By Tino Mantella
TLG President & CEO
To be honest I haven’t thought much about micro habits until the request came to me to write something about it. My first step was to find a definition I could appreciate. To that end, Brianna Wiest wrote an article for Forbes-Women titled “22 Micro Habits That Will Completely Change Your Life in a Year”. Wiest goes on to reference Benjamin Hardy and she says, “Benjamin Hardy compares this concept to compounding interest, and how, given the choice, most people would take $1,000,000 in their bank account right now as opposed to a penny that doubles in value over the course of the month.
What most people don’t realize is that those who take the big payout end up with significantly less money than those who opt for the cent per day. He explains: “The doubling penny actually ends up being $10.7 million dollars. Yet, the majority of the growth happens at the very end, and most people aren’t patient enough for the big return. The live for the moment culture of today stops people from investing.” I don’t know…. I’ll take the $1 million and move on, yet it’s a point well taken.
Developing Micro Habits
I don’t know about you but there are so many things that I do almost exactly the same way. For example, I always go to Sunday morning 7am mass and I sit in the same place. It’s to the right and toward the front. If someone is sitting in MY area I think bad thoughts, which isn’t a good thing in church. And it’s not just me. The 7am mass isn’t that populated, and I pretty much know where most every person will be sitting. If I ever sat on the left side of the church, I know that would feel very strange.
As a husband, I believe my wife would agree that I have developed a number of solid micro habits revolving around doing my fair share. She would also add that it took over 40 years to train me in those micro habits and that I am still a work in progress. I am not looking for any kudos from what I am about to share but over the years I have developed processes that moved to recurring results to consistent performance. Making the bed, doing my laundry, taking out the trash, not leaving dishes in the sink, etc. As I said, I am not looking for a medal but once you get into a routine it does become nearly automatic. What’s the benefit in this case? Less clutter around the house and a happy wife, and that’s better for me.
When I think of habits, the first word that comes to mind is discipline. Personally, I have been one of the more disciplined people on earth… sometimes. I perform better in the office when I am disciplined. It isn’t hard understanding what needs to be done, or to start a process of habits. However, it’s very hard to sustain it. We all know the story of the tortoise beating the hare. The tortoise just stuck with it, one slow step at a time.
Another good example of discipline, or lack thereof, is New Year’s Resolutions. According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals, while around 80 percent fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions, says US clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani.
Marathons take Micro Habits
I have run a couple of marathons in my lifetime. Fortunately, I had a quality training program to follow. I trained with several others. We started running a couple miles a day. Some days were days to rest. We learned what to eat and drink and to get enough rest. Gradually, we built our way to running longer distances. Some people didn’t make it because they didn’t follow the process. Others weren’t disciplined. A few got distracted. Others legitimately had reasons to fall short, like injuries. Running a marathon is one of the best examples I can think when considering the benefits of micro habits.
Most people have a lot of wants. However, there is a disconnect between what they want and what’s required of them to get there. Unless one is super-human, they can’t go out and run 26 miles unless they trained and developed the necessary habits to succeed. We see it all the time: People want to lose weight and go on diet after diet only to blow it off and yo-yo their way to an early grave. Maybe they want a promotion at work, but they are inconsistent with completing their assignments.
In his book “Outliers: The Story of Success”, Macolm Gladwell quotes Daniel Levitin who says, “ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,”.
We don’t have to strive to be world class to know that putting together a series of good habits and having the discipline to sustain them is a good thing. Most everyone can run a 100-yard dash but not many can run a marathon without developing habits that create the fitness levels required to achieve the result. Here is hoping that your marathon of life helps you achieve your dreams.