Books,  MidLife

Mini-Habits and Finish

December is my favorite month of the year.

I love the anticipation of Christmas day, filled with familiar traditions such as girls’ baking day, the Christmas Eve Vigil, and of course, honoring Christ’s gift of eternal life by giving one another thoughtful presents.

But I also anticipate the New Year and the opportunity to craft a more intentional life. I spend time reflecting on the previous twelve months, selecting my “one word” and setting SMART goals for the upcoming year.

I read two books this month to help prepare my mind for anticipated changes in 2019. It wasn’t until after reading both that I realized the messages complemented one another perfectly:

Don’t allow perfectionism to get in the way of a joy-filled, meaningful life.

Since I am still knee-deep in end-of-semester grading, I am not going to write a proper review, but rather, share snippets of wisdom from each of the books. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend both to those who may suffer from the plague of perfectionism.

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise

The author uses a personal story that resonates well with all perfectionists. He wanted to start an exercise routine. He knew the benefits of daily movement and heย desired to live a healthy lifestyle for himself as well as his family. However, when push came to shove, he could not motivate himself to complete the thirty-minute workout.

He tried rewards, positive affirmations, and visualizations. He found an accountability partner. Nothing worked.

Out of complete frustration, he decided his goal would be one push-up a day.

A ridiculously “stupid-easy” goal. But come to find out, that is the secret to long-term consistency.

The premise of Mini-Habits is to set a goal so easy that your mind cannot resist. Exercise thirty minutes a day meets with resistance (and eventually excuses). Complete one push-up a day does not.

The author discovered that most days … once he was on the floor and in position … he was willing to do far more than a single push-up. But the goal always remained ONE push-up. He warns us to keep the goal below the resistance level; don’t be tempted to raise the stakes. Consistency is the key to progress.

And progress leads to success.


Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

This is a follow-up book to Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do What Matters. Since the publication of that work in 2013, the author revised his position:

The start does matter. The beginning is significant. The first few steps are critical. But they aren’t the most important. … The finish is what matters more.

What prevents us from finishing a project? Perfectionism.

Perfectionism masks itself as excellence, but in reality, it keeps us stuck and paralyzed.

Acuff offers several tips to help us overcome perfectionism and in turn achieve our goals. A few of his suggestions include:

  • Cut your goal in half and/or Double your timeline. Perfectionism’s all-or-nothing mentality tells us that small goals don’t count or missing a self-imposed deadline is failure. Perfectionism is a chronic liar.
  • Have fun. Perfectionism tells us that joy is an indication we are not working hard enough. Fun has no value and is a waste of time. Our natural talents don’t count. Again, more lies.
  • “Until” is just perfectionism wearing a Halloween costume. We use “Hiding Places” (a focused activity that distracts us from our goal) and “Noble Obstacles” (a virtuous-soundingย reason for not working toward the finish line). We develop secret rules that hinder our progress (e.g. I can’t work on anything until I pick the perfect goal). Stop hiding behind the mask.
  • Failure is loud … Progress is quiet. Listen to the whisper.
  • Finishers make things easier and simpler. Perfectionism makes things harder and more complicated.
  • Make sure what you are catching is actually what you want to catch.

I plan to spend the remaining days of 2018 setting “stupid easy” goals to build my confidence – most notably in the areas of physical exercise, yoga, and writing.

I plan to re-evaluate my activities to ensure I am catching what I actually want to catch.

And I will prioritize my calendar to include lots of FUN.

Yes, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year!



  • Mary Lou

    Just what I needed to read Molly! Both books sound like advice I probably needed all my life. At the moment, I too plan to take baby-steps towards getting back to my old exercise routine, towards taking a chair yoga class and beginning my hopes to finishing some writings. Welcome 2019!!! I’ll be sharing for #MLSTL on Facebook and Twitter.

