There are countless books, documentaries, seminars, articles and blogs about habits - forming good ones and eliminating bad ones. If you’ve ventured into this space at all in the last couple of decades, which has vastly accelerated in the last couple of years, you probably picked up on the basic principles:
Start with small changes that can be repeated consistently
Change your environment to make good habits easy to access and implement, and bad habits difficult to continue
Track your progress
Focus on the process rather than any end goal or achievement
For the most part, these are wise pieces of advice. Losing weight (which is the overused example to demonstrate the applicability of the science of habit change) only occurs if you can consistently go to the gym and eat right. To make that happen — if you’re not currently doing so — you’ll need to build consistency and you need to make it easy: put your running shoes on first thing in the morning, sleep in your workout gear, keep your yoga mat laid out on the floor, only keep fruits and veggies in the house, etc.
However, a key motivator that I believe is lacking in this department is the psychology of time and how we can frame time in a way that might get us moving immediately, and keep us moving in the future.
Let me explain.
When you watch an infomercial for the latest workout gadget, they always show before and after photos, but that’s only a sliver of the content. The rest of the time, they’re showing fitness models with unattainable physiques for the average person. A more practical application for anyone looking to make a physical change, or get to a new level in their discipline of choice, in my opinion, would be the following:
Think about the time needed to get to the place that you’re envious of. If there’s a blogger that you see as “successful”, how many articles have they written? How long would it take you to write that many articles if you started today?
Not only will this questioning of time sort through the “trends” and help you identify paths you actually want to take, but it will direct you to the most important fact that I try and revisit everyday: the time is going to pass anyway! If you waste another day thinking about starting, you’ll have to wait another day to see results. Every time I see someone online who I’m “jealous of”, I think “well, they started posting 5 years ago consistently, and now they’re here. Are you willing to do that?” We know what it takes, so we may as well start now if we truly want it.
Back to the weight loss example, we put so much pressure on ourselves to wake up the next morning and haul out our running gear to keep progress, even though we hate it. Instead, think about the actions you want to look back on in a couple years. If you looked back today on the past two years, how many blogs did you post? How many miles did you run? How many sales calls did you make? How many dates did you go on?
If you feel like you’re not achieving the level of writing, fitness, sales, or dating that you’d like, the answer to those questions is probably “not enough”. So keep that key question in mind — what actions do I want to look back on a year from now?
It’s not so much that I want to be looking down at a six-pack, it’s that I want to look back and say “damn, I worked out a ton this past year, and I ate healthy 5 out of 7 days per week, consistently”. Get excited about consistency, streaks and process, rather than any end result. If you can get to that headspace then it becomes very obvious: why not start today?
Thanks for reading,