Today I did five push ups — four more than I planned. I ran 17 minutes –16:30 more than I had initially intended. And now, as I type this, I am marching my way toward a goal of 50 words for the day.These aren’t feats of valor in themselves, though the genius of these three micro-goals are the whisper-soft starts they offer. When all you have to do is drop and do one pushup, the horror of not completing your trifling goal for the day is far greater than doing what’s required to meet it.
The techniques — and the even goals I chose for myself — come from Mini Habits, yet another book in the sprawling self-help weedpatch. What sets Mini Habits apart, however, is that its author, Stephen Guise, wastes no time laying out a credible and actionable path to transforming sloth to industry without the extra baggage and pseudoscience of other works in the genre.
Instead, Guise opens with a treatise on the value of willpower over motivation (motivation is a feeling and feelings inevitably change) and then goes on to cite to good effect various studies in ego depletion, habit formation, and subconscious mechanics. According to those studies, there are five principle things that deplete willpower: hypoglycemia, negative affect, effort, perceived difficulty, and subjective fatigue. Building on the studies, Guise points out levers for those categories, most of which center on his mini habit concept. What makes Guise’s book an absolute gem, in fact, are the chapters he writes on getting down to business. Unlike The Power of Habit, which, though replete with well-reported long-form journalism, is light on actionable information, Mini Habits allows — or even demands — I put its information to concrete use (313 words so far — 263 more than I had required of myself). To minimize guesswork Guise’s recommendations are nearly black and white and he proscribes them with caveats to maximize success. For example, he says to start with one and certainly no more than four mini-habits, because 100 percent success will enhance your self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy, Guise points out, is where the gold of mini-habits lies. By completing a goal — even one that seems crazy small — you get a little jolt of personal power that can spill over to other areas of your life. I’ve completed three today (including the one sun salutation this morning with a Warrior II and Triangle pose tacked on) and I have to say I feel pretty nifty. The 450 words I’ve written so far, too, stand as an apology for this book.I only sat down to write because two sentences were all I was on the hook for, and lo, we have this review! If my results are anything like the typical reader’s, mini habits are a solid tool for salting a few casual miracles into your routine. Guise’s book is an excellent guide.
Update: My mini-habits have evolved since I wrote this post. Click here to read about my most updated mini-habits: Let teeny victories carry you to success. Here’s how.
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