At some point, once you've established the habit and you're showing up each day, you can combine the two-minute rule with a technique we call habit shaping to scale your habit back up toward your ultimate goal

I didn't find anything by googling.

is it maybe "up toward" that comes together and not "back up"?


1 Answer 1


First, you need to understand that "scale up" is a phrasal verb: a verb followed by a particle (usually an adverb or a preposition) that combine to have a different meaning than the verb by itself or the literal meaning of the verb plus the particle. To "Scale up" means to make something larger in some way.

In your sentence, back is an adverb modifying "scale up", using sense 2a from M-W's definition:

to, toward, or in a place from which a person or thing came

  • She left home and never went back.
  • put the book back
    from m-w.com

The placement of the adverb between the two parts of the phrasal verb (an "infix", rather than a prefix or a suffix) can definitely make this hard to parse, but the intent is clear to me that earlier, the habit being discussed has been "scaled down", and now the goal is to "scale it up", in a return to its original form.

This is especially confusing when you consider that you can have:

  • scale down: to reduce
  • scale back: to reduce
  • scale up: to increase
  • scale back up: to increase to a previous level
  • scale back down: to reduce to a previous level
  • @MarkGB The ‘infix’ position appears to be the source of the OP’s confusion, though.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 11, 2021 at 16:31
  • It does. And, if one felt that a discussion of that position was important to assist the OP in understanding, I would go with a more transparent construction, e.g. "The placement of the adverb can definitely make this hard to parse". I know my vocabulary is more than excellent, and I had to look up "infix". It isn't exactly a common usage. And, I didn't even bother trying to parse "between the parts of the phrasal verb". Hellion can do whatever he likes, but I think that construction muddies the answer, to no benefit, and to serious detriment.
    – Mark G B
    Jul 11, 2021 at 16:40
  • 1
    @MarkGB it's a fair point, I will attempt to explain all the pieces a little more.
    – Hellion
    Jul 11, 2021 at 16:43
  • BTW, my objection might seem nitpicky and picayune, but the construction almost had me writing an answer myself, instead of upvoting a valid and useful answer. So, I shared my opinion. :D -- Cheers, M
    – Mark G B
    Jul 11, 2021 at 16:45
  • That is MUCH better! Quite good, actually!
    – Mark G B
    Jul 11, 2021 at 16:48

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