Today is a good day for Bill. It is the day he decides to start working out.
Bill thinks to himself…
“I need to come up with a plan! I must go to the gym at least four times a week! I am very committed. I will do it first thing in the morning”
“I have my routine ready. I will be lifting weights for an hour, followed by 30 mins of cardio. Plus, of course, stretching twice a week on my rest days!”
“Oh, I am excited! I will be Instagram material in no time!”
Bill’s plan is working. Even though he is sore from the gym, he shows up! Go, Bill!
Bill doesn’t sleep well. He tries to stick to the plan but ends up skipping once. Next week is a new week. Don’t worry, Bill.
Everything is on fire at work. Bill needs to start work earlier to meet his deadline. But what about the gym? He decides to work out in the evening. He only manages to go twice.
Bill is going to the gym again and follows the plan. Good Bill! He updates his Instagram.
Bill’s cat is making noise all night. He doesn’t sleep well. Again misses the gym twice.
Bill gives up on the gym and deletes Instagram from his phone.
The truth is, starting new habits is hard.
New habits are like a fragile baby. Handle them with care until they become adults.
When starting, it can be helpful to have a minimum viable habit.
Besides your perfect day plan, find a backup plan. That backup plan will be the absolute minimum routine that you can get away with.
Take working out as an example. Spouse, you decide your minimum is to be lifting weights for 20-30 mins twice a week.
Once you hit your minimums, you can decide whether to continue or stop. It is ok not to have the time or the energy to do your perfect day. Your minimum viable habit is enough to keep the momentum going.
A saying I heard the other day stuck with me.
Mood follows action
Before doing something hard, I often catch myself debating whether I should do it. It turns out that I can’t think my way into a mental state or a mood. But action can.
Minimum viable habits are a nice trick to get into action. Once you do your minimums. You are more likely than not will slide into your perfect day plan.
So next time you are trying to pick up a new habit. Don’t be like Bill. Come up with two plans, the perfect day plan for good days and a minimum viable habit backup plan.
Only when your current habit feels like second nature. You can start upgrading your minimums.