Simplicity, Change and Building Better Habits – An Interview with Leo Babauta

Today’s guest is someone whose work has influenced me personally greatly over the years and been a constant source of positivity.  He also just happens to run one of the most popular blogs in the world focused on helping readers live more simply and build better habits.

 

For all these reasons and many more it is a real pleasure to share a recent interview I did with the amazing Mr Leo Babauta!

 

 

Leo!
Leo!


 

1) Hi Leo, thanks so much for joining us. This is a real pinching myself moment for me as I’ve been a fan of your work for years and it has been a constant source of positivity and inspiration. One of your earlier posts even influenced the name of the blog! For the few readers that may not have come across your work before why don’t you tell us a little about who Leo Babauta is and where in the world is home for you?

Leo: It’s an honor. I’m married with 6 kids, and we recently moved from San Francisco to Davis, California. I started my journey on Guam in 2005, when I was stuck in my life: overweight, a smoker, addicted to junk food and shopping, sedentary, deeply in debt, stressed out with no time for my family. I finally figured out how to change one habit, then I changed another, and over the course of a little over a year I transformed my life. I started Zen Habits to share what I’d learned about changing habits, simplifying my life, and being mindful.

 

2) Your blog Zen Habits has been incredibly successful and well visited over the years. Can you share a little about the original inspiration behind the site and did you ever envision sharing your message would reach so many people around the world?

Leo: After spending a year changing my life, I was super excited about what I’d learned and the transformation I’d undergone, and I really wanted to share that with people. I was also looking for accountability with my habit and was hoping to learn from others making similar changes. I got all that and more. Zen Habits changed my life.

“I was also looking for accountability with my habit”

 

What I didn’t realize when I started was that my message of simplicity and change would resonate so strongly with so many people. It was a huge surprise to me, but it told me that people are craving this in their lives. And I’m incredibly grateful to be able to help.

 

3) From a personal and utterly selfish perspective, are we ever likely to see anything else from mnmlst? I also loved that site!

Leo: I started that blog to widen the conversation about minimalism — when I started it, not many people were talking about it. The movement grew, and I’m happy that I contributed. But I don’t have much more to say, so I think it’s in line with my philosophy to say nothing if I can’t add something meaningful.

 

4) As well as simplicity and living well, helping readers build better habits and break bad ones is also a constant through your writing. What have been some of the main challenges you have personally faced since trying to both live your version of a simpler life and form new habits along the way?

Leo: So many challenges! I still struggle with habits when I don’t give them the focus or commitment they deserve. When I fully commit to a habit, I can make a change, but I often take the change for granted. Sometimes I stop meditating for awhile, for example, but I always feel better when I start the habit again.

 

Simplicity is something that requires constant vigilance and conscious focus. It’s so easy to forget about it and just buy stuff. Our consumerist society is geared towards making it so tempting to buy stuff. So I forget sometimes, and I fail, just like anyone else.

“Simplicity is something that requires constant vigilance and conscious focus”

 

5) Have you felt resistance from others around you through your journey of change? If so, how have you dealt with this?

Leo: Of course! Change will always find resistance, inside us and in others around us. Sometimes my wife and kids are resistant, more often it’s other family members who might feel threatened by our changes. But just like our resistance to change is overcome through a process of learning and imagining the possibilities of change, others have to go through the same process. Don’t expect them to embrace the change immediately! Instead, give them space, don’t have them feel threatened, and help them understand why you want to make the change. Usually time and education will overcome the resistance, but if not … there are lots of communities online where you can find support. I’ve found online groups to support quitting smoking, starting running, being vegan, and more.

 

6) Anything that jumps out to you that you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?

Leo: All my mistakes were great lessons! So no, I wouldn’t forgo any of my most important lessons. However … I would have bought the zenhabits.com domain much earlier — it would have saved me a lot of money!

 

7) Is there anything at all that you miss from your previous (pre-Zenhabits) life?

Leo: I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I don’t have. :) I’m happy with my life as it is. I’m incredibly grateful for everything in my life.

 

8) What have been some of the highlight benefits of the changes you have made over the past few years?

Leo: The biggest benefit is the trust in myself that I’ve formed from sticking with habits. I’ve gained a lot of confidence through small steps and small successes. But I also feel healthier, less stressed, stronger, more present, more content with myself. And grateful for the people in my life.

 

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence through small steps and small successes”

 

9) Are there two or three core things you can suggest that readers can take away and implement to improve the quality of their own lives in some way and help them in building new habits and dealing with change?

Leo: Make very small changes, one at a time, and give them your complete focus and commitment. Create a good habit environment by giving yourself accountability with friends or an online group, and asking them to hold you accountable (even better: with embarrassing consequences for missing 2 straight days). Learn to mindfully do your habit, and not follow your urges to quit or be distracted. Learn to watch your resistance and not believe your rationalizations when the resistance arises. And be happy as you take each step.

 

10) I know you are close to finishing a new book that you are bringing to market in a less conventional fashion. Can you tell us a little about that and what readers might expect?

Leo: I’m self-publishing it, pouring my heart into a print book that I’m calling “Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change”. It’ll be beautiful and minimalist, and I’m not selling it in bookstores or Amazon — just on Kickstarter. So it’ll be completely funded by readers, who I’m hoping will join me in a movement of creating change in the world. If you can use this book to change yourself, you’ve changed the world in some way. If that change inspires others, you’ve spread this change, and a movement is afoot.

 

11) Any future plans for Zenhabits or other projects that you can share here or is the new book the sole focus presently?

Leo: I only focus on one thing at a time. But one idea I have is creating the best habit method ever (even better than what I’ve already come up with) through massive online testing with people trying to create change. It would be my most ambitious project ever, but what a treasure if I could figure it out!

 

12) That sounds amazing! Thanks so much for your time and for sharing with us. All the very best with the new book as well.  I’m certainly excited to read it!

Leo: Thank you. I’m really grateful to be able to talk to you all.

 

Find out more about Leo at:

Mastering the Art of Change (the New Book): http://zenhabitsbook.com/
Zen Habits (Leo’s fantastic blog): http://zenhabits.net/

 

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I also write regularly for the Huffington Post here