After a third successful run of minsgame, I’m left thinking about what’s next. One of the reasons the minimalist game seems to work so well is that it starts out with a ridiculously easy challenge and works up from there. Establishing an easy win right away, by getting rid of just one thing, and building on that success.
I’ve been considering different ways to apply this same thinking over new subjects. Amy and I are at a point where we’re not feeling the need to ‘declutter’ much more, but I’d love to apply the same action-based model in other ways. Thinking more broadly, I’m working on an easy-to-reproduce format that can be applied to many different aspects of life. I’d like to be able to apply this system to anything whether it be decluttering, exercise, eating better, creativity, work, and more.
A few years ago, I learned about kaizen, the practice of continuous improvement. Small but constant improvements to a process or towards a goal.
Applying this idea, I was discussing daily push-ups with a friend when this idea came up: one push-up every single day.
That’s it, a single pushup.
Every day for a full week, do one push-up per day. On day eight, you’ve been doing one push-up per day for seven days straight. What do you think your odds of being able to do two push-ups are?
I’d say pretty darn good.
Starting in week two, do two push-ups per day. In week three, you’ve been doing two per day for the last week so of course you’ll be able to do three in a row.
This kind of slow, methodical build may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve realized that this is actually the best way to do just about anything. Can you do 52 push-ups in a row right now? If not, I bet you could had you started this program one year ago.
It may feel like getting down on the floor to do one push-up is ridiculous, but that’s why it’s so important to start this way. If you wanted to build a habit of doing daily push-ups and start off by doing as many as you can possibly do, you’re going to be too sore to do them again the next day. This kills the habit before it starts.
Minsgame slowly builds up the habit and confidence of decision making, deciding over and over which things to let go of. Over 30 days, almost 500 items disappear but it starts with just one item on the first day.
What I’m starting to realize is that we should care much less about qualitative progress than simply making sure the short-term action aligns with that end goal.
Celebrate the consistency of good habit versus progress towards a particular goal.
ie: Success is going to the gym regularly, as opposed to losing weight. Weight loss might be the actual goal, but focusing on that loses touch with the sustainable short-term actions that get us there and keep us there.
It feels strange but since I started lifting weights again two months ago, I decided to not make any fitness goals. My biggest problem has always been getting to the gym. Once I’m there, I work out hard and do what I need to do to get a good workout. It’s the actual act of stepping away from my desk (or couch -_-), putting on workout clothes, getting in the car, and walking out the door that I’ve struggled with.
In the last two months, I’ve been going to the gym three times per week while doing cardio and lifting. I’ve only weighed myself a few times out of curiosity. I haven’t changed my eating habits at all – I’ve decided to focus on one thing and one thing alone: getting to the gym at least three times per week.
So here’s what I’m proposing as my new approach to habit change:
One small, ridiculously easy to accomplish thing, every day, for seven days. Day eight, add.
Week one ideas:
- Meditate for 1 minute
- Do one push-up
- Write one sentence in a journal
- Read one page of a book
- No digital screens for 10 minutes
- Play piano for 1 minute
- Drink a sip of water
- Hold a yoga pose for 1 minute
In week two, maintain the week one habit and add one more ridiculously easy thing.
- Meditate for 1 additional minute (two total)
- Do 2 push-ups
- Write 2 sentences in a journal
- No digital screens for 20 minutes
- Play piano for 2 minutes
- etc.. etc..
By building on this pattern of very simple habits, we’re stacking small wins that will create big results down the line. Continue into week three, four, five, six, to fifty two and you’ll have completely changed your habits and life for the better. Talk about aligning short term actions with long term vision, right?
It can be very frustrating when we don’t see progress, and that usually drives us to push ourselves to extremes to try to accomplish quick results. Which would be more effective in the long run: Exercising for 24-hours in a row or exercising for 30-minutes for 48 days in a row? I think we both know the answer to that one – and both take the same amount of overall time and effort.
Have you ever tried breaking down new habits like these into bite size chunks? What were the results? I’m going to start out with one minute of daily meditation today and see where it takes me.