What is a habit, and why are habits so important?
Also, it’s an action that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought.
New Habits vs. Old Habits
New habits are things that you do, but old habits are things that you are.
Think Very Long Term
Short- term thinking encourages thoughts like, “Let me push myself to the limit today and get as much done as possible”. This results in missing sleep, eating poorly, and a recovery period during which no significant amount of work can be completed. That may lead to better results in the very short term, like the present day, but is making you less productive over longer time horizons.
Consistency Is Everything
Second, you should be very scared to fail to execute a habit, even once. By failing to execute, potentially you’re not just losing a minor bit of progress, but rather threatening the cumulative benefits you’ve accrued by establishing a habit.
Absolutely Never Skip Twice
Missing two days of a habit is habit suicide.
When you first miss a habit, the next occurrence of it should become a top priority. You must execute on that habit at any level possible. Do it perfectly if you can, but do it terribly if that’s all you can handle. Just make sure that you do it.
You Just Go – Do a Terrible Job
Just like a marriage, any habit that’s intended to last forever will require loyalty through good and bad, sickness and health.
Remember that the power of a habit isn’t actually in the individual execution, but in the consistency. It is far far worse to skip doing something than to just do a horrible job of it.
Don’t Reward the Lazy Brain
The real danger of not following through with something is that your brain figures out that if it just puts a few small barriers in your way, it can go back to resting.
The solution to this problem is to push through and work anyway. Just do a terrible job if necessary, but make it clear to your brain that putting up token objections isn’t enough to give it a rest.
Forgive and Focus
Use your mistakes to focus. They draw attention to an area that needs more attention, so give it that attention. Challenge yourself to do better next time.
Whenever you stick to a habit, especially if it was difficult or you did particularly well, take two seconds, smile, and congratulate yourself.
Take Pride in Process, Not in Results
Track your adherence to process, not your results.
Being brutally honest is very different from being brutal. It means that you are only satisfied when you figure out which bad habit is really holding you back from your goals, and then you attack that habit by replacing it with a better one.
How to Discover High Priority Habits
However, the right habit to tackle is one that you care about.
Having the courage to ask what you need to work on can yield some really huge wins that you won’t otherwise get to.
It’s Always Your Fault
Instead, it’s best to assume that it’s always your fault.
Assuming that everything is your fault is a shortcut for finding those areas where you have control, and opening the door to exerting that control for positive change.
There’s Nothing You Can’t Do
people we think of as exceptional aren’t that way because of who they are, but because of what they do.
You can do just about anything if you break it down into habits and execute on them. That’s not to say that it’s easy, only that it’s possible. The key is to be honest about what’s stopping you from success, take responsibility for it, and create new habits to correct.
Habit forming is effective and efficient, but it’s not effortless. Habits should always be linked to an actual concrete goal, rather than just exist for the sake of having a habit.
Securing Your Motivation
If you are not going to follow through with a habit, it is better to never start it at all. A downward spiral of failing to adopt habits is harmful in the long term, and the time spent on a habit that never had a chance could have been better spent on a properly motivated habit that would have been successful.
On a piece of paper, write down these four sections: 1. What good things will happen if I implement this habit? 2. What bad things will happen if I implement this habit? 3. What good things will happen if I don’t implement this habit? 4. What bad things will happen if I don’t implement this habit?
To make sure that this motivation sticks, write yourself a note explaining why you’re going to implement the habit.
Start Easy and Often
You’ll get the greatest compliance by maximizing frequency and minimizing intensity. Daily habits are hard to overlook or miss, and low intensity habits are easy to complete. This combination greatly increases your chances of sticking with a habit.
Start small, become consistent, and increase at a manageable pace. That’s how you optimize for the finish line, rather than the starting line.
Don’t Build Habits That can be Automated
Prime candidates for automation tend to be these sorts of habits, those that are less about personal change and more about things that just “have to be done” on a regular basis.
Without a proper trigger, a repeated action is just something you sometimes do.
Whenever you begin a new habit, you should think about what its trigger is going to be, and to commit to that.
We’re not adding more triggers to our days, we’re just changing the actions they spur.
A very good practice is to think about all of the things that absolutely must get done in a day, and work them into chains. Unless the order actually matters, the easiest habits should be loaded up front, and the most difficult ones should be last.
