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3-2-1: On Showering As Productivity, Cultivating Your Potential, And Why You Can't Build Good Habits
Wisdom Wednesday #12
It's time for your weekly dose of wisdom.
Here's 3 Idea-bites from me, 2 quotes from others, and 1 big-idea to think about this week.
3 Idea-bites From Me:
Taking a shower may be the most productive thing you do. We all have at least one behavior that unintentionally results in new ideas and aha moments. The most common is while in the shower, the second, during silent walks. Other commons ones are: while meditating, journalling, falling asleep, waking up, or doing house chores. Start paying attention to what you’re doing when you have “aha” moments and then integrate this behavior into your routine to increase your problem solving abilities.
If you want to accomplish the most: you must become bullish on yourself when everyone else is a bear. Every single person underestimates what you are capable of. Even your greatest cheerleaders. And it will always be this way—because it's reasonable from them to expect linear growth from what you've done in the past, where as only you can see the exponential future that will compound from your past. Thus, If you rely on others’ opinions to define your value, you will always be limited. Take the opinion of your single greatest cheerleader, and then double it. This is the bare minimum of your potential.
Dedicate one work day a week only for deep work. No calls, no meetings, no "other people want...". This day should be free of the urgent, focused on the important—deep work or deep thinking, at your own pace. You make this even more effective if it’s the same day every week, allowing you to have more room for urgent things on other days, knowing important, non-urgent ones have a spot in your schedule.
2 Quotes From Others:
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for — and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool — for love — for your dreams — for the adventure of being alive.” — Oriah Mountain Dreamer
1 Big-Idea From Me:
The 4 Biggest Mistakes We Make When Building New Habits
1) Relying Too Heavily On Streaks
The idea of "streaks" or "chains" is one of the oldest motivational tools in habit psychology because being on a streak does create motivation to continue it.
Problem is: when you break the streak, you become even less motivated than before due to the now additional pain of failure (this is why so many habit apps get used for a month or two and then never used again).
Be careful with streaks and use them sparingly. Whenever possible: focus on a positive cumulative total instead.
Ex: Set a goal to hit 100 hours, 1000 reps, 21 out of 30 days this months, etc
You'll probably go for a streak anyway to beat your base line, but if you are exhausted one day you don't "ruin" all your previous progress, instead just less ahead of the curve.
The positive reinforcement of constant progress and exceeding expectations is far more sustainable than the negative reinforcement of avoiding or recovering from a loss.
Speaking of expectations ...
2) Setting Unrealistic Expectations
Will power is a muscle. And it takes years to increase its strength. If you rely too much on it for new habits, you will not maintain them.
Surprisingly, it's rarely because you won't complete the challenge. Most of us have enough will power and tools for self attack to make it through a week or month.
But something much worse happens after we make it. We found it so unenjoyable we avoid ever trying again. So, we do nothing for weeks or months, and then freak out and say "something has to change now!", repeating that inefficient and toxic “yoyo” cycle.
If you want sustainable progress do not try to implement a 500% improvement.
Instead select a 10-20% improvement — enough to push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you, but not so much you will avoid it or risk getting psychologically injured.
Ex: Actually going to the GYM 3x a week, even if it's just to walk on the treadmill, is better than planning to do a heavy weight lifting routine that just makes you watch TV instead.
Incremental improvement. Realistic expectations. Rack up wins. It's slow at first, but it's the only thing that will create sustainable results in the long term.
Your ego won’t like this. But you must swallow your pride and stop …
3) Thinking Too Short Term
At the crux of all of this is thinking too short term. Obviously, if you are caring about habits, you are thinking longer term than most, but if you want to successfully build your habits you'll need to expand that even further.
You don't win by going to the GYM for 30 days straight and then never going again. You win if you can go to the GYM a few days a week for the rest of your life.
Sure, It can be rewarding to "challenge yourself" but be careful you aren't just setting yourself up for failure.
When planning a new habit ask yourself "How sustainable is this?" "Am I developing a system that will keep me moving forward in the long term or am I being driven to make a drastic change because I've neglected it for so long?" "How can I do this in a way that I will stay positively motivated toward for months or years?"
If you can expand yourself out of your immediate desire and instead focus on your trajectory toward a multi month/year result, you can massively increase your chances of success.
4) Not Using Novelty To Your Advantage
Humans are not automatons. We are biologically designed to crave novelty, and lose interest in consistency. Trying to fight against this can work, but its very inefficient.
Most new habits will eventually lose their novelty. This is made even worse if your habit was too easy.
Thus, it is often best to push yourself slightly harder and challenge yourself for a set period of time (3-6 weeks) and then to coast after that.
Just like a car, you need to add more fuel to get some momentum. Then once you're "up to speed", you should put it on "cruise control" and divert your effort and energy toward getting other good behaviors spooled up.
If you got to the GYM 4 days a week for 6 weeks, when you stop focusing the habit, you’ll still go at least 1-2 days just out of routine.
This is great because:
1. you'll maintain 50-80% of consistency without any conscious work on your part
2. You can get the "novelty" of setting new goals and projects.
When you feel this is in conflict with #3 (sustainability) go back to #2 (realistic expectations) to find the right balance.
Remember that your goal is to replace “yoyoing” with more of a “plate spinning” — get habits and behaviors going well enough that they can maintain themselves, and only focusing them again when they start to wobble too much.
That's all for today!
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Catch you next time,