Let’s talk about habits.
By this I mean the specific actions for which you make and take time. Daily habits, not weekly activities.
The bottom line on top, or BLOT, for this episode is one of my favorite quotes: Successful people do consistently what other people do occasionally
When it comes to habits and goals, we tend to go for the big bang. Lofty ambitions and then quick-to-quit. Sound familiar? I may have spent a decade or two toggling between those.
Recently, I heard a concept about being an “everyday person” versus a “day of the week” person. Such as “I will take a walk every day” instead of “I will take a walk on weekdays.” There is power in removing that daily decision and simply making something part of the day.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been in a mastermind and one of the tools our coach encourages us to use is a Badass 30. Do 5 things every day for 30 days. If you miss an item, the clock restarts. Why? “You can’t be a badass a few days a week,” said Coach Dave. Hmmm. That intrigued me. So I gave it a try.
I have since done four successful Badass 30s and have started and stopped a few other times. It was the repetition, thought, that taught me something valuable about my own brain.
Removing the decision removed the excuses.
And the momentum of completion is powerful, not to mention the self-pride.
Now a habit sprint such as a Badass 30 is a great tool to test your capabilities. Moving that into a daily habit, however, requires a less badass and a lot more boring.
What I mean by that is blending the action into your daily routine takes root in making it non-decidable.
I don’t consider whether or not I am going to brush my teeth daily. That was long ago cemented as a daily, and frankly boring, habit.
Now in episode 5, we explored three ways that distraction shows up in our life in disguise. It will wear the mask of productivity when really it’s procrastination, or over-research, or perfectionism.
If I want to start a habit of stretching, for example, and I make the goal vague, such as, I’ll stretch three days a week, I’ve given my brain the But-Not-Today option. Yes, my brain will say, we are still totally going to stretch. But first, let’s go unload the dishwasher or we say, let me go research all the different stretch techniques first. Or maybe I’ll sign up for a class and work with a trainer or wait for a sunny day or…well, you get the idea.
One way to side step the disguises is to blend your actions into the basics. Behavior scientists and psychologists often refer to the concept of habit stacking. That’s where you attach a new, desired habit to a current habit that is already wired into your brain.
The action of this centers on the Before and After. So after I brush my teeth, I’ll drink a glass of water. Before I watch my favorite show, I’ll do 10 pushups. It can even be part of a During: I will listen to this podcast or return text messages during a walk through the neighborhood. It’s part reward system and part attachment to something you’re already doing.
If you want to start, try the simpler the better. Take one habit you want to develop and see what micro steps you can turn into an everyday actions and where can you attach them to something you’re already doing. If you want to get to bed earlier, for instance, what are those steps that you can move up, change, or stack upon?
Remove the decisions, sidestep the distractions, and be boring.
Really boring. Daily.
You see, success – it’s sexy. That’s the thing people post about. But it comes at the end of really boring actions. Boring workouts, boring emails, boring meals, boring tasks.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
But be boring today – and tomorrow and the next day – and you will see your brain start to unlock. And that is how you will begin to do fewer things better.
So here’s to future good, but slightly boring, habits.
Until then, take good care.