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Elastic Habits: How to Create Smarter Habits That Adapt to Your Day

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Habits That Bend Don’t Break Why do so many sincere attempts to build good habits fail? We try our best to be consistent, but some days are better than others. Inevitably, we fail when “life happens,” because each day we try to hit the same targets regardless of the situations we face. How, then, can we make our habits more resilient to the turbulence of life?  By m Habits That Bend Don’t Break Why do so many sincere attempts to build good habits fail? We try our best to be consistent, but some days are better than others. Inevitably, we fail when “life happens,” because each day we try to hit the same targets regardless of the situations we face. How, then, can we make our habits more resilient to the turbulence of life?  By making them elastic. Most people associate “elastic” with yoga pants and rubber bands. But the word also means “resilient”—the ability to withstand pressure. Elastic materials are far more durable than rigid and brittle ones, which will shatter under pressure. The same is true for habits.A traditional habit is unchanging: the same behavior is done at the same time to the same level every day. It works well until the pressures of modern life break its rigid and brittle shell. Elastic habits are fluid: they can change their form and intensity to suit each unique day. They survive busy, tired, bad days. They thrive in better days.  Adapt Your Habits to Survive Threats Nature shows us that biological and behavioral adaptation to one’s environment is the key to survival for all living things: The most resilient bacteria mutate to survive the threat of antibiotics (to our dismay). Chameleons, octopi, and cuttlefish actively change their color to avoid predators and capture prey. Birds migrate, while bears, bats, and chipmunks hibernate to survive winter.  Camels use fat stored in their humps for hydration and energy when food and water are scarce in harsh, arid lands. Living things adapt in many more ways to survive the threats of disease, violence, and natural disasters. Good habits, too, need to survive the turbulence of life so they can benefit us for years, not just days or weeks. With the simple and intuitive Elastic Habits framework, your elastic habits can instantly shrink themselves into an easy win when a difficult or busy day threatens to ruin your habit streak.Elastic habits are the adaptation masters of the habit kingdom. They always find a way to survive, making them virtually unbreakable. Downward flexibility keeps habits safe, but as with animals, adaptation isn’t only for survival. Adapt Your Habits and Thrive  Elastic habits can expand, adding significant upward potential to your life. On any day, you can increase your challenge for a bigger win and reward, so you will never feel held back. Upward flexibility maximizes your potential and keeps you excited about your progress.Elastic habits even have a middle option, a happy medium between two extremes, for “ordinary” days. The up-and-down adaptation of an elastic habit is known as vertical flexibility. There’s also lateral flexibility—the ability to choose from multiple behaviors within a central theme.A standard habit has one win condition. An elastic habit has nine. If traditional habits are a hammer, elastic habits are your grandfather’s garage. When you’re working on a house project, it’s not a burden to have a hammer, a wrench, and a screwdriver—you just select the one you need when you need it. Elastic habits are the same.


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Habits That Bend Don’t Break Why do so many sincere attempts to build good habits fail? We try our best to be consistent, but some days are better than others. Inevitably, we fail when “life happens,” because each day we try to hit the same targets regardless of the situations we face. How, then, can we make our habits more resilient to the turbulence of life?  By m Habits That Bend Don’t Break Why do so many sincere attempts to build good habits fail? We try our best to be consistent, but some days are better than others. Inevitably, we fail when “life happens,” because each day we try to hit the same targets regardless of the situations we face. How, then, can we make our habits more resilient to the turbulence of life?  By making them elastic. Most people associate “elastic” with yoga pants and rubber bands. But the word also means “resilient”—the ability to withstand pressure. Elastic materials are far more durable than rigid and brittle ones, which will shatter under pressure. The same is true for habits.A traditional habit is unchanging: the same behavior is done at the same time to the same level every day. It works well until the pressures of modern life break its rigid and brittle shell. Elastic habits are fluid: they can change their form and intensity to suit each unique day. They survive busy, tired, bad days. They thrive in better days.  Adapt Your Habits to Survive Threats Nature shows us that biological and behavioral adaptation to one’s environment is the key to survival for all living things: The most resilient bacteria mutate to survive the threat of antibiotics (to our dismay). Chameleons, octopi, and cuttlefish actively change their color to avoid predators and capture prey. Birds migrate, while bears, bats, and chipmunks hibernate to survive winter.  Camels use fat stored in their humps for hydration and energy when food and water are scarce in harsh, arid lands. Living things adapt in many more ways to survive the threats of disease, violence, and natural disasters. Good habits, too, need to survive the turbulence of life so they can benefit us for years, not just days or weeks. With the simple and intuitive Elastic Habits framework, your elastic habits can instantly shrink themselves into an easy win when a difficult or busy day threatens to ruin your habit streak.Elastic habits are the adaptation masters of the habit kingdom. They always find a way to survive, making them virtually unbreakable. Downward flexibility keeps habits safe, but as with animals, adaptation isn’t only for survival. Adapt Your Habits and Thrive  Elastic habits can expand, adding significant upward potential to your life. On any day, you can increase your challenge for a bigger win and reward, so you will never feel held back. Upward flexibility maximizes your potential and keeps you excited about your progress.Elastic habits even have a middle option, a happy medium between two extremes, for “ordinary” days. The up-and-down adaptation of an elastic habit is known as vertical flexibility. There’s also lateral flexibility—the ability to choose from multiple behaviors within a central theme.A standard habit has one win condition. An elastic habit has nine. If traditional habits are a hammer, elastic habits are your grandfather’s garage. When you’re working on a house project, it’s not a burden to have a hammer, a wrench, and a screwdriver—you just select the one you need when you need it. Elastic habits are the same.

