Stephen Guise’s website speaks more about his nature than it does about him. Like, how he handled rejection (which has a whole blog post dedicated to it), how he dabbled into blog writing and how it evolved into this beautiful book. Yes, beautiful; because it’s small, it’s meaningful and it is full of happy sentences that don’t weigh on your cerebral matter. Stephen defines mini habits as a “very small positive behavior that you force yourself to do every day; its “too small to fail” nature makes it weightless, deceptively powerful, and a superior habit-building strategy.” I love this clarity of thought and it eggs me on to read the book and see what I can find that makes me a better version of myself.
Author: Stephen Guise
Originally Published: 2013
Publication: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Stephen is honest to the extent that he says more in a self-deprecating mode that you realize he’s actually poking fun at himself. Like when he says that people chronically overestimate their self-control ability and that big intention are worthless if they don’t bring results. Someone needed to tell you these simple facts. He has started with one pushup per day and managed to stay the course. When he didn’t give up on doing one pushup per day, he realized that this could work in other areas of life as well.
Like many before him, he doesn’t fail to point out that habits show up as permanent neural pathways formed in the brain. As the habit gets ingrained, the neural pathway gets thicker and it then becomes a way of life. Stress impacts habitual behavior, for good or for bad.
How the brain responds
Habits have a lot to do with brain functions. Repetition is the key to habit formation but the brain resists any change. The key to make it fall in line is to reward it handsomely. The inner contours of the brain are so designed with the frontal lobe aiding focusing. Stephen cites several studies that shed light on its significance on habit formation.
What role does Motivation play in habit formation?
A major one, but only if we rely solely on motivation because it can diminish with the law of decreasing enthusiasm (such euphemisms are common in this book). So motivation may be good, to begin with, but what will carry you forward and keep you moving is willpower because, unlike motivation, willpower can be strengthened.
Why mini habits succeed
Mainly because they are easy to start, easy to continue, don’t bother our routine much, and hence face minimal resistance from our mind and body. They’re so small, you don’t experience fatigue any which way.
Mini habits help you expand your comfort zone because you’re not uncomfortable doing that! You can trick the brain into accepting small changes.
Mini habits are akin to small battles which must first be won before even going out for war. That is what the wise men do.
Mini Habits result in better self-efficacy. They also give you autonomy but spare you of the guilt once in a while if you skip on them.
Developing mini habits also spares your brain of the expectations that normally come with big habits. When you set your eyes on big goals, you expect big changes and fast. And when that doesn’t happen for some reason, your motivation dips. This doesn’t happen with mini habits because your expectations are very low.
They also destroy any doubt or hesitation that comes with big habits and major lifestyle changes.
The 8 point plan
Stephen suggests an eight-point plan to set out on this Mini Habit sojourn
- Choose a mini habit (make the right plan suitable for you)
- Use the ‘why’ drill on each (knowing why you’re doing something strengthens willpower to achieve it)
- Define your habit cues (what would trigger the desire to perform)
- Create your reward plan (Ah! Rewards)
- Write down everything (Documenting helps provide proof for a brain that needs one)
- Think small (too big and you lose steam even before you start)
- Meet your schedule and drop high expectations (yeah, for you’d be intimidated )
- Watch for signs of habit and don’t jump the gun ( once the brain goes on auto mode, of course)
There is, of course, the rulebook – don’t cheat, be happy with the progress, reward yourself, stay level-headed, if you feel resistance, back off and start smaller, remember this is easy, never think a step is too small and put extra energy for the bonus.
- If you want to develop habits, start small because that way you don’t burden the brain that resists big changes
- Be consistent with small steps that show an incremental effect over the days
- Follow the steps and reward yourself
Why I recommend this book
For one, it’s small, easy, and simple to understand and apply. We all have that cheat sheet where we indulge in something we have sworn not to. Planning, trying, failing to maintain, and then giving up has been our way so far. Let us try this mini mantra and see if it makes any difference. It did for me, trust me, it works!
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