My book, Mini Habits, has been a bestseller for more than seven months straight, selling over 16,000 copies in that time. It’s also the highest-rated habit book on the market because of the success people are having with it. It is in the process of being translated for publication in other countries. It easily outsells traditionally-published books in the same niche.
In short, the mini habits strategy is very effective and it has made a big impact so far.
But no solution is perfect, right? I hate to write that because Mini Habits is nearly perfect in theory (which is what the book explains). There are, however, some ways to make it not work.
Since it was released, I’ve heard about 5 cases of it not working for people, and hundreds of cases of it working for people (and this ratio is well-supported by reviewers, with even the lower score reviews admitting the strategy’s merit). Those numbers are astonishing for any self-improvement strategy, and I’ve been so overwhelmed by positive feedback that I stopped adding it to the mini habits site.
But I’ve also paid very close attention to anyone who has said, “this didn’t work for me.”
Here are the top five reasons people fail with Mini Habits, based on cases of people who have not succeeded.
1. Forgetting & Not Taking Their Mini Habit(s) Seriously
To succeed with mini habits, you must treat them with respect. This isn’t an issue with any other goal, because larger goals demand respect naturally. Visiting Greece—something I want to do—is a significant and noteworthy action that automatically earns my respect. A mini habit of one push-up seems worthless at first glance.
A key focus of the Mini Habits book is to show you why doing something like 1+ push-up per day is surprisingly powerful when done consistently. If the book succeeds in delivering this message, the reader succeeds. But if that message is lost and the mini habit is seen as unimportant, you will probably “forget to do it.”
Forgetting to do a mini habit every once in a while isn’t a big deal. I’ve forgotten to read 5 times in 10 months and I’ve never forgotten to write. That’s because writing is more important to me right now than reading is. But I’ve still read much more because of my reading mini habit.
Generally speaking, if you’re forgetting once a week or more, you’re not taking it seriously.
Would you forget to do your third day of an intense program like P90X? Of course not, because it’s too big to ignore. You might purposefully choose not to do it because it’s too hard, but you wouldn’t likely completely forget about it.
Forgetting something is often a sign that it’s unimportant to you (I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast last Tuesday). Some people just forget easily, however, and if this is you, then you can set up reminders or adopt a time or action-based cue.
Mini habits work best for people who are eager to change themselves, and their habits, permanently. If you have this mindset going in, you’ll take your easy daily commitment seriously, and you will change your life. If you treat your mini habit(s) like an afterthought, then it’s possible you’re not interested to change that area or else you don’t understand the power of consistency.
2. Setting Too Many Mini Habits
One reader was so excited with his early success that he started ten mini habits. I warned him. It resulted him only doing the minimum for each one, feeling burdened, and not feeling very successful. The last I heard from him, he trimmed down to 5 mini habits and was doing well with them.
Having a lot of mini habits seems possible because they’re so small. But you must put their small size in the perspective of doing them every single day. Reading two pages in a book is nothing, but doing it every day does require some extra effort and commitment.
I think each extra mini habit you add is more exponential than additional. The difference between three and four mini habits is more than you’d think! I still seem to do best with three mini habits.
If you stick to the recommended 1-4 mini habits and adjust to your situation, you should do fine, but if you take on more than four at a time and it doesn’t work, you can’t blame the system, because you’re not following the system. Don’t be in such a rush to change, because your brain will only change slowly, even if you “want it.”
3. Not Wanting The Habit
Mini habits work best when you truly want the habit and lifestyle change, be it writing, reading, exercise, gardening, cooking, or developing your public speaking skills. If you attempt to change yourself because someone expects you to change or because it seems like you “should eat better,” you have a great chance to fail.
No strategy can overcome a divided self.
4. Too Small Of A Start
In the beginning, I said no step is too small. I have revised that.
When a reader told me she had written 30 words in 30 days, I immediately understood why her goal was too small. “A” is a word, “the” is a word, and alone, these words aren’t meaningful. You can write them mindlessly and without any effort.
A good mini habit starts you off with some momentum. One push-up is an excellent boost to a hesitant exerciser. It requires a sliver of effort, and it gets you on the ground in position, where you can easily do more. Writing 50 words has been an excellent boost to my writing, because it’s very easy, yet requires me to get thinking about what I want to write about.
Reading 2 pages has been on/off successful for me. About 30% of the time, I only read the two pages. But sometimes I get hooked and read a lot more. I find it depends on the book! One book I’m reading now is Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and its density requires a lot of thought and processing, so I’m moving through it slower. I also find it a little bit less interesting than the last book I read: The Willpower Instinct.
The perfect mini habit is too easy to say no to, and yet it will be big enough to bring you meaningful forward momentum in the direction you desire.
Join Deep Existence below to read about the 5th reason. The subscriber-only message on 8/19/14 expands upon this post!