By Jared Gold
In my previous blog post about manipulating luck, I allude to doing lots of small things that add up to improving your odds of a beneficial outcome.
Ultimately, these are habits that become routine. Many people may think "routine" is a dirty word. It takes away spontaneity and replaces it with predictability.
Routines are those things we "just fall into" for years - and then we wake up when we're older to discover life passed us by, right?
The victims of this result are usually stagnant in their lives. The cardinal mistake is that these people have made mediocrity their routine. Routine is not the issue. Apathy towards growth is. But what if they made greatness the status quo? What if they routinely did productive activities that were aligned with their goals?
We're all sculptors of ourselves (as referenced by the banner image of this post). We all start out in a rough form, but over time, we slowly craft ourselves into who we want to become. While it takes thousands of years, rock will eventually be shaped by water. If that's not dedication to incremental change, I don't know what is.
While I have not yet achieved what I would consider even remote "greatness," I have been able to create incremental progress for myself on a consistent basis - solely through small steps. I've maximized output with less input by thinking less. For example, I really like chocolate, soda, and sweets. But they clearly are not good for me. So, I [almost] never have any of these in my residence. I purposely make it extremely difficult for me to satisfy these occasional urges that would give me instant gratification but no long-term reward.
Humans are lazy and the brain is lazy. They don't want to put in more effort than needed. Make the effort required to fulfill these quick needs far exceed the enjoyment you'd receive.
I've started working out in the morning (after a long fitness hiatus). The first few days were tough. But now, I have my athletic clothes + shoes easily accessible, wake up earlier, and have my earbuds next to me. Not to mention my apartment complex has a gym. I have multiple alarms on my phone - labeled with caustic language - to remind myself to forget how I "feel" and avoid the risk of rationalizing complacency. I simply now just do because my brain is now used to it. I've enabled myself to easily accomplish this regularly.
In fact, I have a daily recurring checklist via Wunderlist on my phone of my morning routine. I've optimized it over a few months to enable me to be at my best. It's now effortless and I've just fallen into it as a routine. It'd take more effort to get me out of it than keep it going.
So what's the take-away?
Put yourself in positions to where it's inconvenient for you to do the wrong thing. The brain will automatically favor the easier option. So make it as easy as possible for you to accomplish what you need to.
Conserve all of your mental energy for your most challenging and demanding tasks. Don't use it up on requiring willpower or procrastination.
The perfect example is Mark Zuckerberg (who needs no introduction). He wears the exact same thing to work every day. Do you often see him in different clothing than below?
In this Business Insider article, it clearly outlines the exact reason he does this - to focus his brainpower on his mission at Facebook. While I strongly disagree with his fashion choices, his thinking is spot-on and something we could all learn from.
Every choice takes cognitive energy - of which we have a finite amount. Why not save every last bit of it for what we care about - while making incremental progress something that is just hard-wired into our day-to-day subconscious?
Never stop wondering about how to make those massive changes in your life via small, incremental steps executed consistently today. You may wake up one morning and realize just how far you've come.