I’m soon drawing to the end of my stash of habit forming books. The more I read, the more similar they’re all becoming. That either means that I have read all there is to know about forming new, beneficial habits, or it means that I have reached the end of our current knowledge of this subject.
What is more exciting then, is stumbling across a new idea. New ideas within a topic that you already know fairly well that seem almost intuitive are like gold dust. In this article, I am going to share with you the idea of developing mini habits.
Stephen Guise, the author of Mini Habits, shares a very similar explanation of what habits are and how they’re formed as other authors such as Charles Duhigg, Jeremy Dean, and Bernhard Roth. And again in alignment with these types of books, he discusses the difference between motivation and willpower.
Willpower can be built up, he says, by the implementation of new, positive habits in your daily routine. The more you utilize your willpower, the stronger it gets. But there lies a problem, because how do you utilize your highly limited willpower in the first place to kick start momentum.
Mini habits, the main focus of Guise’ book. A mini habit is a task that you will repeat until it is autonomous, but that is too small for you to fail. And by too small to fail, I literally mean too small to fail.
If you want to work out, Guise suggests setting the goal of doing one press up. If you want to study more, set a goal of ready one short paragraph (or even just opening up the page).
Why would these mini goals work? Well, try and make an excuse as to why you can’t perform just one press up. I’m guessing it is going to be harder work coming up with an excuse your subconscious will accept than it would be to just do one press up. That is the point.
Mini goals work because they are too easy. You literally cannot fail to accomplish a mini goal, and that means you start moving. It is far easier to maintain momentum than it is to get moving. Guise actually suggests that the biggest hurdle you will ever face is also the first one, going from inertia to mobility.
The kicker here, you might be asking, is that you won’t see any real progress towards your goals. You would be wrong again…
I feel a sense of achievement when I successfully accomplish goals that I’ve set for myself. The difference between long-term goals and mini habits is how often you feel like you’ve achieved something.
A long term life goal might give you a few feelings of success over the entire span of the project, but mini goals are going to let you feel success several times every single day. Mini goals are going to embody the belief within yourself that you are an achiever and that anything is truly possible if you set your mind to it.
Small steps still move you in the direction you want to be heading. Small steps are going to get you there a whole lot faster than no steps at all. Again, because mini habits are so easy to accomplish, you’re guaranteeing yourself a degree of success that you wouldn’t have been able to ensure previously.
The Tortoise Principle
You might feel like you don’t have enough time to take the slow route in life. You might feel like you want the results right now. That is OK, and is actually perfectly normal, but let me tell you about the tortoise principle.
Everybody knows the story of the tortoise and the hare, probably Aesop’s most famous fable. The idea behind the story is that the Hare rushed on ahead, so sure of his winning the race that he eventually took a nap thinking there was plenty of time to spare. The tortoise didn’t take a break and kept moving slowly and steadily towards the finish line. Ultimately, it was the cheering of all the other animals at tortoise winning the race that woke Hare up. From that point on, he didn’t brag about his speed because he knew that slow and steady won the race.
Slow and steady is the key to success in any area of your life. The important point is that you take at least one step forward each and every day. There is no one holding you back from taking more than one step, but it is that singular step each day that is the most important step.
While your goal each day might be to complete one press up, you can still complete ten if that is what you feel like doing. If your goal is to study one paragraph, momentum will make studying the rest of the page easy if you should so choose. The key isn’t to stop once you’ve achieved your goal, the key is to take that first step.
Guise’ Planning Principles
As obvious as it sounds, I haven’t come across the idea of listing every habit you would eventually like to implement into your life before now. But, that is the first step according to Guise. Go through and decide on your motivation for completing each goal. Similar to Vishen’s means goals, identify where your motivation truly comes from, society or yourself. If you want to learn a language, do you truly think it will benefit your life? Or is it because society will be impressed?
Next, identify the smallest possible step that you can take that will lead you in the right direction. Following on with the language learning process, that could be learning one new foreign word each day.
Determine and write down what will cue you to enact your habit. What circumstance will cause you to think, “OK it is now time to learn that word”? Write it down, and every time you come across that cue, you will perform the habit. Over time, that will become an autonomous process.
To keep momentum, you need to maintain records of your goals. Either use a fancy app to see how long you have maintained an unbroken chain, or even just use a regular calendar and mark off each day with a big red ‘X’.
Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself for your achievements!
Set your sights into overdrive at first. Think of the most outlandish dreams you have, and then bring them back down to Earth. Identify the smallest step that you can take to start working towards those dreams. Make that step so small that trying to come up with an excuse would be more difficult than just doing the task.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race.