“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” — Archimedes
Isaac Morehouse writes:
“At Praxis, we’re obsessed with relentless personal growth, for ourselves and our customers.
One of the best, most accessible methods of pushing yourself is to take on small, short-term, daily challenges.
It’s not the size of the task that leads to greatness, but the ability to show up and do it every single day no matter what.
The compounding effect is amazing.
So, starting today, we’ve challenged everyone in our network to write and publish a post every day for 12 days, now through Christmas. The entire Praxis team is doing it, as are many of our participants, advisors, and alumni. You should join us!
I can’t tell you how powerful daily blogging has been for me since my friend and colleague challenged me to do it some five years ago. It has led to the creation of nine books, endless growth and opportunity, and one company!”
As a Praxis advisor and fan, I welcome the challenge! So here is my first entry.
I agree heartily that, “It’s not the size of the task that leads to greatness, but the ability to show up and do it every single day no matter what.” I only recently learned the amazing extent to which this is true upon reading the book Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise.
What Guise demonstrated, both through his arguments and through his own experience, is that, in fact, it is often the case that the smaller the task, the better.
For Guise, it all started with giving himself a “one push-up challenge.” It was the kind of daily task that he calls “stupid easy”: so easy that you would feel ridiculous for not just doing it. Even if you only remember your one-push up challenge in bed at night, it’s not big deal to turn over and just do it.
Crucially, you can always do “bonus” push-ups. Indeed, once you’re there on the floor, and you’ve already done one, it’s much easier to pump out a few more: maybe 5, maybe 10. Maybe you’ll get on a roll and do multiple sets of dozens.
But it’s also important not to “get tough” on yourself by raising the minimum. For the trick to work, the minimum target has to stay “stupid easy.” Once you make the minimum high enough to potentially be daunting at all, you risk the possibility that on a low-willpower day, you’ll skip the challenge. And then it’s easier to skip the next day, and the next.
As long as the minimum is stupid easy, you will keep at it. Like Isaac says, you will show up every day. Even if you only do the minimum, the compounding effect of doing one push-up every day for 100 days is much greater than doing 5 sets of 30 push-ups for 1 day and then nothing for 99 days.
Moreover, in practice, you’re highly unlikely to do only the minimum. First of all, the hardest part is starting, and once you start, it’s so much easier to keep going. Secondly, the more days in a row you do it, the more it becomes an ingrained habit, and thus the less willpower it takes. And thirdly, the longer your run of successfully meeting the challenge, the more your self-efficacy builds up, as well as your self-image as someone who does this sort of thing.
By giving himself a simple one-push-up challenge, Guise ramped up into a steady and full workout routine and totally transformed his body and health.
He had similar success with applying mini-habits to writing. His “stupid easy” challenge for that is to write a mere 50 words. By showing up every day for that for months, it became easier and easier to write “bonus words”: often thousands in a single day. In this way, he has written and published several successful books and built up a high-traffic blog with innumerable posts.
The beautiful thing about the mini-habits approach is that it doesn’t depend on guilt or maintaining hyped-up motivation. It can work brilliantly for anybody, because it is a sort of spiritual mechanical advantage. The micro-challenge can slip past any internal resistance, no matter how low your willpower is on any given day. And once the edge of the mini-habit’s Archimedean lever is in place, it can dislodge any amount of stubbornness and eventually move your whole world.