I’m sure you’ve thought that to improve your life, you’re going to have to make massive changes. Completely overhaul all of your bad habits. Live with monks. Wake up at 6AM and have 3 cold showers.
This is not right. To make positive changes in our lives, we often underestimate the power of making small tweaks to our routine over time.
By getting 1% better every day, we compound our wins into major growth.
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement” – James Clear.
It’s hard to stick to habits. As humans, we crave instant gratification and fast results. By being consistent with small habits and growing 1% every day, it takes time to get results.
Every day you waste not practising your habits, is exponentially detrimental to your progress.
“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure” – James Clear.
It’s so easy to give up. Naturally, we’re programmed to take the path of least resistance. Anything that seems to be a waste of time, we give up on.
In the case of micro-habits, this is counterintuitive. Since we expect to see consistent results as soon as we start, we are often disappointed. People give up in what’s known as ‘the valley of disappointment’ below.
The results we get don’t match our expectations at first, and due to human nature, we stop ‘wasting’ time on these habits.
This is a perfect way to show that you shouldn’t give up on things after two weeks or a month.
You don’t just give up on college or work if you’re struggling in the first semester. When you’re trying to get fit, start a business or study for a class – you need to give it enough time to reach the threshold and get out of the valley of disappointment.
Goal setting is mostly useless. Most people have the goals of being fit, happy, financially free etc. Some people achieve these against their own standards and some do not. What we really need are successful systems to achieve these. This is what separates people who achieve their goals and those who do not.
Systems also make sure your goal is continually kept. You may use motivation to get there once, but systems and habits need to be in place for you to stay on top.
Moreover, focusing on goals as a means to an end causes a fall in happiness. If you tell yourself you can’t be happy or satisfied until you reach your goal, you’ll spend your whole journey miserable. Life is too short for this. You need to be enjoying and learning in the process. If you can achieve this loop of happiness and improvement, by using systems, you don’t need to reach an end goal.
How do we build these habits:
1. Remove friction.
Leverage our human nature. We take the path of least resistance. By less steps between you and good habits, the more likely you are to be consistent. For example, keep your book by your bed and your phone in another room. You’re more likely to read in bed now.
2. Make it attractive – dopamine
Make your habits fun. In short, by stopping any unnecessary dopamine bursts, you train yourself to enjoy good habits. If you quit your cellphone addiction, your dopamine threshold lowers and you’ll receive more enjoyment from other things.
3. Make it immediately satisfying
This again leverages our human nature. If you reward yourself with something after you’ve completed a habit, you’ll want to repeat it. For example, having a game of golf at the gym after a workout.
4. Make bad habits difficult – Put your phone across the house etc.
Remove friction between you and good habits, and increase friction between you and bad habits. The further away you put your phone, the less likely you are to go on it.
That’s it. Thanks for reading!