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Elastic Habits

Written by: Stephen Guise
Published: November 1, 2019


The modern world is dynamic, constantly evolving, and unpredictable. In such a setting, relying on rigid habits and routines can become a recipe for failure. Stephen Guise introduces us to a revolutionary concept: the idea of "Elastic Habits." This approach emphasizes flexibility, resilience, and adaptability, allowing us to navigate challenges and seize opportunities more effectively.

At the heart of this method lies the understanding that traditional habits, while effective, can become restrictive. When life throws curveballs, these habits can break, leading to disappointment and stagnation. Elastic Habits, on the other hand, bend but don’t break. They stretch and adapt, ensuring we remain on our growth trajectory regardless of external circumstances.

The Elastic Habit framework is built upon three key types: "Mini," "Plus," and "Elite" habits. Mini habits are small, almost trivial actions that require minimal effort but guarantee daily progress. These are the habits we can fall back on during challenging days. Plus habits are the standard habits we aim for, a middle ground that provides significant progress without being overly taxing. Elite habits are aspirational, challenging us to reach our highest potential. While not for everyday, they push our boundaries and lead to exceptional growth when circumstances permit.

The beauty of this system lies in its adaptability. On days when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed, sticking to Mini habits ensures you’re still moving forward, albeit at a slower pace. When you're energized and motivated, Elite habits allow you to capitalize on that enthusiasm. And most days, when you're in your regular groove, Plus habits keep you on track.

But how do you establish these habits? Guise suggests beginning with a foundation of self-awareness. Understand what you truly want, why you want it, and the potential roadblocks. With this clarity, you can design Mini, Plus, and Elite habits tailored to your unique circumstances and goals.

Additionally, it's crucial to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Whether you managed only a Mini habit or tackled an Elite one, recognize the progress. This positive reinforcement drives motivation and strengthens the habit loop.

Furthermore, Guise emphasizes the significance of embracing change. In a world defined by its unpredictability, clinging to old ways can be detrimental. Elastic Habits train us to be proactive, not reactive. Instead of resisting change, we learn to harness it, turning potential threats into opportunities for growth.

The concept also encourages us to expand our horizons. Why limit ourselves to a single path when multiple avenues can lead to our destination? By having a spectrum of habits, we can explore various approaches, learn from diverse experiences, and enrich our journey.

Lastly, while flexibility is the essence of Elastic Habits, consistency remains paramount. The goal isn't to hop between habits aimlessly but to have options that suit different situations. By maintaining a steady rhythm, even if it's through Mini habits, we ensure continuous growth and progress.

Final Thoughts

The paradigm of Elastic Habits offers a refreshing perspective in the realm of personal development. It recognizes the inherent unpredictability of life and provides a roadmap to navigate it with grace, resilience, and effectiveness. By melding flexibility with consistency, it promises not just growth but growth that's sustainable, adaptable, and profoundly enriching.

10 Big Ideas

1. The Limitations of Rigid Habits

Traditional habits, while foundational, can sometimes be restrictive. They lack the flexibility to adjust to life’s unpredictable challenges, leading to potential stagnation or disappointment when we're unable to maintain them.

2. The Power of Elasticity

Elastic Habits introduce a dynamic approach to personal growth. They emphasize adaptability and resilience, allowing individuals to bend without breaking and capitalize on opportunities even in shifting circumstances.

3. Three-Tiered Habit Framework

The system revolves around three types of habits: Mini, Plus, and Elite. This categorization ensures that regardless of how one feels on a particular day, there's always a habit they can pursue to maintain momentum.

4. Maximizing Small Wins

Mini habits might seem trivial, but their power lies in guaranteeing daily progress. On challenging days, these minimal-effort tasks ensure that you’re still making strides toward your goals.

5. Harnessing Peak Moments

Elite habits are the pinnacle of this methodology. They're not daily tasks but are meant for those days when you're brimming with motivation. Engaging in these habits can lead to substantial growth spurts in one’s personal journey.

6. The Balanced Middle Ground

Plus habits act as the standard, everyday actions. They offer a balance between the Mini and Elite, ensuring a steady and significant progress rate without overwhelming the individual.

7. Embracing and Harnessing Change

Rather than resisting change or unpredictability, Elastic Habits teach us to leverage them. By being proactive and adaptable, we can turn potential challenges into substantial growth opportunities.

8. Celebrating Every Achievement

Regardless of whether it’s a Mini, Plus, or Elite habit achieved, recognizing and celebrating progress is vital. This acknowledgment serves as a powerful motivator, reinforcing the habit loop and boosting self-confidence.

9. The Importance of Self-Awareness

Designing effective Elastic Habits requires deep introspection. By understanding one's desires, motivations, and potential roadblocks, one can craft habits tailored to their unique life and goals.

10. Consistency Over Intensity

While the elasticity of these habits offers flexibility, the importance of consistent action cannot be overstated. It’s the regular rhythm, even if only through Mini habits, that ensures genuine and lasting growth.

5 Exercises

1. Habit Spectrum Analysis

Objective: To identify and categorize potential habits into the Mini, Plus, and Elite framework, helping you build a personalized Elastic Habit strategy.

  • Take a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns: Mini, Plus, and Elite.
  • List down all the habits you want to develop or currently practice.
  • Categorize each habit based on its complexity and effort required into one of the three columns.
  • For one week, attempt to complete at least one habit from each column and note down your experiences.
  • Review and adjust the categorization as needed based on your week’s observations.
2. The Elasticity Journal

Objective: To document daily progress, challenges, and reflections, fostering awareness and adaptability in your Elastic Habit journey.

  • Every night, dedicate 10 minutes to journaling about your day’s habits.
  • Record which habits you practiced (Mini, Plus, Elite) and any challenges faced.
  • Reflect on the ease or difficulty of each habit and any external factors influencing them.
  • Note down moments where you felt particularly motivated or demotivated.
  • At the end of the week, review your entries and identify patterns or insights that can help refine your approach.
3. Change Embracement Challenge

Objective: To train oneself to be more adaptable and view changes or disruptions as opportunities instead of obstacles.

  • Identify a routine or habit you practice regularly.
  • Deliberately disrupt it. For example, if you always exercise in the morning, try doing it in the evening.
  • Observe your feelings and resistance levels when confronted with this change.
  • Journal about the experience, noting any benefits or unexpected positives from this shift.
  • Continue this practice with different habits, fostering adaptability and flexibility.
4. Habit Swap Day

Objective: To break the monotony and challenge yourself by swapping the type of habit for a day, experiencing the full spectrum of the Elastic Habit framework.

  • Select a day in the upcoming week as your “Swap Day”.
  • On this day, if you had planned a Plus habit, switch to an Elite one, and vice versa.
  • If circumstances make it difficult, opt for a Mini habit instead.
  • Document your experiences, challenges, and feelings throughout the day.
  • Reflect on the learnings and consider if such swaps can be integrated into your routine more regularly.
5. Celebration Ritual

Objective: To create a consistent practice of acknowledging and celebrating achievements, no matter how small, reinforcing motivation and positive reinforcement.

  • Choose a manner of celebration, whether it's a small treat, a dance, or simply a moment of gratitude.
  • Every time you complete a habit, no matter its category, engage in this celebration ritual.
  • Journal about the impact of this practice on your mood and motivation levels.
  • Share your achievements and celebrations with a loved one or a friend, amplifying the positive vibes.
  • Make this a regular practice, ensuring you always acknowledge your progress and efforts.

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