If your opinion is "it waries, depends on you" then of course the question is how to know which one is right for you?
Option 1 - Static Balance. Small, regulated positive changes, in the form of routine. To save money, stick to a realistic budget every month. To lose weight, stick to a calorie budget every day and a regular exercise regime - every Tuesday is a chest and legs day etc. Advantage: can be easier. Disadvantages: it is boring to have regular routines, to have every day or month like the other, to have this organization. Small, easy changes don't fulfill you with a sense of pride and challenge. And always something unforeseen happens that puts you out of the routine.
Option 2: Dynamic Balance. Understanding that unforeseen events can upset any routine, don't have a routine, rather go all-in today and be OK with not doing it all in a month, then repeating it - go from one extreme to another, then your average will be in a good balance. Have a buy-nothing November then splurge in December. Overtrain like crazy for two weeks, then pursue some other interest for a week. Wanna lose weight, go crazy fast for two days, have a ridiculously restricted diet for a week, then accept your friends invitation to that all you can eat buffet. Advantage: going crazy gives you fulfillment and challenge, it is a fun game, and you are prepared for unforeseen situation throwing you off track for a while, because your average is still OK. Disadvantage: can be hard.
What do you think?
My issue with the post is that things are more of a continuum, rather than a couple of discrete options.
I would hazard that a series of small, discrete, intended changes in one's lifestyle is not a "static" endeavor.
Similarly, a wild swing between extreme behaviors is not a balanced endeavor.
As to the initial OP question, you know what's right for you when it works for you, and works longer than a couple of days or weeks.
+1, although are you talking about losing weight specifically? Or are talking about positive changes in your life as a whole?
But, it really *does* depend on you.
Depending on your own mindset, either approach is equally valid. The incremental changes are typically less painful and more palatable, but sometimes you just have to rip off the bandaid.
I've found, for me, a "break" with the old in favor of a new habit is often my best approach.
With regards to weight loss, I might have a suggestion. There is an app called LoseIt! which I found awhile back. Basically it's a calorie counting app, approximately analogous to the Weight Watchers system as I understand it. It seems to be working for me, and I'm already down 6.4 pounds, without the pain of an abrupt change. Maybe worth a look?
My wife and I actually practice a stance between option 1 and 2. Based on Edward Deming's work.
We call it Focused Consumption. We are focused on one area, currently weight loss and put extra resources on that until we find the method that works and then we lock it in, monitor and reward progress. The rest of life stays like option 1 - Static. It allows us to find the pride in the changes and make harder ones than "little shifts", yet smaller then an extreme all or nothing like option 2.
Once the method is locked down and the progress metered and rewarded, we can focus on the next topic, without loosing the gains from the first goal.