Mark Twain on Habits
I recently happened upon this Mark Twain quote: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
I like to take it back a step. The first step to making changes is to have an awareness of the habit you wish to create or change and a desire to do something about it. Once you have that awareness and desire, you need to make a commitment to that change (also known as setting a goal).
Then, as Twain wrote, to make sure the goal is achievable, you need to break it down into small pieces.
In my book, Six Simple Rules for a Better Life, and regularly in blog posts, I have written about the importance of breaking down your big goals into small pieces, and focusing on those pieces one at a time for the 21 days it takes to form a habit.
We have a limited stock of willpower. As such, the key to making changes that stick is to go slow; to form habits because once something is a habit—once it’s routine and automatic; once you no longer have to think about it—you no longer need to expend your willpower. From there you can take on an additional habit, and so on.
I frequently write that New Year’s resolutions fail because they are too big or people take on too many changes at the same time. Even if we are trying to make unrelated changes (for example, eating well and being nicer to a spouse), the same, limited stock of willpower is tapped.
What are some of your big goals you have broken down into smaller pieces to make into new habits this year? Please join the conversation with your comments…