Have you ever procrastinated starting a project because you felt overwhelmed? If you have, you’ve been the victim of subjective fatigue. Beginning a task carries the full weight of the commitment. Our mind looks ahead and calculates the work, which causes us to feel exhausted before we can start. What we think is laziness is often exhaustion. Mini habits are so silly small that they are nearly weightless. Mini habits kill procrastination. They carry almost no subjective fatigue.
Another cognitive bias that acts as an obstacle to starting is called the spotlight effect. Whenever we step outside our comfort zone, our mind magnifies the difficulty of the task. Like subjective fatigue, it causes us to feel overwhelmed. Mini habits don’t raise any cognitive red flags because they are so easy to do. Mini habits circumnavigate these mental roadblocks to starting. Once we begin, we can base our decision to continue on the task’s actual difficulty – not a distorted version of it. As we develop the habit, our perceived difficulty will diminish, not because it has gotten easier, but because we have gotten better. Continue reading MINI HABITS REDUCE OUR NATURAL RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
The nature of bad habits makes them irresistible to our basal ganglia, where all habits live. Our primitive brain is a sucker for a quick payoff.
Why do we allow bad habits to happen? When we are stress or not paying attention, our subconscious mind will choose bad habits over good ones. Every bad habit provides an immediate benefit. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t repeat them. When we are feeling tired and stressed, we are particularly susceptible to them. When our body’s cortisol levels are raised, our mind shifts from a pause-and-plan state to a more impulsive fight-or-flight condition. Our primitive brain takes control and seeks quick satisfaction. Our primitive brain isn’t concerned with abstract ideas or our long-term goals; it is in tune with our body’s sensations. We have one brain but two minds. One is driven by emotions, the other by logic. Which is in charge at any given moment is dependent on our stress levels. Stress triggers a fight-or-flight response that puts our impulsive mind in the driver’s seat. Relaxation, on the other hand, shifts us to a state of pause-and-plan. When you are about to give in to temptation, taking, a few deep breaths has been shown to improve our self-control. Continue reading WHY WE ARE ALL SUSCEPTIBLE TO BAD HABITS
One of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the modern era, Twyla Tharp, has spent decades performing to the delight of audiences around the world. She attributes her phenomenal longevity to one simple daily habit. “I begin each day of my life with a ritual,” she writes. “I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirt, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual. It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habituates it—makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.”[i] Instead of focusing on the two-hour workout, she shrinks the commitment to getting into the cab. Once she is in the cab, this gateway habit shapes her next two hours. Continue reading Shink the Commitment – Build a Habit
Willpower is not an effective long-term strategy for behavior change because it is inconstant. When we are stressed-out, tired, and hungry our willpower will leave us vulnerable to any temptations we encounter. Fortunately for us the more committed we are, the less willpower we will need. Shaping your environment will shield you from temptation. By removing the temptations that reward bad habits, we can extinguish them without exerting our willpower. It doesn’t require willpower to shape our environment. It requires commitment. Continue reading Environmental Design is a Great Substitute for Willpower
He reverses these four laws to break a bad habit. Make the Cue invisible, the Reward unattractive, the Routine harder to execute, and the Reward unsatisfying. He does a fantastic job of providing practical suggestions on how to accomplish each law.[i] James Clear’s book complements Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. The Power of Habit helps us to understand habits, but it isn’t a manual for behavior change. Atomic Habits fulfills that role, providing actionable strategies in a simple to follow format. This book has an even narrower focus. It seeks to combine the strategies of behavior change with tactics designed to produce a leaner fitter body. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu Continue reading A Practical Framework for Behavior Change