Does your bad habit look something like this? Photo by MATEUS
Do you hate your bad habits?
It’s understandable if you do, because it’s making the same mistake over and over again.
But what few realize is that the way we tend to “fight” bad habits actually makes them unstoppable.
The Unstoppable Behavior Formula
If I were tasked to formulate an unstoppable behavior formula, I would say it has these qualities:
- Low internal resistance
- A small commitment
- A reward of some kind
If you have those three components in place, that behavior is going to be a freaking juggernaut. Case in point:
- I got into the best shape of my life from one push-up a day (low resistance, small commitment, rewarding).
- I write 4x as much as I used to from requiring 50 words a day (low resistance, small commitment, rewarding).
- I read 10x as many books as I used to from requiring 2 pages of book reading a day (you know the drill).
Those are my mini habits that I’ve done for 300+ days (once I hit 300, I stopped counting).
But Houston, we have problems! Why? This formula is also found in a very common phrase bad habit victims think to themselves. I’m guilty of it too.
“Just This Once Is Fine. I’ll Quit Starting Tomorrow.”
- “I deserve this [bad habit] today because [excuse].”
- “I’ll quit when [event].”
- “One instance of [bad habit] is a drop in the bucket. It’s not ideal to do it again, but I’ll get over it.”
You get the picture. We rationalize single bad habit instances by pointing to their small relative size. To a chain smoker, smoking a single cigarette at 2 PM on Wednesday is a tiny puff of smoke in his forest fire of a smoking habit. He’ll think that smoking this once isn’t the issue—he’ll think he needs a bigger strategy to fight the forest fire; maybe a nicotine patch or intensive quit smoking program with support.
The truth is that he’s got it wrong. He’s making his bad habit a juggernaut. The reason Mini Habits has been a juggernaut of a book in sales, impact, and in positive reception is because people are realizing the strategy makes them a juggernaut. They’re finding that this unstoppable formula I speak of really is unstoppable. Once you commit to doing something you won’t ever fail, with the possibility of doing extra, that small commitment becomes multitudes more powerful than its initial size.
Smokers Know What I Mean…
How do people get into smoking in the first place? They smoke ONE cigarette. I’ve never smoked a single cigarette, not even a puff. Therefore, it’s impossible for me to be a smoker. That’s been my strategy all along and it seems to work well so far.
Think about it. How many chain smokers today had the following thought 20 years ago when they first smoked a cigarette: “this is the first cigarette I’ll smoke out of 20,000 in my lifetime.”
They all thought, “I’ve never tried smoking before and [excuse], so what the heck. I’ll try it once just to try it.”
The day after, they were with their friends who were smoking again. Another cigarette? Sure, why not? Two cigarettes in their 20 years on Earth so far is nothing!
Day three is the same. They realize that it’s three in a row, but it’s an interesting experiment and fun socially, and heck, just one cigarette a day for a few days is nothing. Some people smoke a whole pack a day! Plus, they’re not even addicted. They can quit at any time.
And so the foundation is built for a long, addictive ride down bad habit lane. Now they smoke a few cigs a day while telling themselves they can quit any time.
You know what it reminds me of? It’s exactly how I changed my life for the BETTER.
This is the same mindset I had when I first did one push-up. I couldn’t bear to think about a full 30 minute workout, but I thought, “I’ve never tried just doing one push-up before; it’s easy, and it’s a funny goal, so what the heck?” 30 minutes later, my arms were pumped up and my abs were on fire from the FULL workout it turned into.
People Often Use The Literal Worst Possible Strategy For Bad And Good Habits Alike
When a person wants to stop a bad habit, they use a giant claim of “I’ll never smoke again!” But they eventually accept a small loss like this:
“Cool Smokin’ Joey’s here, so I’ll smoke just one.” The small loss entices them back into smoking again and the plan fails.
Then when a person wants to start a good habit, they take the exciting 100 push-up challenge. On day three, they find that they’re sore, tired, and their left arm hurts a little bit, and think, “I’ll just take one day off.” Their days off increase; the excuses mask the real problem of depleted willpower. The plan fails.
I’m doing my best to educate people on what works. It’s exactly the opposite of the above; the opposite of what most people currently do.
The Mini Habits Way
You just read how not to do it. Here’s how to do it.
To stop a bad habit, use a small aim of “I won’t smoke today.” Go for the small win. The next day, do the same. A year later, your string of small wins surprisingly grows into a huge accomplishment of not smoking for a full year.
To form a good habit, use a small aim of one push-up a day. Get that small win every day, and in opposite form of the ineffective example, you’ll end up doing more than planned. You’ll likely end up doing several to dozens of push-ups on many days and eventually it’ll turn into a full habit.
Which strategy makes more sense to you?
The Difference Is In The Mindset
To pursue a big goal means that you’re aiming for what you want in general… fantasyland.
To pursue a small goal means that you’re aiming for what you CAN DO in life’s everyday moments… reality.
That’s why small goals work better EVERY time. They’re anchored by reality, so that when you plan to do one push-up a day, you know for a fact that you can meet or exceed it.
When you aim for 100 push-ups a day, you might be able to make it for a few days or more, but it’s unlikely that your general desire to do it will align with your actual desires in the moment for very many consecutive days. Whenever your general desire doesn’t align with your current desire, it costs big willpower bucks to get it done, and most of us are poor in that category to start with.
The subscriber-only message on 7/22/14 expands upon this post! Join Deep Existence below to read the rest and receive an exclusive coupon for the upcoming Mini Habit Mastery Course!