Start Small

by Michael Plank

We do a lot with helping people establish new habits: new nutrition habits, new workout habits, new sleep or stress management habits… all kinds of habits.

If you do something habitually, it makes it so much easier to keep doing it. And the thing that you keep doing is the thing that works.

And whenever we start someone with a habit, we always start small: sometimes so small it feels not worth doing. But here’s why…

Imagine that you’re someone who wants to start meditating. Lots of people who meditate will spend 10-20 minutes in meditation. But that can be a lot. A good way to start would be to start with 30 seconds. And here’s what will happen:

On Monday, you might sit down at 7:15am for your 30 seconds of meditation and get immediately interrupted by your kids. So you find out that 7:15am is not the time. Tuesday, you sit down at 9:00am, but your boss calls, because it’s the start of the business day. Wednesday, you try at 2pm, but it’s super uncomfortable. So Thursday instead of sitting at a desk, you try moving to the living room. And what you’re doing, on your 30-second daily meditation journey, is finding all the different logistical hurdles that you have to jump over to start a new habit.

The truth is that when you talk about any habit, there are a bunch of other things that need to come into play to support it. If you want to eat more protein, you need to change your shopping list and make sure you have space in the freezer. If you want more vegetables, you need to make sure you’ve got your produce drawers cleaned out and that you’re eating it frequently enough that it stays fresh. If you want to work out 3 days a week, you need to factor in travel time and more laundry and more showers.

BUT, when you start small, like with 30 seconds of meditation, what you’re doing is setting up your system. And systems are the secret. Once your system is set up, it’s pretty easy to make your 30 seconds of meditation 5 minutes, or 10 minutes. Once your system is set up, it’s pretty easy to go from 90g of protein to 100g of protein. Once your system is set up, it’s likely manageable to go from 3 days of workouts to 4.

But a lot of people try to optimize the system before they’ve figured out a system that works at all.

The first thing is to start small enough to build a system. And then you can start to mess around with dialing that system up or down. So we start small, even though it’s annoying, even though it’s slow, even though it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Because we’re not looking for a 6-week success story for you… we’re looking for success that’s measured in years.