(Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy a product through one of these links I will receive a little bit of money in return, at no extra cost to you. However, I was not paid to advertise any of the products featured here, and all opinions are my own).
The start of the new year is a great time to turn over a new leaf and push on to bigger and better things, as a result, many people start the year off with a New Year's Resolution. The problem is that New Year's resolutions have an abysmal success rate. By the end of January, most people have already given up on their resolution. We have these huge goals and start off the year with lots of motivation and hit them hard, doing things like going to the gym 2 hours a day every day. That kind of motivation is hard to keep up though, especially if you don't see the kind of results you would like immediately. Before long you are discouraged, skip a day, then two days, feel like a failure, and give up.
What if instead, you had a teeny tiny behavior that you had to do every day that supported your bigger overall goal, one that required you to do so little that you could do it easily every day, without fail? Then every day you would make incremental progress toward your bigger goal, and since you were meeting your daily requirements every day you would feel like a success. You would be encouraged rather than discouraged, and you would keep at it, right?
For a while now, I have been trying to figure out ways to create daily habits that would support my overall goals - getting fitter, writing for the blog more often, and doing research for the podcast every day. I have tried Habit Stacking, and habits based on a cue, and habits based on a time of day, one habit at a time, multiple habits at one time, and every other derivation you can probably think of. I always failed. I didn't have enough motivation, or enough time, or enough energy. Life consistently got in the way of hour-long workout sessions, and marathon research. I tried to make myself do too much, and I just couldn't keep up - at least not with enough consistency to actually form a habit.
Then, after what seemed like ages of searching I found Mini Habits, by Stephen Guise. The idea behind Mini Habits is that the thing you are striving to do every day is so minimal an obligation, so simple, and so easy that you could still do it on your very worst day. That way you never fail, you stay encouraged, and keep working toward your goal. You can always do more than what your mini habit requires, but you never HAVE to. Even if you only do the minimum you have still succeeded, and if you exceed the minimum, well that feels even better.
So how small are mini habits? As the author of the book likes to put it, stupid small. Currently, the mini habits I am working on are;
- Preform one push-up or sit-up per day
- Write 50 words per day
- Read the equivalent of one page in a book per day
I can complete all 3 of these in 5 minutes or less and I have every day since I started Mini Habits. I have also exceeded my minimum in most areas on most days so far. The thing that makes this so much easier than all of the other habit programs I have tried is that I have to do so little that I can always do it. I don't have to get up the motivation to do one push-up, it is so easy that I just do it. And usually, once I am down there doing the push-up, it is easy to do a couple more, and maybe a few stretches, and then why don't I turn on that yoga routine that looked pretty good - after all, I don't have to finish it since I have already met my goal for the day. In the same vein one page usually turns into 10 or even 20, and 50 words (which is not much more than a tweet) often turns into 200 or more. Once I start it is easy to keep going, but if I knew beforehand I HAD to sit down to write 200 words or read 20 pages I would never start, it would just take more motivation than I could generally muster on a daily basis. I have a full-time job outside the blog and podcast, 2 kids, and a list of things that need to be done at home longer than my arm - doing more just seemed like too much, that is until the requirement became so small that it seemed easy. Now, I may not be making leaps and bounds toward my goals, but I am making steady progress, and that feels really great.
If you are looking for a way to reach your goals in 2018 and have had trouble sticking with it in the past, I would like to encourage you to give Mini Habits a try. The worst that can happen is that you spend a few bucks and discover it isnt for you, the best that can happen is that you finally meet your goals and live your dream. For me, that is a risk worth taking.