When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. You’ll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two minute version.” James Clear, Atomic Habits, 161.

The idea here is to make  habits as easy as possible to start, with the hope that once we’ve started doing the right thing, it will be easier to continue doing it. Examples of creating a two-minute rule are:

  • “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
  • “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
  • “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”
  • “Write a book” becomes “Write one paragraph.”

However difficult the following steps and minutes, the first couple of steps and minutes should be made as easy as possible. We’re trying to find a gateway habit that naturally leads us down a more productive path (162).

The two-minute habit is a ritual that opens up a door to a harder and larger habit. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. Clear says:

“The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things” (163).

Instead of focusing on the end goal, we focus on the first two steps until that becomes easy, then the next two steps, and so on.

I appreciate the practical realism of Clear’s book. He recognizes how hard it is for people to change. Yet he doesn’t just give up. He issues a challenge: “Nearly every life goal can be transformed into a two minute behavior.” Whatever Everest you are facing, ask yourself, “What two-minute behavior would get me started?”

Surely pastors can learn from Clear’s “pastoral” heart. We must empathize with human weakness. But we must also challenge people to change, big change. However, we must also give them the practical guidance. What are the first two steps or the first two minutes, if they are ever to meet these challenges and make these changes?

I’ve found that Christians are often frustrated that pastors and teachers either do not issue big enough challenges to change, or demand change without giving any help how to get there. Although in a secular framework, Clear provides a template that balances both big challenges and small changes.

So, pastors and counselors, let’s welcome Clear’s challenge and provide for our hearers and counselees with the two-minute behavior or inner process that will help them towards biblical life-goals, especially that of conformity to Christ.

See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones