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Good Habits=Good Life

Two more winning practices from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits are his two-minute rule and the value of practice vs perfection.

Two minutes. Each day. It breaks down your wildest aspirations into small bites that you can actually step into, repeat daily until you’ve created a habit, and then build on those small habits until you’ve achieved a dream. “Run a marathon” becomes “lace up your shoes every day.” “Live a more organized life” becomes “make your bed every day.” For me, “inspire, enable and empower people to design their best life at every age” became “publish a blog post every two weeks” which became “write for three minutes every day.”

As for practice vs. perfection, here’s an excerpt from the book:

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with compositions nd lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the.quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.

This speaks to so many truisms of life: the importance of lifelong learning; having a beginner’s mind; a willingness to fail over and over again on the journey toward mastery.

As I’ve experimented with this approach I’ve found my three minutes of writing on some days really is only three minutes. But on other days, it becomes more. Sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes an hour. Once I’m tap, tap, tapping the keys it’s easy and compelling to keep going. Three minutes is my habit goal, but more words flow and soon an entire blog post is written.

When you’re trying to build a new habit, just give it two minutes every day. There is some magic around doing something — the same thing — every day, and knowing that it’s only two minutes makes it easy for your brain to be willing to do it. The daily practice of even two minutes builds a muscle that becomes a habit. If you try it, please let me know how it goes for you. I’d love to hear!


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