top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin Mullins

The Power of the "1 and 1" for Making Changes

Nearly everyone on Earth wants to make changes in their lives.

For many those changes are kept general. They want to lose weight, make more money, and find their true love. They aspire to reach these endpoints in their life; their dream weight, salary, or lover - as though they can simply program their GPS and ride to the destination.

Everyone wants to see the top of the mountain...

With such a general, and abstract, view of change - it's no wonder most people stay the same (or worse, regress)!

Then there are those who highly specific goals that require specific changes. There is the competitive figure athlete who wants to lose 5 pounds of fat in her cutting phase before her next show. There is the rising Senior Associate at a law firm who wants to make Partner and take the vacation of their dreams around the Holidays. Of course, there is also the person who stopped going to bars to find Love and instead found themselves in gyms, libraries, and on the beach at sunset.

These individuals take specific actions with the intent that their efforts will yield the result they want - a specific outcome. More often than not, these people find success in their journey (even if it isn't "perfect").

But none of this should come as a surprise to you or anyone. We've long known that setting specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-sensitive goals leads to greater incidence of success. These SMART goal setting habits have been taught since middle school in developed nations, preached by every high school guidance counselor, and reiterated by every college and professional advisor/coach.

Even me, as a personal trainer and coach of thirteen years, invests a lot of time coaching my clients on the values of being more specific and intentional with their goal setting. For years I've joked that the only rational response to the statement "I want to be in better shape" is to retort, "what shape would you like to be? A triangle, square, oval?"


Because there is nothing specific about "better shape". It's intentionally abstract because it provides expansive room for error. Lose 1 pound and shape up your thighs with some squats and you can technically say that you are in better shape.

A more specific goal, such as "I want to lose 12 pounds by October and have visible definition in my quadriceps, calves, and upper arms from weight training" doesn't have nearly the wiggle room.

And once again, we know that such specificity is likely more reflective of a greater commitment to a more vivid vision. This person is being specific to force themselves to grind harder towards their ultimate goal.

But still, how can we start making the changes necessary to achieve that goal?

A goal without action steps is simply a dream.

I can "want" to be a millionaire with an Italian sports car in my driveway, but if I don't begin organizing my life in such a manner - it's just a dream that helps me smile while I fall asleep on my worn pillow each night after repeating another day like the last.

Action steps, in this instance, like finding a secondary income source (side hustle) that can fund the creation/expansion of a passive income stream will get me started. The next step would be to use all profits from the secondary and passive income streams to fuel a portfolio of financial and physical assets. A reinvestment strategy could then be set up in the business and the portfolio with a growth window of 3-5 years. The entire time, "the day job" keeps the bills paid and funds a less-than-fancy lifestyle.

And like that, the outline is drawn like the blueprint to a beautiful building. The lines are drawn and the angles measured. Now, would come time to be specific and make changes at the monthly, weekly, and even daily level.

That's where the "1 and 1" strategy shines:

  • Every month you choose to ADD one positive behavior/action/process into your life that moves you closer to your goal.

  • Every month you also choose to REMOVE one not-so-beneficial behavior/action/process from your life that moves you closer to your goal.

Effectively, you exchange a good behavior for a "bad" one for an entire month and examine how it impacts your progress towards your goal. 30ish days is plenty of time for a new habit to take hold and make positive impact. It's also a perfect amount of time for change to take place as a result of removing old habits that don't serve you.


Let's say you wanted to lose those 12 pounds and achieve the definition in your arms and legs from resistance training (as mentioned above). You might look at your life and decide that going out for dinner and drinks on the weekends, every weekend, is a habit that's holding you back. You realize that you are consuming excess calories, missing out on sleep, and skipping your workouts because of a hangover.

You choose then to replace Friday night's with a Yoga class and nights in with your closest friends. You commit to cooking your own dinner prior to social time and only drinking water or tea.

To prevent yourself from "going too hard" - you keep Saturday nights open for wilder activities, but you sign up for an exercise class, or training session, on late Sunday mornings to keep you in-line while also training extra hard on Saturday mornings (which you can do because you stayed in).

So, for month you stick to the plan of only having a "night out" once a week, and never missing a weekend workout. You've replaced crazy Fridays and lazy Saturdays with an extra "go" day while keeping your social flexibility and a workout commitment for Saturday night and Sunday.

At the end of the month, you sleep better, think more clearly, and have seen 4 to 5 pounds fall off already.

At this point, you can choose to keep on the path and do another month, or potentially up the ante with other changes. The choice is yours. But, no matter what, you stick to the "1 and 1" method as the structure for your monthly changes.


Weekly goals and Daily goals can utilize the same format too. At the beginning of every week you can ask yourself, "what is one thing I want to accomplish this week and what is one thing I don't want to do". You can ask the same question every morning about the day too.

Maybe you want to read a book this week but you don't want to spend so much time on Netflix. So, you are "trading" the TV time for the book. Every day you set the intention to read at least 10 pages of your book before you can even consider the TV. Or maybe you go more strict and limit TV time to Thursday through Sunday only.

Regardless of the specifics, the 1 and 1 method provides a framework for adjusting your life to be more in line with your goals and your vision - instead of simply aligning with impulses, temptations, and habits.


You truly can accomplish most things in life that don't require exceptional talents or physical skill sets. Not everyone who wants to be a fighter pilot, NFL quarterback, or heart surgeon can become one - even if they have the drive and the mind. Some things simply require a level of skill that isn't handed out at every school lunch.

The key to accomplishing anything though - is having a plan. You must see the end point, know the starting point, and draw the map connecting the two while accounting for road blocks, barriers, and false roads. The best way to account for the road is to know yourself and acknowledge that you have bad habits/temptations that hold you back while also seeing that there are things that successful people are doing that you are not.

Once you add the good and subtract the bad - the road to your goal becomes more smooth, allowing you to pick up pace and possibly make it to the destination faster than you first planned.

Get out there and make changes 1 and 1 at a time. You've got this.



Keep Reading with Kevin's book - Day by Day: The Personal Trainer's Blueprint

Open Book.png

Elevate your Fitness Career...Daily


What they Say...

"365 Golden Nuggets of Wisdom" - Jonathan Goodman

"Little attention is paid usually to the "how to" of building a successful career. Thanks to Kevin, this void is now being filled."  - Simon Warwick

THIS book should be required reading for anyone hoping to make a career out of personal training. - Steven Head

bottom of page