The Mental Edge of Simple Habits
I have discovered that the journey of righteous growth begins by changing our habits.
Recently, I have made an effort towards three uncomfortable challenges:
Waking Up Early
Working, When I Don't Feel like It
So many of us wish to change the world, but first, we need to straighten our own affairs to live as an example.
How can we expect to make a positive change in the world if we cannot first influence ourselves?
I chose the three habits above because they are demanding yet within my control.
It's a shift towards the hard things that will make life easier instead of the easy things that will make my life hard.
Like Carl Jung Said - "As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself."
Progress and growth can be slow and painful, but it is the only way forward.
Despite the claims from the people trying to sell you something, nothing in life will lead to innovation and creativity unless there is an element of challenge.
I hope that you will start to strengthen your resolve by practising some intentional difficulties.
1. Waking Up With The Birds
Anyone who says it is easy to wake up early is lying.
For the past eight months, I have woken up at 4:08 AM, 4 out of 7 days, and every single time, it sucks.
However, knowing that you are creating more time in your day is a mental advantage.
My routine is made possible by putting an annoying alarm at a distance so that I have to get up and out of bed to switch it off.
Then comes the real challenge of avoiding getting back into bed.
When I first wake up, my thoughts are almost always negative as the natural morning cortisol (stress hormones) pumps through my veins.
I have to consciously interrupt my thoughts of "It's too cold" or "Just jump back into bed" by laughing at myself in the mirror as I think ", you crazy bastard!"
There are some tricks I use to counteract these thoughts.
The first thing I do every morning is to brush my teeth.
The Tooth-brushing trigger starts a chain of events, so all I have to do is convince myself to quickly brush my teeth.
I sometimes have to dupe myself by actively thinking, "after I brush, I can go back to sleep".
This simple act gets the ball rolling and allows me to drag my body towards the bathroom, even if every ounce of my mind tells me to go back to sleep.
As my thoughts race, I make a conscious effort to stare into my eyes in the mirror, breaking the loop of thinking.
I become more present in the moment.
Then I smile at myself and think, "what are you doing!?" allowing me to crack a smile at the insane man who stares back in my direction.
If my mind is in a negative loop, I will attempt to break the cycle with some grateful thoughts.
I think, "what is something small I could be grateful for?"
Using a memory trigger, I try and expand that feeling of gratitude to realise how lucky I am to be alive.
If nothing comes to mind, I use my default line; "my time is limited, and my ancestors went through so much struggle for me to be here now".
I have learned that there is no better time to enjoy every moment of life than in the morning when the world is quiet.
2. Getting Sh!t Done
Do you have to wait until you are in the zone to get something done?
Doing meaningful work or practice can seem like a chore. So how do we fight procrastination?
Recently I have been using the 20 | 10 working method.
The basic premise is to set 20 minutes of pure focus on the task at hand.
Close all tabs on your computer, put your phone out of reach and focus for 20 minutes only on one task.
When the 20 minutes is up, take a 10-minute break to do whatever you want before repeating.
If you are on a roll and the 20 minutes is up, go for another 20.
As a result, I can approach any task without being overwhelmed. In addition, the technique forces me to break tasks down into smaller chunks, making work more approachable.
I often end up getting more done, especially once I develop momentum.
Note: 20|10 is an altered method of the Pomodoro technique.
3. Complaining is a Long Battle
There is a time and place to vent your frustration, but complaining does not benefit you whatsoever.
But, of course, this can be easier said than done.
I sometimes find myself complaining about things other people didn't do because I have certain expectations.
The antidote for me is that I don't ask someone else to do something I wouldn't do or don't want to do.
Angry that the housemate didn't wash their dishes? If you don't want to confront them, just do it yourself! Instead of thinking, "AH, I have to do the dishes now", re-frame your perspective to "Ahh, I get to do the dishes now".
Every moment you waste where you could be doing something is robbing you of your precious time.
The time spent thinking and complaining about something is valuable time you are losing.
We are all guilty of spending more time agonising over something than actually doing it.
Life is simple; It's Just Not Easy.
The practice of hard work gives you an unexplained edge throughout life.
Sometimes life will call on us to do things we don't want to do.
Part of growing and gaining wisdom comes from gravitating towards things you know you need to do but don't feel like it.
I suggest you build the resolve to get important things done.
We only have this one fleeting life as far as we can prove.
When others say they are tired, you can smile, knowing in the back of your mind that you had had a more productive day before the other person even got out of bed.
This mental advantage is why it is worth putting in the hard yards.
With a bit of practice, challenges become a reward instead of a means to an end.
Set yourself three hard but helpful habits, and tell me if you feel more empowered to tackle the complex challenges in life.
You know what you need to do, but if you feel stuck, you can try my three of:
Waking Up Slightly Earlier
Doing Something Meaningful, Even When it's Easier to do Nothing.
Not Complaining, Even When You Have Every Right To
I would love to hear any of your experiences in the comments below.
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