Habitualizing Input for Instant Change
The habit I use to combat this is to use the trigger of strong disagreement to ask, “Is it possible he’s right? What if he is?” I’m stubborn enough that this usually won’t change my opinion, but it’s enough to cause me to reflect and sometimes realize that I’m wrong.
One particularly valuable habit in this regard is reading every single day. You will consume so many books that you’re bound to run into some that contradict your beliefs and occasionally run into one that changes your perception in an instant and births a new lifelong habit.
When to Quit Habits
The solution is to only quit habits when you no longer want to quit them. This is the only mindset under which we can make difficult decisions and not be influenced by our pesky lazy brain.
Beware of Disruptors
To build good habits, you must be able to focus on the process of what you’re doing, both for personal satisfaction, and as a mechanism for improving your habits.
Imposing Your Habits on Others
Real change is the product of motivation, either prompted by a problem in life or through analysis of one’s goals. When you adopt a new habit and try to convince others to do the same, they’re skipping the stage of discovering or building that motivation.
Outlook is influenced by external events, but is by definition your reaction to those events. By creating positive habits around how you react to external events, you improve your outlook.
From now on, every time you have any negative thought, simply think of one positive aspect of the situation. The positive aspect doesn’t have to be equal in magnitude to the negative aspects, it just has to exist.
Whenever you find yourself thinking poorly of someone or in some sort of conflict with someone, force yourself to say to yourself, “Remember that this person is just doing their best and trying to be happy, just like me.”
If you meditate for five minutes a day, you will notice results within two months. That’s the claim the Willpower Instinct book made, and it mirrored my experience. If you enjoy meditating, you can do it for longer, and if you absolutely hate it, you can start with less time and build up. Every day, just sit for five minutes in a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on your breath.
What you write about is not important. Neither is the quality of the writing. Constraining yourself to a topic or expecting a certain quality level will make the habit more difficult. Success is achieved if you sit down and write for the prescribed amount of time or number of words.
To be clear, I recommend this habit even if you don’t care at all about writing and don’t want to blog or write a book. The real value is that it forces you to be thorough about evaluating thoughts, helps synthesize input into output, and transforms you into a clearer communicator.
This habit works best with the specific trigger of thinking, “I’d like to do _____, but I’m too scared/nervous”. For it to properly work, you must be able to be honest with yourself, as discussed earlier.
Whenever you have that feeling of wanting to do something, but being too nervous, you should immediately think, “Okay, now I have to do it.” Then, of course, you take the first step and go do it.
As soon as you read any email that requires further action, including replying, following up, visiting a web site, etc., you flag or star it. Once per day, preferably early afternoon when you’ve had the chance to read emails and still have a bunch of productive time left, go through all of the starred emails and either reply, take the necessary action, or unstar
When in doubt on whether or not you’ll need a date in the future, put it down. Remember that you will only use your calendar if you trust it completely. Notes:
The essential habit of becoming a minimalist is the habit of regularly evaluating how your possessions either add to or detract from the conscious life you’re living and then getting rid of those things that are burdensome.
what happens to things when you’re done with them.
To fix this, we can create a habit that gets rid of people we’re not going to get to know better, and simultaneously helps us stay in touch with people we care about.
Once a month, scroll through your entire phone book. For each person you haven’t contacted in the past month, or since the last check, force yourself to either delete them from your phone or send them a message or make a call.
Twice, then Quit is very simple. When you want to quit working for the first time, don’t. Push through and work some more. The second time you want to quit, also don’t quit. Push through again. The third time you want to quit, go ahead and quit.
That would be a mistake. The trigger for twice, then quit, should be feeling exhausted, being unable to focus on the work at hand, or feeling like you’re not able to muster the effort towards creating high-quality work.
Another leading cause of procrastination is simply not knowing what to do next. This can be the most frustrating form of procrastination, because you’re genuinely motivated to work, but you can’t actually get yourself to make any progress.
This habit is triggered by procrastinating, asking yourself if you know exactly what you should be doing next, and failing to come up with a definite answer. Whenever that happens, simply set a clock for thirty minutes, and begin planning.
Every night, before you go to bed, rate your day on a scale from one to ten. I recommend that you rate yourself on how little time you wasted, rather than on raw productivity or output.
Putting it All Together
Starting with humble habits is the best way to make sure you are on that path.