”Doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day. How much greater? Profoundly so, because a little bit every day is enough to grow into a lifelong foundational habit, and those are a big deal.” ― Stephen Guise
So, what is a mini habit? Stephen Guise, the creator of the mini habit concept, describes mini habits as stupid small versions of a habit you want to develop. Stephen was struggling to exercise. He felt overwhelmed by the prospect of a half-hour workout. He couldn’t get motivated, and he didn’t have enough willpower to train. Frustrated, he decided to shrink his workout.
Stephen’s solution was the One Push-up Workout. After he completed the push-up, he decided to do more, and before he knew it, he’d finished an entire workout. He had stumbled upon a concept that would revolutionize his life and countless others.
He wrote about his One Push-up Challenge, and it struck a chord with his readers, who also struggled to exercise. Later he would write his bestselling book, Mini Habits, and other publications incorporating this concept. He has used the mini habits strategy to develop a host of good habits.
Stephen has used it to write on days when he felt exhausted or suffered from a headache by challenging himself to write 50 words a day. Usually, his 50 words expand to a thousand words or more, which is a big part of mini habits’ magic. They help you overcome your reluctance to starting but don’t prevent you from doing more. Stephen says the only time he’s ever failed to perform a mini habit was when he forgot to do it. I have discovered that when you combine the mini habit concept with action triggers, you’ve got an almost foolproof pairing of behavior strategies.
Mini habits miniaturize the desired behavior we want to develop to silly small proportions. They are so tiny that we can create three or four habits at a time and meet our commitments in less than 20-minutes. The size of mini habits is laughable, but their results aren’t. All routines are consequential because they are behaviors we perform thousands of times. We are what we do, so habits speak to who we are more than anything else.
They are designed to be ridiculously easy. Steven recognizes that Newton’s First Law applies to psychology as much as it does to physics. We resist new behaviors the way an object resists movement. Our existing routines flow; they have momentum on their side. The biggest disadvantage that a new habit has is that inertia is working against it.
A mini habit is the smallest of nudges, but that slight shove is all that is needed to put Newton’s First Law in our corner. Momentum becomes our ally. We go from unstartable to unstoppable.
Once in motion, we can do as much or as little as we want. Since the behavior is something we are motivated to develop, chances are we’ll want to do more. Mini habits are unambitious by design.
Ambition, like perfectionism, is the enemy of progress. When we are too ambitious, we’ll often do nothing – like the person afraid to make a mistake. We will convince ourselves that if we cannot do everything, we won’t do anything. We will pick it back up tomorrow. We always think tomorrow we will have more time, willpower, and motivation.
Another benefit is enhanced self-efficacy. Each time we mark the habit as complete in our habit tracker, we’ve kept a promise to ourselves. All respect must be earned; self-respect is no exception. You cannot fake showing up and doing the work.
People confuse ambition with action. Big goals are beautiful, but we don’t rise to the level of our aspirations; we sink to the level of our standards. Habits are our standards. Mini habits are the minimum standard we’ll accept. They’re designed to get you to do a little when you wouldn’t otherwise do anything.
Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal says, “A short practice that you do every day is better than a long practice you keep putting off to tomorrow.” Think of a mini habit as a metaphorical spark. Every time we perform a mini habit, our goal is to ignite whatever motivation is available to continue past the initial commitment. We want to avoid the mistake of becoming too ambitious.
We want to keep our daily commitment laughably small. We must be satisfied with doing the minimum. On an exhausting day, we need to recognize that fulfilling our mini habit is a meaningful victory. We are reinforcing the habit, building our willpower, increasing our awareness, and improving our self-esteem.
When we start a fire, we are taught to use tiny, easily combustible twigs. The routines connected with mini habits are those tiny twigs that we hope will ignite sticks and logs. When you get too ambitious with your daily commitment, it is like trying to start a fire using sticks and logs. It would require copious amounts of accelerant.
A person starting out with huge commitments will likewise need copious amounts of willpower and motivation – much more than the average person. This approach will only work for a small percentage of people. The mini habits approach can work for anyone.
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