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Brains, Bamboo & “Bendy” Habits: Your 2024 Guide to a Better You!

Regardless of your feelings about travel, family gatherings and last-minute gift shopping, the holiday season is here and it’s a clear reminder that a new year is right around the corner. And, while we are not fans of “resolutions” we ARE huge fans of performing deliberate work on building better habits year-by-year. So, we wanted to start December off with a focus on one of our favorite behavior change strategies: elastic habits.

In our opinion, when it comes to habit formation, Stephen Guise’s Elastic Habits is a game-changer. Guise’s approach goes far beyond the traditional thinking on habit formation. Rather than being focused on a rigid, disciplined path; it’s about being smart and adaptable. In our experience this can help make your habits bulletproof against the chaos of daily life.

The Real Deal with Elastic Habits: Flexibility Is King

Here’s the thing: life is unpredictable. Rigid habits are great until they’re not. That’s where Elastic Habits come in. They’re like the ultimate survival tool in your habit arsenal. They bend, twist, and stretch to fit your life’s ups and downs. Just like bamboo in a storm, they flex but don’t break. Here’s how it works:

Mini, Plus, and Elite Habits: The Triple Threat

In Guise’s approach to habit formation, you begin by giving yourself options:

  • Mini Habits: Your low-hanging fruit. These are so easy you can do them on your worst day. They’re about keeping the momentum, no matter what.
  • Plus Habits: Your bread and butter. This is your target on most days. It’s challenging but doable.
  • Elite Habits: Your beast mode. On days you’re feeling top-notch, you push the boundaries. This is where you grow.

In other words, you begin the process of setting up an elastic habit by thinking flexibly – not rigidly. One of the easiest ways to do this is to layout NINE different options for ONE habit. Here’s a visual example:

Habit example

This sounds a bit confusing when you first look at it because it’s counterintuitive to how most of us think about building habits. The beauty of this approach is that the focus is on the habit itself – not the activity. In other words, if your goal is to EXERCISE MORE in 2024, having the flexibility to choose between a few pushups or a 1-minute run around your driveway is vital. If you’re trying to build the habit of EXERCISE into your life, defining that in only one way (go to the gym or run 5K) drastically limits your ability to be successful every day: which is a cornerstone of making habits stick.

Making It Happen: Elastic Habits in Action

Here’s how you roll this out:

  • Set Clear Goals: Know what you’re gunning for, but don’t be overly specific.
  • Build Your Habit Tiers: Mini, plus, elite. Have a plan for each level with 3 different EQUALLY VALUABLE options.
  • Track Daily: Keep a close eye on your progress. Remember, what gets measured gets managed.
  • Adjust on the Fly: Be ready to tweak your plan. Stay flexible, stay winning.

Habit Neuroscience: Patterns, Variability, and Identity Reinforcement

Our brains love patterns and routines, but they also thrive on variety. Elastic Habits keep your brain on its toes. You’re not just drilling the same pattern over and over. You’re mixing it up, and this variability helps your brain stay engaged in the process. Plus, habit formation works best when there is a REWARD associated with it. Being able to check off, even a mini win daily, is a tremendous driver for continuing the process.

Also, remember that habits are more than actions; they’re a statement of who you are. By consistently hitting your mini, plus, or elite habits, you’re not just doing something; you’re being someone. Someone who’s adaptable, resilient, and constantly growing. If that’s the identity shift that you want, elastic habits offer a clear path to reinforcing this new image of yourself every day.

Wrapping It Up: Adaptability Equals Victory

In a world that’s constantly throwing curveballs, being able to adapt is your superpower. Elastic Habits aren’t just about building habits; they’re about building habits that stand the test of time and change. After 30 years of work on ourselves and with real-world clients, we can confidently state that this approach is one of the most successful we’ve ever used. If you’re looking to be a different you by this time next year, give this a shot and watch what happens in your life as you collect those daily wins!

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