The 2-Minute Rule

First of all, just to be clear – please don’t confuse “the 2-minute rule” with “the 3-second rule.” As you probably already know, the 3-second rule states that food which has been dropped on the ground can still be consumed as long as it’s picked up within three seconds. It’s based on the theory that any germs/ants that happen to be nearby require at least three seconds to contaminate the food. This rule has saved me many times (especially when the food being dropped was bacon), but that’s not what we want to talk about today.

The 2-minute Rule is a continuation of our conversation last week about how tiny habits can result in big transformation. As we said before, the key is to “eliminate the resistance” by creating incremental shifts in our behavior. The new habits we implement are so small that they essentially fly below the radar of the blockers that normally prevent us from achieving our goals.

And that’s where our Tiny Habits become Atomic Habits. That’s the title of a book by James Clear – I mentioned before, what he wrote changed my life, both in how I do business and as a runner. In the book, he proposes the “Four Laws of Behavior Change”:

  1. Make it Obvious
  2. Make it Attractive
  3. Make it Easy
  4. Make it Satisfying

He recommends starting with MAKE IT EASY – which leads us to the 2-minute rule. The idea is: Whatever habit you’re trying to build, scale it down to something that takes two minutes or less to do.

If you want to read 30 books a year, start with reading one page.

If you want to journal, start with writing one sentence.

If you want to be a runner, start with putting on your running shoes every day after work.

It might seem silly or inconsequential at first, but force yourself to stick with it. His argument is: “A habit has to be established before it can be improved.” 

One of my favorite analogies he shares is how every action we take is like a vote for the type of person we want to be. By showing up for two minutes a day, we’re consistently casting votes to reinforce this new identity. Or as he calls it, we’re “mastering the art of showing up” – using small habits to prove to yourself that you really are a person with this new capacity.

I know we all want to accomplish big things, but don’t underestimate the power of these small habits. They compound over time – a 1% change in trajectory today has a massive effect in the long run.

And the truth is, anyone can set a big goal. The world is full of winners and losers who all started with the same goal in mind. As James Clear says, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems.”

Here’s to setting up a system of small habits that lead to big outcomes.


The Path Of Least Resistance

Last week, we introduced the idea of creating positive habits as we prepare to head into 2022. So you might be surprised to see today’s subject line… have we already given up on what we were hoping to accomplish?? This might be a new record for breaking a new year’s resolution – two months before January!

No – this subject line is actually a clue to the most proven system for developing healthy habits. The key is ELIMINATING THE RESISTANCE.

If you’ve ever tried to motivate yourself to establish a new habit, I’m sure you know what I mean when I talk about “the resistance.” We have these outcomes in our minds (to lose weight, reduce stress, or do something creative), and suddenly it’s like we’re swimming upstream. It’s weird – there are so many things we can do with no resistance whatsoever (eat a donut, watch Netflix), and yet for some reason these healthy choices are met with a wall of opposition.

But good news – some brilliant Stanford research might have cracked the code. Watch the video below.

The secret is: Make the new habit extremely tiny.

If you do this right, the new habit will require almost no motivation, and the opposing forces of resistance won’t even know it’s there.

At that point, all you really need is a TRIGGER for the new behavior. When will you regularly do this new tiny habit?

Don’t worry – Stanford figured this out too. The answer in one word: AFTER.

Every day, you consistently do a whole bunch of stuff: wake up, make coffee, get dressed, etc – all the activities that are already built into your normal routine. So here’s the trick: attach the tiny habit TO the familiar behavior. 

Here’s a simple way to phrase it – just fill in the blanks:

After I ___(daily activity)___, I will ____(tiny habit)___.

The example the Stanford guy shared was, “After I pee, I will do 2 push-ups.” The habit is tiny, and the trigger had a frequency to match the desired behavior (especially if he drank a lot of water). 

What inevitably happens (once the resistance in our brain has been bypassed) is we think: “This is so easy. I could do even more.” And next thing you know, you’re doing 10 push-ups, or greater levels of whatever tiny habit you’ve created. 

The last step: celebrate the tiny victory. Even if you just tell yourself, “I’m awesome.” Because you are! You’re literally changing your life one tiny habit at a time.


Goals, Habits, Systems And Identity

I always wanted to be a runner. I’m not sure why. I guess to me, runners had something I lacked… discipline, endurance, patience, mental toughness…even a hint of crazy. I’ve read many articles and books that link running with personal growth, entrepreneurship, and even success. And now, I totally get why it was out of my reach.

I’ve always struggled with running – I could barely run a mile without being completely out of breath and energy. I honestly thought something was physically wrong with me since a lot of my friends were able to quickly and easily build up the endurance to start competing in marathons. This was such a faraway dream for me – I never thought I’d ever one day run a marathon. 26.2 miles, are you kidding me?

During one of the toughest and most challenging years of my life and career (I’ll tell you all about it someday), I decided to get out of my own slump by setting a goal to train for and run a full marathon. My thought at the time was: if I could run a marathon, I could do anything. And I needed to believe that about myself. Fast forward six months, I ran across the finish line on mile 26.2, with my hands up in the air and tears streaming down my face. I did it. I set my goal, worked at it, and achieved it. End of story.

Well, not really. Although I accomplished something I thought I’d never attain in my lifetime, when someone asked me if I would do it again, I said no. In fact, I still didn’t enjoy running. I didn’t see myself as a runner. The picture that I had in my mind of a runner certainly wasn’t me. I really didn’t understand why I felt that way…UNTIL I read the book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. He helped me make sense of my running journey and added vocabulary to what I was going through. So, I thought it would be fun to share it with you.

The book starts off with a surprising suggestion: “Forget about setting goals.” What? Yup, that’s right…his whole argument is, “There’s a better way.” 

“When we start thinking about the outcome we want to achieve, we think about setting goals. But setting and achieving a goal is only a momentary change. You want to instead think about setting a system. A system is a collection of habits, processes and behaviors. If you focus and dedicate your time and effort to developing and following your system, you’ll become the person that you want to be. Which is more important than reaching your goal.”

A couple of years after the marathon, without even knowing, I had created a simple system of habits and processes that I followed week after week, year after year. I am proud to say that I now identify myself as a runner. I truly enjoy running and it’s a huge part of my daily habit. In the last year alone, I was able to log over 1500 miles. That’s almost 29 miles every seven days – a marathon a week.

We set goals because we want better outcomes, but ironically, we are much more likely to reach those outcomes by not thinking about our goals and pouring our energy into bettering our system.

As we prepare to close out 2021 and start a fresh new year, I would love to dedicate some time to discuss what I’ve studied about creating habits and systems. Let’s learn together and implement some new habits for an awesome year ahead, where we actually accomplish those things we thought might never be possible.

So excited to keep this conversation going over the next few weeks. 

You with me? Let’s go!

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