New Year’s resolutions fail 92% of the time, mostly because we are not good at directing the process for change! What if I told you there is a way to alter those statistics?

I took a course last fall developed by James Garrett, called Brain by Design. It provided an effective way for me to process a significant change and accomplish an overwhelming task – it transformed my brain and my behaviors!

“The brain doesn’t care who you are, it only cares about what you do.” And the more we repeat a behavior, the more the brain becomes comfortable with it; it begins to build a strong neural highway for that behavior. The stronger and more insulated that neural pathway becomes, the faster the information can be carried and the easier and more habitual that desired behavior becomes for us. The skillset of making this kind of change is referred to as self-directed neuroplasticity; if we understand more about the brain and how it works, then we can build new habits, emotions, and ways of being.

I’d like to share a story to illustrate a simple way of moving the needle on a desired change you wish to make by using the practice of ‘habit stacking or piggybacking’ a mini habit on a habit you already have.

I had a room in my house that gradually became a storage closet – literally! Years of collecting and storing extra things, paperwork, and inherited objects had turned my dining room into an eye sore. It literally seemed easier to cover it with fabric, than to attack what had grown into an elephant of a project.

Using the principle of habit stacking, I decided to give this overwhelming project a try. With the guidance offered in the class, I decided to change my approach to my dining room from “avoid this project at all costs” to “I will get this done before the holidays so we may have Christmas dinner in the dining room!”

Since habits take two to three months to form, I decided to pick something easy to connect with the behavior change I wanted to make. I made the commitment to spend 10 minutes in the dining room each evening RIGHT AFTER I did my nightly cleanup of the kitchen. Cleaning up the kitchen was my cue to head to the dining room, set my timer for 10 minutes and get moving! At first, because it was such a short period of time, it seemed almost ridiculous! But as time went on, I saw the beauty of a mini habit – it allowed me to continue the habit with ease and be successful! I practiced this change, this way of operating, for two and a half months (I only missed one day) and I gained the gift of a transformed space before the holidays!

What seemed like a mountain too big to climb, became a doable daily task that, over time, led me to the mountain top. I will continue to use this practice to attack other projects on my list.

James Garrett says there are 5 Reasons that Mini Habits are a Winning Strategy:

1. Mini Habits Build Consistency (Routine and Repetition)
2. Mini Habits Guarantee Success (Which Builds Self-Efficacy)
3. Mini Habits Build Motivation (By Starting)
4. Mini Habits Build Willpower (Willpower Workouts)
5. Mini Habits Boost Autonomy & Flexibility

When I think about InnerWill’s Five Practices of Values Based Leadership, most of them connect in some way to this project; habit formation and learning. However, it’s the practice of Taking Action that really sums up this work. When there is a change in behavior desired or a difficult task completion required, as Values Based Leaders, we need to lead with courage. This requires us to make conscious choices, act with our values and face challenges head on. Using what we know about the brain can be a lever that increases the probability of success!

If you have a goal for this year, a resolution you are struggling with, or a new habit you want to cultivate, why not try committing to a MINI HABIT? Your brain is a habit making machine and it will love you for it!

Do you have success story about Taking Action? Please share it in the comments!


Carla Ruiz

Carla Ruiz

Carla’s mission is to fuel growth and development by affirming strengths, challenging beliefs, and igniting potential through Values Based Leadership. She presents, facilitates, and coaches in a variety of leadership programs and with companies intentional about strengthening their culture. In her role as a Leadership Development Coach, she is passionate about increasing emotional intelligence, which she believes is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

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