Chapter 18: Just lace up your shoes

When I was trying to form the running habit, there were some days when I just didn’t feel like it. I wasn’t in the mood. And so I’d lay on the couch, too lazy to go for my daily run.

Then I read a tip somewhere that changed my life: just lace up your shoes and get out the door.

That’s so easy! In fact, it was so easy I couldn’t say no. There was no reasonable objection to lacing up my shoes and stepping out the front door.

Once I got out the door, I inevitably felt like running at least a little. And then once I got moving, I felt great and wanted to keep running for awhile. All I had to do was overcome that initial resistance, the laziness objection, and the rest was easy.

I learned a few key lessons about forming habits here:

  1. Never let your mood determine whether you should do something or not. Mood is a bad indicator of the worthiness of any activity.
  2. Resistance can be overcome by doing the smallest possible step.
  3. You can overcome objections by making the proposition unobjectionable.

Our mind faces objections and resistance all the time, and we usually just give in to them. “I’m too tired.” “I don’t feel like it.” “It’s too hard.” “I deserve a break.” Those are all true, but these objections can be overcome.

Just lace up your shoes.

In Chapter 7, we talked about taking the first small step to get started … but what if you’ve done that and still face resistance some days? Have an even smaller version of the habit — a Minimum Viable Habit — that you can do even when you don’t feel like doing the habit. Most days, do the “Small Step” that you figured out in Chapter 7 … but if you’re not even feeling like doing that, tell yourself you just need to do the Minimum Viable Habit (lace up your shoes).

I used this method for lots of other habits:

  • For meditation, I just had to get my butt on the cushion.
  • For writing, I just had to open up a document and write a few words.
  • For cooking healthy food, I just had to get out a knife and an onion.
  • For studying a language, I just had to press “play” on the audio lesson.
  • For yoga, I just had to get into child’s pose.
  • For blogging, I just had to open up the form for writing a new post.
  • For flossing, I just had to floss one tooth.
  • For reading, I just had to open up the book and read a sentence.

I think you get the point. Find the minimum viable habit. The smallest increment of doing the activity. The least objectionable version.

And the resistance is overcome.

Mission: Choose your minimum viable habit

Add to your plan, and tell your accountability partner/team, what your minimum viable habit is. It should be the smallest possible start for the habit you’re doing. Your version of “just lace up your shoes,” for when your mind resists. When you find resistance, just tell yourself to do the minimum viable habit.

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