30 review for Elastic Habits: How to Create Smarter Habits That Adapt to Your Day

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lorena

    I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the author’s idea of an elastic system of habits that adapts to your changing needs. However, Nietzsche once wrote, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” I feel like this author would do well to adopt a similar ambition. He takes too long to get to the point and uses too many awkward metaphors. Here are some of the things I appreciated about this book. The discussion of strengths and weaknesses of differe I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the author’s idea of an elastic system of habits that adapts to your changing needs. However, Nietzsche once wrote, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” I feel like this author would do well to adopt a similar ambition. He takes too long to get to the point and uses too many awkward metaphors. Here are some of the things I appreciated about this book. The discussion of strengths and weaknesses of different sized goals was interesting. I liked the idea of lateral and vertical flexibility and being able to choose between mini, plus, and elite goals each day. There are plenty of examples to understand how the system works (too many examples really—they would have been better in an appendix). I loved the idea of connecting your habits with your values. This is one area where I might actually have preferred a few more examples. I also appreciated the advice about which habits to prioritize, making the elastic habit system efficient, and avoiding choice paralysis and decision fatigue. I’m not inclined to want to track and score habits, but I can appreciate why that would be helpful for some people. I thought Daniel Penz had a pleasant voice and generally did a fine job narrating. You miss some graphics if you listen to the audiobook, but I don’t think they’re essential to understand the material. And the author has thoughtfully provided these graphics on his website, accessible without signing up. I loved the comic for smarter strategies. I think the elastic habit system would appeal to many people, but the book requires considerable patience. If the author had conveyed the content more concisely, I think this would appeal more to the target audience. It wouldn’t have been so annoying in an ebook or paperback that I could have skimmed, but the audiobook really dragged. I was given a free copy of this audiobook by the author and volunteered to provide an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Isheeka

