Before I discover habits
During my twenties, I never heard about habits. How is that possible? Don’t ask me, I have no idea. If I knew about habits, I could change my life much earlier.
Before discovering habits and how they work, my life was, more or less, something like this:
- The first trimester of the year: I’m extremely energized. I work, study, learn, train, volunteer…Life is a bliss.
- The second trimester of the year: I work and I’m a couch potato. By the end of the 3 months, I would say to myself: I’m better than this.
- The third trimester: energized
- The fourth trimester: couch potato
After repeating this cycle a couple of times, I just thought it was the way I am. Based on my knowledge (which was close to zero), I tried to break this cycle. All my attempts failed.
At some point, I stopped trying and adapted myself to the situation. Just like a bear would prepare for hibernation, I would make sure that all-important matters are done before entering a low energy trimester.
Ultimately, I broke out of this cycle. Not because I was smart; I guess I couldn’t tolerate more. I’m sure there was a better and faster way to break free from negative habits. I just didn’t know about it, neither look for it.
After a period of traveling, I came back to settle life. I was facing the same problem as before: inconsistency.
But this time, I was resolved to find a solution. I searched on Google ‘how can I control my mind’. From there, a whole new world opened up.
After I discovered habits
Thanks to some Ted Talks and YouTube channels (like the Tamed course), It didn’t take me long before understanding how habits work and why successful people have consistent habits.
Since then, I can’t remember the last time I felt low or didn’t do what I assigned to myself.
Understanding habits changed my life and it can also change yours.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is a habit?
- How habits work
- Why learning about habits can change your life too
What is a Habit?
A habit is a routine or practice performed regularly. It is what you repeatedly do – the decisions you make and the actions you take daily.
If you review your day, you’ll find an important part of it is made of habits: the way you eat, how you made decisions, how you use your time…
How Habits work
There is a magic side to habits and a terrifying one.
A habit works like compound interest. If you’re not familiar with this term, let me illustrate it with a simple example:
- In the first year, you invest $100 and get 20% return at the end of the year. Your gain is $20.
- Your capital now is $120. You reinvest it in the second year. At the end of the year, your gain is $24.
- Your capital now is $144 and so on.
This is the power of compounding: your money is growing and growing and growing without adding anything to your initial investment. Habits work the same way- the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.
Over time, a good habit will keep generating rewards and put you on the path of success.
Conversely, a bad habit will give you negative results over time and direct your life to a very different destination. Going back to the previous example, you will not only lose your initial investment, but you will also get into debt.
Little habits shape your life
We often dismissed this point about habits: it is the tiny little changes in our daily life that define our future. If you make the choice to get 1% better each day, by the end of the year you will reap a significant result. However, if you’re getting 1% worse each day, by the end of the year you’ll fall below zero.
This is the tricky part about good habits: they can be easy to start but hard to keep at the beginning. There’s an initial phase where your effort has no visible results. But if you persist long enough, you’ll make a breakthrough and reach the phase of tangible results.
If you run regularly for a month, you won’t probably see any difference in your body. Do it longer and you’ll get in better shape.
On the flip side, bad habits are easy to pick. They don’t seem to have any negative effects at the beginning and they give you instant rewards.
Eating comfort food once in a while won’t harm you. You’ll feel good about it. Do it consistently and it can become a problem.
Why learning about habits can change your life too
I believe that understanding habits is the most efficient way to transform your life.
What’s the most common reason for people to fail at implementing a good habit? Resistance
The book “The Art of War” by Steven Pressfield is all about resistance. He defines it as a repelling force that distracts you and prevents you from doing our work. Resistance appears each time you act for your long-term growth and well-being.
Resistant is this voice in your head that always shows up when you try to do something beneficial to you. It tries to negotiate with you all the time.
This is a huge problem that impacts negatively all areas of your life:
- Your spirituality
- The Pursuit of your calling
- Starting a business
- Having a healthy lifestyle
- Getting rid of a bad habit
- Communicate effectively with people around you
You name it.
This is where habits come to play. They solve the problem.
You see, a habit is a set of behaviors that are on autopilot. When you don’t occupy your mind with details and just do things, you eliminate the negotiation phase.
Negotiating with yourself can be energy-consuming. You only have a certain amount of energy and you need to use it wisely.
Successful people use their energy to build a habit and stick to it until it becomes automatic. Once there, you don’t need that much energy. You can reallocate it for something else. Habits save you energy and time of negotiation.
To reach the point of automaticity, you need to be 100% committed.
You also need to make a distinction between results and processes.
Results Vs Process
The trap most of us tend to fall into is to focus on the results we want to get. It’s ineffective. The focus needs to be on the process. If you get the system right, everything will follow. Your system will keep producing results endlessly.
For example, writing in English is a struggle for me. 5 years ago, I could barely have a conversation in English. So, to improve my writing and come up with something useful and enjoyable to read, I need to put a system in place.
I set a time, silence my phone, remove any distractions, and write daily. I focus totally on the task. If I stick to this routine long enough, maybe one day I can say about myself: hey, I’m a writer!
This is the deepest level of change- when you and your habit become one. At this level, you’re not concerned about the outcome you want, but the person you wish to become. It’s a change in your belief system, in your identity.
For instance, reading a book is an outcome. Becoming a reader is an identity. It’s who you are. At this phase, nothing can stop you from doing the habit. (I wrote an article on how to overcome the obstacles to reading books).
The purpose of this article is not to show you how to start a good habit or break free from a bad one. The purpose is to bring your awareness about habits, to consider them as an effective solution to change anything you want in your life. The ‘How to’ is coming in the next articles.