When I hit forty, I thought it would be a great idea to buy a horse. I’d had a few lessons as a youngster, so it couldn’t be that hard, could it?

Over the 11 years, I’ve had RPV Renoir II (don’t ask, he’s a bit of a poser!). I’ve been alternately terrified (airbag safety jacket is cool, an adult nappy would have been more appropriate), and exhilarated (we’ve had some wonderful rides racing off across fields at sunset). We’ve shared lovely intimate moments (sheath cleaning isn’t dinner table talk) and I’ve spent more on his grooming and healthcare than I have on my own for my whole life.

Then a few years ago I fell off and broke my arm (the airbag jacket doesn’t help when you land like a cat on all fours).

Breaking a bone in your forties is a little worrisome, so to get stronger faster I, of course, asked Dr Google for the best advice. Turns out that weight-bearing on a broken bone helps build it back up. So after 3 months in plaster, I re-started a handstand habit.

I’ve kept to that habit (mostly) for the last 7 years. Why? Because I made it so easy I couldn’t fail.

It’s not your fault if you’ve not finished writing your book or haven’t sent your newsletter out in a while – it’s your system that’s letting you down!

If you want to start doing something or get better at what you’re doing – create a product, write a book, record videos, build your consultancy practice, meditate, be a better friend/parent/child, get fitter, focus, learn a language – then try the Three Handstand Habit.

This is a long email – but you’re worth it (I don’t endorse any L’Oreal hair products, horsetail detangler works very well).

The Three Handstand Habit
There are four parts:

1. Minimum: Minimum ‘thing’ that will build to your outcome. I decided I would only do 3 handstands – that was all I HAD to do. If I ‘accidentally’ did a few more handstands or did some extra yoga poses they were all bonuses. All I HAD to do was three handstands.

What’s the minimum you need to do to move you closer to an outcome you desire? Write one sentence? Message one client? Reach out to one colleague? Ask for feedback from one prospect? Five minutes of meditation? Get the folder out on your desk?

2. NZD: No Zero Days. A Canadian called Ryan came up with this idea in 2013 – I read it on Reddit. Zero days are days when you don’t do anything leading towards your outcome.

Ryan says: 

“Didn’t do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non-zero.”

No more zero days! As you achieve more NZDs the weight of the chain of NZDs really pushes you not to fail – it’s an accountability partner. Wow, I’ve written in my journal every day for 20 days… 59 days… 120 days… How could I not do day 121? I’d have to reset back to zero – aghhh!

How can you keep score of your NZDs? I use a visual 10×10 grid and tick off the days – if I miss a day I wipe them all clean and start again. You could use a jar and add marbles, restarting if you miss a day. Or go all digital and use an app.

Of course, this might be a bit extreme. Not everything needs to be done daily. Don’t worry – we have the other NZ timeslots… NZW & NZM & NZQ & NZY leads to NZL

NZ activities that are leading to an outcome

NZD: move your bum, play guitar, read a page in a great book, learn Italian, write 200 words
NZW: send your newsletter, call your mom, reach out to 3 potential clients, get feedback on a chapter of your book, make a difficult call
NZM: do something new, call an old friend, contact a former client for a chat, write a new article
NZQ: create a new Minimum Valuable Asset for your business, take a vacation
NZY: write a book, run a marathon (you can do that, not me lol!), hire a team

Last day of the month and you still haven’t organized your sock drawer? Bad adult! Go and do it right now, get that tick, stack the dopamine hit 😉

3. Habit stack it: add your new habit to an old habit. When I’m waiting for the coffee (I have a coffee habit!) I get 3 handstands done. Sometimes people try to remove old habits, but nature abhors a vacuum and you will fill that habit space with something. It’s easier to add your new habit to an old habit and if the old habit is a bad one you can crowd it out with the new habit – I drink a glass of water with every mega strong expresso, which then fuels my going to the loo habit (which we won’t talk about).

Want more about habit stacking: Atomic Habits by James Clear is an excellent book on building habits. There’s also a brilliant visual synopsis by Dani Saveker.

What habit can you attach your new habit to? 

When you click to respond to a ping from social media can you add an intermediate habit of reaching out to an old colleague?

When you fire up your computer in the morning can you take 5 minutes to do some deep breathing?

Before you switch your computer off can you send one last email?

4. Build to perfect practice: Make sure the habit you select is executed well – you want to follow the perfect practice makes perfect rule. When you start you won’t be pèrfect, that’s ok and normal. So get feedback, get expert help, monitor your progress.

I am learning to play the guitar. I do 15 minutes per day (minimum, every day, when I switch my computer off my guitar is behind me) and I have recorded myself over time to see progress, my Italian half is teaching me and gives feedback (usually loudly, with lots of gesticulating), I am always increasing the difficulty.

Who can help you get better at your habit?
 How will you know you’re heading to perfect?

The Three Handstands Habit: Minimum Dose, NZX, Habit Stack & Perfect your Practice.

Debs Jenkins

Of course, deciding what habit to select all depends upon having an outcome to work towards. I’m going to talk about outcomes in the next article.

Let me know what you think about the Three Handstands Habit.


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