Break your mental resistance within 2 minutes rule
Every once in a while there comes a time when Mike wakes up and he wants to make a change in his life. Sometimes he wants to start exercising and get into shape, other times he wants to read more books, or start a meditation practice. So he decides that he’s going to make this his new habit. The first few days go very well, as Mike feels motivated and excited about it. But as more days pass, his so called “new habit”, doesn’t excite him anymore. So Mike says to himself, “It’s fine, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then tomorrow rolls around and he still doesn’t feel like doing it. Again he says; “Tomorrow.” This keeps on happening until his desired new habit is nearly forgotten. However Mike isn’t alone in his struggles, as we’ve all been there at one point in time. But why does this happen? Why is it so hard to follow up on our new habits? Well, one of the reasons is that the habit we’re trying to form can seem a little overwhelming, so we have this mental resistance.
In the beginning, when we’re super motivated it’s much easier to do something. For example; going to the gym for 1 hour doesn’t seem that hard, because the initial motivation is a powerful driving force. But when we’re motivated it’s also easy to impose some super high expectations on ourselves. We think; “Ok, so I went to the gym for 1hour the first few days. From now on I’ll to go to the gym for 1 full hour every single day.” But once that initial motivation fades away after a few days, there is now nothing that’s driving us forward, and we haven’t really formed a habit yet. That’s why when we’re unmotivated, we’ll probably just skip gym altogether, as dedicating a whole hour to it seems daunting. So instead of relying on motivation to push us forward, we should focus on making our new habit, an actual habit. Let me explain what I mean, by introducing you to the 2minute rule. When the expectation is to read the whole book, meditate for 1 hour or run 10 miles, your habit can be quite hard to start. Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do.
You just avoid starting them because you make them seem so. The idea of the 2minute rule is to trick your brain into thinking that the habit you’re about to do isn’t hard. So what you want to do is break that big habit down into a small 2 minute version of it. Your goals obviously can’t be completed in 2 minutes, but every habit can be started in that time. And once you start doing something, it’s much easier to continue with it. For example: Want to make reading your new habit? Use the 2minute rule and read just one page of a book. Just one. After that you can stop reading, but you have to do it for a minimum of 2 minutes. The end goal might be to read the whole book, but the expectation should be to just start reading, no matter how little. People often think that reading one page is pointless. But a new habit should not feel like a chore, or you’ll start to despise it. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. The point of any habit is to make it a habit in the first place. You’re not expected to do it to a maximum degree until you collapse of exhaustion. So first you need to train yourself to just start, by taking the most simple baby steps.
Once you start, it’s so much easier to just continue, because that mental resistance is now gone and you’re already doing the habit you wanted to. Using the 2minute rule, your goals should change to something like this: “Become a writer”, becomes “Write just one sentence.” “Floss all my teeth “ becomes “Floss one tooth.” “Run three miles” becomes “Put on my running shoes and go outside.” All of these things are easy to do, however they are super important, as they are what get you started. You can’t write a book if you can’t even write a single sentence. Neither can you be an athlete if you can’t put on your running shoes. But even if it’s just one word, or just a walk around the block, it’s more than nothing. And more importantly what you’re doing is you’re forming and reinforcing the habit. Eventually that one sentence you wrote, turns into a paragraph, which forms a chapter, which in the end becomes a book. But you have to start with that first sentence. Let me give you an example of how I used the2 minute rule in my own life. I’ve always wanted to play the piano, so I bought myself one. For the first week I was excited and motivated to play, so practicing wasn’t a problem. But when that beginner’s motivation faded, I started playing less and less. However I took notice of this, so I set myself a goal to practice every day for 1 hour. Again for the first few days it sparked some new enthusiasm and I started playing again. But just like before, the motivation eventually waned and the piano started gathering dust.
Even if I wanted to play, my brain really disliked the thought of doing 1 hour of grueling practice. So it become much easier to just avoid it altogether. This is when I realized that my high expectations are preventing me from even starting. I thought that whenever I played the piano I had to practice for at least one hour. But because of that mentality I wasn’t practicing at all. However after applying the 2 minute rule, my goal changed dramatically. I changed my objective into a new one: Play anything on the piano for just 2 minutes. That’s it. There was almost no mental resistance since playing anything, no matter how badly, for just 2 minutes is a piece of cake. And my brain also liked the idea of doing something so simple. But the real magic was that it was much easier to continue practicing for longer after that. I mean, I was already sitting there and playing. So why not just keep on going? So I did. The 2minute rule allowed me to make playing the piano a habit and I actually haven’t broken the streak since that day.
Every once in a while there comes a day when I don’t feel like playing after those 2 minutes are up. And that’s fine. What’s more important is that I reinforce my habit consistently. Even if I only play for 2 minutes, I’ve still done more than someone who decides to not touch their keyboard at all. Ultimately, I can’t be a pianist if I can’t even play for 2 minutes. So I encourage you to employ the 2 minute rule yourself, whenever you are struggling to stick with a habit. The most important part of any new habit is just getting started. It’s not about how well or for how long you do it, it’s about consistently taking action towards it. Instead of trying to create a perfect habit from the start, do the easier thing on a consistent basis. That’s how you’ll make your habit, an actual habit. Writing one sentence is better than not writing anything. One minute of piano practice is better than none at all. And one minute of reading is better than never picking up the book. It’s far better to do less than you hoped for, than to do nothing at all. There will be plenty of time to improve your performance later on. Remember, you can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. Just start and the rest will follow.
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