1-Sentence-Summary: Mini Habits explains how you can get the most out of the fact that 45% of your behavior happens on autopilot by setting ridiculously small goals, relying on willpower instead of motivation and tracking your progress to live a life that’s full of good mini habits.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
I first learned about Stephen Guise on Steve Scott’s blog “Develop Good Habits.” Stephen is a regular contributor (I’m a guest poster too, btw) to the bestselling Kindle author’s post portfolio, so I thought it safe to assume he was a habit expert. He sure is.
Mini Habits has sold over 100,000 copies and has become the go-to habit formation strategy for many, I’m guessing thanks to the simplicity of the concept. Stephen strategically walks you through the science of habits and how our brain sees and uses them, then explaining why that means motivation is unreliable and how you can rely on willpower instead.
He then gives you a step-by-step plan to implement mini habits into your life. Here are 3 of these steps:
- Set a super easy goal to start, because chances are you’ll keep going once you’re off.
- Use some kind of system to track your habits and progress.
- When you beat your goal, don’t increase the standard, or you’ll fall off the wagon.
Have you been wanting to change your habits for the better? Here’s how to do it, without changing much at all!
Lesson 1: Make starting your habit easy, because objects in motion stay in motion.
Let’s say you want to be able to do 100 push-ups in a row. Where would you start? 10, 20? Doing as many as you can every day? It’s very easy to think that by starting at the highest level you can currently achieve, you’ll reach your goal the fastest, but actually, that’s just a recipe for disaster.
If you can barely do 20 push-ups, doing it for seven days in a row and collapsing on the floor every time will only make you want to trade morning exercise for a bigger breakfast – it’s frustrating and de-motivating. I know what Stephen would tell you: just do one push-up every day.
Wait. One?! Are you serious? Yup. It’s how he got started. Why does it work? Because if all you have to do is one push-up a day, you’ll laugh at the challenge. It won’t be difficult and it’s impossible to get tired.
But as you do your single push-up, Newton’s first law will kick in, which says objects in motion tend to stay in motion. It’s easy to add another 3-4 push-ups to your first one. Overcoming that first, initial hurdle is all it takes.
Soon, you’ll find yourself upgrading to two push-ups a day, then three, and so on.
Lesson 2: Track your habits using a system, so you’ll know how much progress you make.
To know how you’re fairing with your habits, it pays to track them. Last year, I tracked 15 of my habits and learned a lot. Next to good old pen and paper, there’s a whole bunch of habit tracking apps available at this point. Goals are much more powerful the second you write them down (even if you never look at them again), so even just adding habits to a tracker helps.
My favorite, and this won’t be a shock if you’ve known me for a bit, is coach.me. Millions of people track thousands of goals on there, and for each and every single habit you’ll find a wonderful, positive community to support you, cheer you on and answer all your questions. As of 2015, you can even get coaches for specific goals (yours truly was among the first 200 on the platform) .
The most important thing about tracking is looking at your tracker every day and noting your progress. You won’t only know your current level of progress all the time, but also be reminded to finish the habits you haven’t done for the day.
Lesson 3: Don’t make big successes your new standard targets.
Let’s say you do join the one push-up challenge and on the fifth day, you’re so motivated and energized, that you just keep on going and manage to pull off a staggering 15 push-ups. Congrats! That’s fantastic!
However, here’s where achievement often turns into pitfall: You’ll likely be tempted to increase your standard the next day, because one push-up seems way to easy now. Resist this temptation. It’s a trap.
If 15 push-ups is your all-time best at this point, how can you expect an all-time best of yourself every day now? This is where many people go into overdrive and subsequently fall off the wagon again.
There’s reason to celebrate exceeding your goals. You should. Pat yourself on the back, but see this accomplishment as a bonus, don’t take it as pressure to try harder. If a mini habit becomes boring, that means it’s actually become a habit and that’s something to celebrate in and of itself, not just upgrade to the next level and start the struggle all over again.
By keeping your mini habits mini, you’ll soon find yourself living a life that’s full of positive rituals, which make you a better person – and that’s what habits are all about.
My personal take-aways
As someone who’s dealt so extensively with the subject, I knew many of these things already, but I do have to say the way Stephen lays out his strategy is something for anyone to learn from. He manages to never ask too much of you, take things one step at a time and make habits feel effortless. This is the perfect signal that he’s living his mini habits concept – it has seeped into how he’s written the book itself. This is the kind of authenticity you can’t manufacture and for that alone, the book is well worth a read.
What else can you learn from the blinks?
- Why stress makes us resort to habits
- Where habits are formed in the brain
- What makes willpower a better habit driver than motivation
- The full stack of additional benefits mini habits have
- Four steps to pick and implement your mini habits
Who would I recommend the Mini Habits summary to?
The 31 year old waiter, who’s been trying to lose weight for months without getting ahead, the 42 year old notorious snoozer, and anyone who thinks small steps aren’t worth taking.