    • Molly Totoro

      I wish I had found these books decades ago, Mary Lou. But then again, I’m not sure I would have truly heard the message. The timing is right – and I am looking forward to all possibilities in 2019 ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Leanne |

    Oh Molly I LOVED this post – firstly I really liked the idea of setting such easy targets instead of trying to push myself to do stuff that I end up giiving up on. And secondly, I’ve had a bit of a crush on Jon Acuff for years – I used to read his “Stuff Christians Like” blog back in the days when I didn’t know it was a blog (what’s a blog??) and I even bought the book when it came out. He has such a wonderfully dry sense of humour and so much of what he says rings true for me.
    I’ve been busy choosing my Word for the Year for 2019 and I’m looking forward to the “big reveal” early in January and then trying to put it into practice.
    Thanks so much for being a part of MLSTL this year – I’ve shared your post on my SM – Happy Christmas! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      I never heard of Jon Acuff until a friend suggested this book to me a few weeks ago. Based on your recommendation, I will have to read more of his work. As someone who takes herself too seriously, I appreciate an author who can add a little humor to life.

      One of the highlights of 2018, Leeanne, was to discover this #mlstl community. I look forward to keeping in contact with these new online friends for many years to come.

  • Debbie

    This was so good to read Molly! I love this suggestion: Failure is loud โ€ฆ Progress is quiet. Listen to the whisper. We can all learn so much from this simple sentence! Thanks for sharing your thoughts #mlstl

  • Victoria Paton

    Wow! One push-up at a time! What a great concept… Crazy that in one month I could be doing 30! From reading your reviews I already feel a sense of relief in looking at my personal and professional objectives in a more kind-to-self way. I’ll take a look at these excellent recommendations and, hopefully, kick perfectionism out of the way and let some creativity in. Cheers to 2019!

    • Molly Totoro

      I am ready to let more creativity in as well ๐Ÿ™‚

      I just want to clarify… His goal was a single push-up a day. NOT to increase the number of push-ups each day (I’m telling ya… “crazy stupid”) But he would also say that after a month, the confidence from doing a single push-up a day might translate to a desire to do thirty at a time ๐Ÿ™‚

      Wishing you a fabulously creative 2019!

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    While I’m not a perfectionist, I do struggles to ‘finish’ – I think I might suffer from the “hiding places” and “noble obstacles”. Plenty to ponder here. I hope it doesn’t keep me from ‘finishing’ my projects. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      This made me laugh, Janet ๐Ÿ™‚
      I run after new ideas like a child after shiny new toys. And you are right, this is my “noble obstacle” because I easily justify learning as worthwhile.
      I will be pondering this week as well…

  • Pat

    I love the idea of stupid-easy goals! I’m going to have to think about setting some in 2019, especially in a few areas I’ve struggled to get going.

    • Molly Totoro

      You and me both, Pat. I do think this is the key (at least for me) to silence Delilah’s constant chatter telling me I’m not good enough. Even “stupid easy” goals matter ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly thank you for the book recommendations and I will check them out over the break. I’m looking towards a slower 2019 and not getting caught up with unnecessary pressures. Thank you for being a constant supporter of #MLSTL and I wish you and your family a beautiful Christmas and wonderful 2019. See you at our next link up on the 9th January. xx

    • Molly Totoro

      I’d love to hear your opinion of these books, Sue!
      I like your goal for 2019 … a slower pace. We deserve the break, don’t we? And I believe a slower pace will help me learn to live (and appreciate) the present moment.
      I look forward to reconnecting with you – and the entire #mlstl community – on January 9th ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      A book addiction board? I will definitely check that out ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to hear your opinion of these two books when you have a chance to read them.

  • Mae

    Your two excellent principles are already incorporated into my life. I always say that my motto is “set limited goals.” Like setting out to just pull three weeds instead of planning to weed and mulch the entire garden. Or just cleaning one surface, not every mess in the house. And there’s always the old saying: the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or the scary version: sometimes you need to cut off the artist’s hands to make them stop redoing their work — which my mother used to say a lot.

    best… mae at

    • Molly Totoro

      So much good stuff here, Mae!
      I’ve never heard your mother’s saying (and it is a bit scary) … but it does tie in with the adage: perfect is the enemy of good (which I have to constantly remind myself). I like your analogy of pulling three weeds instead of the entire garden. I still struggle with setting the “stupid easy” goal, but I’m beginning to understand its wisdom.

  • Natalie

    Baby steps or mini-habits are great starters. Consistency is key to build good habits, and patience is necessary to see the results. All the best to you in 2019, Molly!

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