    I suspected that a book about flexible, adaptable, 'elastic' habits would suit me better than most habit books, and I was right. I really like the compassionate and realistic approach that the author takes in recommending a habit system that works on both your worst and best days. Though the tracking and gamification aspects of the system aren't really my cup of tea (I'm not about to put up posters and stickers in my already messy house), I have started thinking of my habits in terms of mini, pl I suspected that a book about flexible, adaptable, 'elastic' habits would suit me better than most habit books, and I was right. I really like the compassionate and realistic approach that the author takes in recommending a habit system that works on both your worst and best days. Though the tracking and gamification aspects of the system aren't really my cup of tea (I'm not about to put up posters and stickers in my already messy house), I have started thinking of my habits in terms of mini, plus and elite wins, and what I really like about that is that it encourages me to celebrate doing the bare minimum and to feel extra proud when I've gone above and beyond. Too often, motivational guides and habit systems lead us to perfectionism, where we merely feel relief when we've done our good habits for the day, and feel terrible when we've underachieved. But the elastic habits system, I think, is much more sustainable and enables a healthier (i.e. not perfectionist) relationship with ourselves. As someone with chronic illness, I need a lot of flexibility and this is the first time I've seen a self-help book advocate that.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    Awesome!! Another awesome book by Stephen Guise. He knocked if out of the park in this one and I’m just as excited about this as I was with his mini habits book I highly recommend this. Read it if you want to change your life in a positive way with little chance of failing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    When I first saw the information coming out about “Elastic Habits” by Stephen Guise, I wondered how he could have improved on “Mini Habits” in any meaningful way. But let me tell you: I am SO excited about this book and the new habit system he has in place. It’s pure genius! I highlighted like crazy, took lots of notes, and began formulating my new habits about halfway through. Remarkable new ideas, suggestions, and options. I really believe I’ll have greater lasting habit creation than ever bef When I first saw the information coming out about “Elastic Habits” by Stephen Guise, I wondered how he could have improved on “Mini Habits” in any meaningful way. But let me tell you: I am SO excited about this book and the new habit system he has in place. It’s pure genius! I highlighted like crazy, took lots of notes, and began formulating my new habits about halfway through. Remarkable new ideas, suggestions, and options. I really believe I’ll have greater lasting habit creation than ever before. Thank you, Stephen Guise!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    I'd already been thinking about my exercise habit as flexible, so when I saw the title, I had a feeling this would resonate. I'm very excited to try out the elastic habits system. I've long bounced back and forth between being bored and overwhelmed by life. I love being able to customize systems. All in all, a great fit for me! The book itself is fine. A lot of selling you on the ideas and fleshing them out, but I feel like I was already sold.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Butterfield

    An amazing book, an even better strategy I’ve been using the Mini Habit system for nearly a year now, and my life has drastically improved. And now Elastic Habits are here, not to replace mini habits, but to improve them. The biggest issue with mini habits is that little voice inside your head telling you you’ll never get anywhere if that’s all you do, as well as the uncertainty of where to go after you’ve done that one pushup for the day. Elastic habits address this issue and many more. Some peop An amazing book, an even better strategy I’ve been using the Mini Habit system for nearly a year now, and my life has drastically improved. And now Elastic Habits are here, not to replace mini habits, but to improve them. The biggest issue with mini habits is that little voice inside your head telling you you’ll never get anywhere if that’s all you do, as well as the uncertainty of where to go after you’ve done that one pushup for the day. Elastic habits address this issue and many more. Some people might say that this book could have been a blog post, and while that may be true, you’d be missing out if you settled for a distilled version of Stephen’s latest masterpiece. Buy it, read it, love it, and read it again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Davlin

    A great follow-up to Mini Habits. I often did the minimum Mini Habit for the day, and nothing more. While it was better than nothing, this has me pushing myself when I feel like I have more energy and time. I'm already reading, meditating and cleaning more, and I'm excited to see my progress as the weeks go on.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    This book shows how to create behaviours and habits when life 'happens.' At its most basic, this book shows how to keep moving towards a goal - with flexibility. It is a straight forward book. But does show how to achieve an aim when barriers get in the way. OK. Not brilliant. OK.

  9. 5 out of 5

    A.M.

    I really enjoyed the mini habits book - the theory is that setting the bar so low you could fall over it works on our odd brains. One push-up? While I’m down here I may as well do two! Or three… But how does it help you to hit larger goals? So what he has done is stretched them; both horizontally and vertically. He explains it in the book. [of COURSE he does, AM - shut up, brain] So you would have three levels: mini, plus, and elite. Say, one, five or ten push-ups. And to stretch it the other way you I really enjoyed the mini habits book - the theory is that setting the bar so low you could fall over it works on our odd brains. One push-up? While I’m down here I may as well do two! Or three… But how does it help you to hit larger goals? So what he has done is stretched them; both horizontally and vertically. He explains it in the book. [of COURSE he does, AM - shut up, brain] So you would have three levels: mini, plus, and elite. Say, one, five or ten push-ups. And to stretch it the other way you add on more options: hand weights, or planques also with three levels. And this gives you a ‘win’ in nine different ways. I found this quote super interesting. The study found that setting a sub-goal of 10 push-ups at a time (instead of the full 100 push-ups) was more effective at motivating people to action at the beginning because it increased their sense of attainability (that’s a key word we’ll discuss in the next chapter). But later on, once people believed they were within reach of the bigger goal, like when they’d already done 75 of 100 push-ups, the sub-goal was less motivating than the bigger goal. When they got within striking distance of the bigger picture goal, their strongest source of motivation changed from attainability to the value to be gained by completing the bigger goal. (p. 39). Our brains like to win (woot - cue endorphin rush) but they also get derailed kind of easily - you know, you eat one donut and then decide that because you have ‘broken’ your diet, you may as well eat ALL the donuts. The diet is gone, and the guilt is doubled. We also don’t like to see ‘losses’ in our streaks. Those blank spots destroy our motivation, so giving us more ways to win … is a win. It also helps with the idea that you want these things to become HABITS rather than goals. How often have you heard of a person setting a goal of running a marathon; they train for it, run it, and then stop. So because of all the options, you can make a stretch goal of hitting three elite levels in a row, or ten. And even IF you don’t hit that, you will always have an easy win so you don’t break the chain and lose heart. He’s still working out methods (and products) for people to actually track this… and he has a lot of diagrams and examples for vaguer goals like mindfulness or gratitude. Worth a look. 4 stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    This book could be considered an interesting sequel of sorts to James Clear's Atomic Habits, although perhaps not quite as neatly crafted. I really liked the practical ideas and applications--something which is often missing or downplayed in many books of this sort. My only beef is the dirth of practical ideas for tracking. The author could likely make some decent money designing an app that will accommodate all the "elastic" characteristics of his habits approach.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andreina Garban

