Why, former procrastinators, do mini habits work? Stephen Guise tells us in his book, Mini Habits.
A habit has an assigned nerve pathway in the brain that is triggered by a thought or cue. An electrical charge fires along the pathway and you have an urge to engage in the behavior. (Alarm buzzes. Hit the snooze button.)
We want to create new neural pathways and make them strong with repetition. Since new behaviors do not have a neural pathway, we have to manually override the typical behavior. We have the urge to do the old (hit snooze), but the more often we override the old by choosing the new, (get up, shower), the stronger the “baby neural pathway” grows. It becomes more and more automatic to do the new thing.
The brain’s basal ganglia (think, subconscious) repeats patterns unless told otherwise. (Stay on the couch.) The pre-frontal cortex (our “manager”) understands long-term benefits and consequences. It has the ability to override the subconscious. (Get off the couch. Do one push-up.)
Repetition makes the rest of the brain like what the manager wants. Repetition makes the new pathway the automatic go-to behavior. Now Guise’s brain enjoys multiple push-ups. Mine enjoys stretching first thing in the morning. This way apples win over cookies. Doing the task wins over delay.
What new pathway will you go over and over until it becomes your go-to pattern?