Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change. This pattern shows up everywhere. Cancer spends 80 percent of its life undetectable, then takes over the body in months. Bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks.
Similarly, habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance. In the early and middle stages of any quest, there is often a Valley of Disappointment. You expect to make progress in a linear fashion and it’s frustrating how ineffective changes can seem during the first days, weeks, and even months. It doesn’t feel like you are going anywhere. It’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed.
Nothing. Habits form about 45 percent of your total behavior, according to a Duke University study. Not only that, but they are behaviors that you repeat frequently, which compounds their significance in your life. Habits are your foundation, and if this foundation is weak, you won’t be happy with the way you live.
The reason people fail to change their lives, and fail to instill new habits, is because they try to do too much at once. In simplest terms, if your new habit requires more willpower than you can muster, you will fail. If your new habit requires less willpower than you can muster, you will succeed.
The concept of mini habits:
Mini habits are exactly as they sound. First, you choose a desired habit or change you’d like to make—it could be thinking more positively, writing 1,000 words a day, or reading two books per week.
Next, you shrink these habits down until they are “stupid small,” a term I made up because when you say the requirement out loud, it is so small that it sounds stupid. Here are mine:
Write fifty words per day (article, story, etc.)
Write fifty words per day (for the habits book I’m writing)
Read two pages in a book per day
Easy, right? I could complete this list in ten minutes total. So far, I’ve met these daily requirements 100 percent of the time, and then much more.
I’ve actually written one to two thousand words and read ten to thirty pages per day, for these twelve days in a row and counting. Prior to this, I wasn’t reading at all and writing very little.
Ten Daily Mini Habit Ideas
Compliment one person
Think two positive thoughts
Meditate for one minute
Name three things you’re thankful for
Do one push-up
Write fifty words
Read two pages
Do ten jumping jacks
Go outside and take 100 steps
Drink one glass of water
You can change nearly any area of your life, and at one mini habit at a time, it’s easier than you think.
When you remove the pressure and expectations, you allow yourself to start.
For about a year I struggled to make my exercise habits stick. I found it a chore to wake up early and was tired after work so I never got around to it. I always had an excuse for not working out: “I’m tired today”, “I have too many things on”, “It’s Friday, give me a break”
That was until I came across a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The book made it perfectly clear to me why I couldn’t stick to my exercise habit. This is how it broke down the components of any habit:
Reminder (cue) – the trigger that initiates the behavior
Routine – the behavior itself; the action you take
Reward – the benefit you gain from doing the behavior
All I had so far was the exercise routine, not the reminder or reward.
I started with setting a reminder. I found phone reminders naggy and annoying. That didn’t work. Instead I looked at my day and wrote down actions I took without fail that I could use as reminders: waking up, brushing teeth, eating, getting dressed and so on…
The reminder that was the most powerful for me was hunger. I found if I got really hungry I would be motivated to work out (or do anything) just so I can eat. I liked food too much. More than the pain of an intense workout.
And thanks to this new discovery my new habit started to stick. I started consistently exercising every other day. I had all the components of a habit: reminder (hunger), routine (workout) and reward (food).
Identify the new “identity” you want to have. The more specific you can be with it, the easier it’ll be to prove it to yourself. “I’m the type of person that never misses a workout.” “I’m somebody who eats a healthy lunch every day.” “I’m somebody who works on my side business every dang day.” Remind yourself of this EVERY day by hanging up a post-it note on your bathroom window, or using your phone/calendar to keep this at the front of your mind.
James Clear: All habit streaks end at some point. Everybody slips up at some point. The mantra that I like to keep in mind for that is: never miss twice.
If I work out at the gym Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and I miss on Friday — because of a business trip or whatever — then I need to put all my energy into making sure I get in there on Monday. I don’t want to miss twice in a row.
It’s pretty much never the first mistake that ruins you. It’s the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. So if you can get back on track quickly… I think I had a line in the book: “Missing once is a mistake, missing twice is the start of a new habit.”
Rich Roll: Yeah, cause then it creates its own negative momentum.
Your habits are the way that you embody a particular identity. So, every morning that you make your bed, you embody the identity of an organized person. Every time you go to the gym, you embody the identity of someone who’s fit. Every time you sit down to write, you embody the identity of someone who’s a writer.
Every action you take is kind of like a vote for the type of person that you believe that you are. As you take these actions, you build up evidence of a particular identity, and pretty soon your beliefs have something to root themselves in. It’s like, “Man, I showed up at the gym for 4 days a week for the last three months; I guess I’m the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts” — and that I think is the true reason why habits are so important.
Once I realized how beliefs and behaviors are connected, that it’s this two-way street… then I started to think that this is really something. Not only does it deliver those external results — the clean room, or the bigger bank account — but also the internal results of shaping your sense of self-image and what you believe.