    I have mix feelings about Elastic Habits. I really LOVED Mini-Habits, and Stephen really made me understand the big power of it. But in this one, I really struggled with the information. And although the practicality of the information seems easy, I keep thinking I was missing the simplicity of the first book. I will try some of the techniques though.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Unique and exciting twist on habits I am so excited after finishing this book and can't wait to get started designing and setting up my elastic habits system. I loved Mini Habits but I got a lot more out of this book. The built-in flexibility fits my lifestyle and the tracking options make accountability easy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    This is actually realistic! This system actually makes sense in real life. Sticking to habits is difficult for me. This system addresses many of my challenges in a way that gives me hope that I'll regain confidence in my own ability to develop positive habits toward my broader goals.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary Jedde

    This book provided a fresh perspective on how to form habits. It is not as intimidating as other resources I've come across. I am currently on experimentation mode and trying out the concepts of the book. Recommended to anyone who finds it difficult to avoid "the flinch" of starting or trying to acquire a new skill or habit.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Hesler

    Fantastic Idea I enjoyed the message and tone of the book. I have a new level of optimism and excitement to finally make some changes in my life. I had my first win yesterday by allowing for a ‘plus’ win. It wasn’t my target for the day, but it was better than the “well one can’t get my exact target so I’ll just skip today.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Robrecht

    Revolutionary For the 1st time in my life I am excited about setting goals because I feel like I can be successful. This is a serious how to book not just a bunch of theory. I certainly appreciate Stephen Guise for all of his research in habit forming.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cara W

    A book following minihabits, with more flexibility to allow even better success. Pick mini-habits, have 3 options of related theme, and 3 levels of intensity. Can always do the minimum and get a win, or push to mid or high level.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    This book started off great and I like the concept of having flexible goals. However, it got way too scientific for me. I hate reading books where I feel like I’m reading a textbook. Sorry, this just wasn’t my style.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vanguard

    Not very interesting read. I couldn't really understand what author was saying.Skipped a lot of pages. The basic idea is like that your daily goals should not be fixed but elastic depending upon your energy and motivation levels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lyman Reed

    Outstanding! I almost never write reviews for books, but this one deserves it! Mini Habits helped to change some of my behaviors, but this brings it to a while new level. Thank you Stephen!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    Provoking Stephen Guise knocks it out of the ballpark again. This is a revolutionary idea that will change the way you approach habit building. I can't wait to get started!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Yurasits

    Good expansion from How to be an Imperfectionist after working on mini habits for a while.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Y Samphy

    Call this a smart habit system Mini habits helped me quit smoking 6 years ago, Elastic Habits are helping me create smart habits for mindfulness, reading and writing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maddelline

    Dived each new habit into mini, plus and elite activities of the new habit.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Wortham

    Agree with his points but this could be summarized in 2 pages.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Audra

    Absolutely fantastic. A wonderful upgrade/addition to Mini Habits, this book really boosted my confidence in forming and MAINTAINING good habits long term.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Very helpful! Habits can be challenging to achieve and maintain. Thus gives a concrete and fun method I can see myself doing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Very helpful and an easier way to create the habits you want

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maxime

    The idea is great, but there is no need to make 200 pages out of it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mihira

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