Most of the things we do are done intentionally, right? If we choose to go somewhere or do something we believe it is an intentional action produced by exercising our free will. Would it surprise you to know that up to 90% of our actions that we perform today are the same as what we did yesterday, the day before, and the day before that?
Think about one thing you ought to be doing each and every day. It might be small, 30 or 60 minutes a day, that if you did every day would make your life so much more rich and fulfilling. Everybody has something, be it intellectual, like working on your business, physical, like working on your health, or emotional, like working on your relationships and inner peace. So if your life is in control, why aren’t you doing this thing every day, if it will make such a big difference in your life? The answer is that even though we want to, it takes work to make a habit and finally, consistent action. And consistent action is the key to success.
Humans are creatures of habit, whether we want to admit it or not. And instead of fighting this natural disposition, we should embrace it. The only difference between good habits and bad habits are how they are encoded into our minds. It has been said that the greatest feature of the human mind is the ability to maintain focus for prolonged periods of time on one thing. Whether the habit is exercising on a daily basis or indulging in that extra hour of useless television watching, the pain or pleasure that we associate each activity with is the defining factor for why we do that thing.
Consider the first example of exercising. While one person might associate pain to the early morning rise, the sweaty exhaustion and the temporarily sore muscles, another person might find pleasure in the endorphin and hormone rush, the feeling of control over their health, and the state of awareness and being that they feel throughout the rest of their day for being in touch with their body. The key is to train your mind to associate pleasure to all aspects of the habit you know you should have in your life, and to associate pain to not doing it. Accomplish this through self talk, telling yourself how excited you are to do your workout, work on that book you started or put time in on starting your business. Even if you don’t feel excited, your self talk can change your state. Write down the pain and pleasure you associate to doing or not doing work to put your action into habit. How will making this part of your life habitual make your life better over the course of 1 year? 5 years?
The best part is, after you initially overcome the difficult part (starting) the habit takes hold and you will find it takes less and less willpower to do what you truly want to do. Think of a rocket going into space. It takes massive amounts of fuel to launch the rocket out of earth’s gravitational field, but once it is in space it takes hardly any fuel to move compared to the launch. The same principle applies to creating productive habits.
In order to escape the habit gravity, consider using leverage to get you “out into space” where you can perform your habit without feeling drained of willpower. This might mean giving your friend a check for a large sum of money and telling him/her to spend it if you don’t do your action every day. Or it might be a public commitment so that you would feel ashamed if you didn’t follow through after saying you would. As long as you are able to get through the first 3 weeks, the habit gravity won’t seem to pull you away from your goals as much – it is a sign that you are developing a habit.