossing one tooth or doing five squats. You’re developing a system that will lead to a healthier, happier you.


This blog post was written by Tom Everts, PA-C for Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville.



  1. Clear, James. Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Habits and Break Bad Ones. Penguin Random House, 2018
  2. Fogg, B. J.. Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020.
  3. Huberman, A. (Host). (2022, May 11). Episode 53: The Science of Making & Breaking Habits [Audio podcast episode]. Huberman Lab. Retrieved from
  4. Huberman Lab. (2022, October 26). Build or Break Habits Using Science-Based Tools. Retrieved from
  5. Huberman, A. (Host). (2023, January 9). Episode 82: Goals Toolkit: How to Set & Achieve Your Goals [Audio podcast episode]. Huberman Lab. Retrieved from
  6. Huberman, A. (Host). (2023, January 25). Episode 84: The Science of Setting and Achieving Goals [Audio podcast episode]. Huberman Lab. Retrieved from
  7. Huberman, A. (Host). (2023, June 7). Episode 94: Dr. Emily Balcetis: Tools for Setting & Achieving Goals [Audio podcast episode]. Huberman Lab. Retrieved from
  8. Balcetis E, Cole S. Task demand not so damning: Improved techniques that mitigate demand in studies that support top-down effects. Behav Brain Sci. 2016 Jan;39:e230. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X15002538. PMID: 28355847.