I’m one of those ex-sportos that loves a healthy dose of competition and has been known to sign up for a thirty day challenge or two (or fifty) but the older I get (and the busier), the less I’m able to commit or follow through on challenges that seem daunting from the outset. Lockdowns, gym closures and, well, winter, can prove to make many things outside of just making it through every day seem almost impossible. I had heard about Habit Stacking via various podcasts that I listen to and it felt a little put off at first. It sounded a little too much like a way to be a better bodybuilder or something and I didn’t really research it more. That is until I naturally fell into what is formally considered ‘Habit Stacking’ by just not wanting to do much more than a little thing every day.
Habit Stacking as it is formally defined is: “building routines around habits that don’t require effort.” A few books have been written on the subject like, this one and this one, but the basic notion is that it is far easier to change behaviour if it is tacked onto something we do already routinely like brushing your teeth and going to sleep. These habits are also more likely to stick and actually begin to change your behaviour overall if they’re small. Mini habits, if you were.
During this strange past year I have found myself struggling to find the motivation to workout. I was so used to going to the gym as my main form of exercise that when gyms were forced to close down I kept missing workouts as I never scheduled it in as an event in my calendar. This year, instead of jumping head first into a 30 day challenge of ‘pure burn and torture’ I started very small. I bought a skipping rope and committed to 1000 skips a day. To my old self, that wouldn’t seem like much, but to my new self, the self that hadn’t committed to consistent exercise in almost a year, it was just right.
Incredibly, by committing to just one thing, 1000 skips, I found myself tagging on a stretch class here and there. As I kept going, I felt drawn back onto my Peloton, waking up earlier wasn’t such a chore and drinking less alcohol came naturally. You see, the mini habits cause a momentum that the massive life changing challenges don’t. I wasn’t training for a half marathon, giving up carbs or going dry, but that one choice to commit to 11 minutes of skipping gave me something small to be proud of everyday which opened me right up to the possibility that I can do hard things. The hard things just can’t be so big that they make me feel bad when I can’t always achieve them. Damn! Life in a pandemic is hard enough as it is.
What mini habit will you add on to your daily routine this week? Let us know in the comment section below or tag us on Instagram here when you begin making that one small change. I’m telling you it will add up to make a big difference!