Elastic Habits: How to Create Smarter Habits That Adapt to Your Day
von Stephen Guise
habits are the most leveraged aspect of our lives, and we get to choose them.
But what I lack in work ethic, I make up for by using the very best strategies. The nice thing about winning strategies is that they help “lazy” people like me and natural world-beaters alike.
It’s not always the lack of desire that stops us (I wanted to exercise); sometimes it’s the lack of hope, belief, and self-trust that saps our energy and convinces us we can’t do it.
“Just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.” — Sun Tzu
Self-slavery happens as a result of confusing the appearance of self-discipline with the actual mechanism behind it. Self-discipline often looks like self-slavery to the untrained eye, but real self-discipline is a labor of love born from freedom.
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ― Lao Tzu
Elasticity is not only about increasing flexibility; it’s about increasing resilience to pressure.
“All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” — Sun Tzu
“First lay plans which will ensure victory, and then lead your army to battle; if you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured.” ~ Sun Tzu
You will also see varying success with each habit. In the first month, I didn’t get the Elite level even once with reading. It’s not as much of a priority to me as my other habits. If I write for 10 hours or crush it at the gym, I’m okay with not reading a lot. Since reading is something I want to do but struggle to get myself to do, it’s been great to have a system that lets me read something every day without feeling like a failure.
“A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.” — Lee Bolman
game. All tactics are bound by context, which is why those who copy tactics will have wildly different results. They all have different contexts. For real results and true success, you must always use strategy to inform your tactics.
A 30-day challenge is not good strategy; it’s a pop-culture trend only slightly better than the “git ‘em good” strategy.
Sun Tzu says, “There are five essentials for victory: He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
Do your elastic habits daily. Limit your lateral and vertical flexibility to three options each. Track your success. Have no more than three elastic habits at a time (an exception for a non-habit plan will be discussed later).
Casinos utilize variability of result to keep people’s interest. People gamble because when they put a dollar into the machine, it doesn’t just spit out 92 cents every time.
By carefully balancing stability and flexibility, we can maintain our sense of freedom while showing up consistently and generating powerful results. Increased stability reduces decision fatigue, while increased flexibility caters to our needs and keeps us engaged through the excitement of variability.
“Winning is not a secret that belongs to a very few, winning is something that we can learn by studying ourselves, studying the environment and making ourselves ready for any challenge that is in front of us.” — Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov
A lot of people who read Mini Habits would talk to me or others about their mini habit of doing something for 10 minutes. That is about 10 times more difficult than a mini habit should be, and closer to Plus territory. Again, daily goals are personal to you and vary by habit, but 10 minutes is generally too high for a safety net for new habits.
Mini goals should be extremely easy and laughable to miss. Plus goals should be a decent challenge, but nothing intimidating. Elite goals should be difficult, but also exciting when completed.
That’s why habit cue flexibility is always bound by the day at a minimum.
If you choose the daily cue, you’re aiming to complete your habit(s) any time before you go to sleep. This gives you the entire day to find a way to succeed, even if it’s right before your head hits the pillow. It helps you plan out bigger wins, rest when you need to, and form habits with multiple cues.
I want to establish my identity as someone who writes, exercises, and reads books (my elastic habits). With a flexible daily cue, I do all three of these things every day, but in different ways, at different times, and in different quantities.
Since life is crazy more often than not, there’s no way to predict whether tomorrow will be like today, or that the situation two weeks from now will be the same as it was two weeks ago when we made our goals. Daily adaptability allows us to improvise to any and all internal and external conditions.
Modular habits are great for multi-skill practices such as public speaking. You can work on your vocal power with the diaphragm exercises, enunciation with the tongue twisters, and poise with speech practice.
“The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary.” “Well done is better than well said.” ― Benjamin Franklin
While taking that final lap and getting soaked, I smiled. I felt like the storm represented all of the adversity in my life, and I kept moving forward despite it. I felt like a champion in that moment, knowing that I had earned a truly Elite win.
Trust is lost by breaking a commitment; it is gained by meeting a commitment. This is the case regardless of the size of the commitment. The greatest amplifier of trust is how consistently you fulfill commitments, not how big they are.