Why Mini Is Mighty

A workout that consists of one push up. Reading 2 pages of a book.  Writing 50 words.

Yes, those are actual daily goals.

And believe it or not, they can lead you to exercising for 30 minutes a day.  Reading over 100 books a year.  Or writing multiple books of your own, one after the other.

I’m talking about the concept of “mini habits.” And as ridiculous as it sounds, they actually do work.

Like a lot of us, Stephen Guise, the author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, had big goals.  To get in great shape.  To be well read instead of well-Netflixed.  To be an author.

But every time he’d embark on a workout program, sit down at the computer or even think of tackling a growing pile of unread books, intimidation would kick in. Then fear.  Then ultimately, inertia would win again.

Enter the birth of the mini habit.

The author does a much better job than I can of explaining the science behind the workings of the human mind that keep us stuck. But basically, whenever we try to  introduce a new habit, it’s very often like shaking the Cheeto dust off your t-shirt and going straight for the Iron Man Triathlon sign up.

It’s too much, too soon.

You’re going to fail, and you know it. So, back to the comfort of nuclear orange crap food and the couch.

But it is entirely doable to go from sedentary splendor to doing one pushup. Or two jumping jacks.  The point is to choose something so ridiculously small that you simply cannot fail.  And once your brain gets a taste of the success of completing a goal – even a microscopic one – the resistance is lowered, and you have started to break down the barriers to achieving larger things.

For example, yoga. I have been wanting to practice more regularly for years now.  But of course, my perfectionist genes kick in the second I pull out my mat.  If can’t do an hour of sweat soaked Ashtanga-style brilliance – complete with  at least 20 pretzel-legged poses – then  forget it.  The mat is relinquished to the dog for his afternoon chewie-and-snooze fest.

Sugar Ray says, "Namaste."

Sugar Ray says, “Namaste.”

But taking the mini habit approach, I can tell myself, “Just do one pose. Pick one, hold it for a few seconds, and you’re done.  Voila!  You have officially practiced for the day.”  Nine times out of ten, I will do another pose.  Then another.  And then I’ll get tired of trying to make up my own routine, and will pop in the 20 minute yoga DVD I’d been using as a drink coaster.

I’m not trying to encourage you to consistently do the least you can get away with. But when you’re mired in the proverbial quicksand of doing absolutely nothing, then even the most minute effort is monumental.

Think of one thing you want to get started on. Eating healthier?  Add one piece of fruit or a veggie a day to the aforementioned Cheeto Diet.  Writing on the regular?  Don’t aim for “War and Peace” when a paragraph will do.

You get the idea.

So, get going.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly miniscule movements will become a mighty force in your life.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Zara Quentin June 7, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Great post Mary! Am feeling paralysed by the size of my to do list at the moment and I think just picking something small and easy and ticking it off is a good way to get started. The positive vibes from having done something are good for momentum! I’m going to give this a go.

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes June 8, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Thanks, Zara…so glad you enjoyed the post! Definitely give mini habits a try. When I first read this book, I was hugely skeptical as to whether they’d work. But they really do! You’re right that the positive feelings build momentum…and you’ll probably do more than you think you will once you get started. But even if all you do is the “mini minimum,” then you can feel good that you accomplished something that day! 🙂

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