“I’m going to unpack the cups. Oh, and nail the cat to the door”, I told my mom, standing in the kitchen. We’ve just moved, and the little things, hiding in unknown boxes, were driving me insane. That’s why I needed to nail the cat to the door.
To finally have a place for my keys, like I used to.
OK, I admit, I said it for the shock value. It worked with my mom, her expression was p-r-i-c-e-l-e-s-s. Well, for that short moment before she realized what I really meant.
I have this funny key holder, shaped like a deranged cat. I love it. As soon as I unlock the door, keys still in my hand, I hang them on its paw. It’s an ingrained habit that makes me not lose my keys ten times a day.
They say that the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a struggling one lies in their habits. What does this actually mean, and what’s the most effective way to acquire these successful habits? Or any habits, for that matter.
SUCCESS LIES IN OUR HABITS. BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
First of all, good habits make sense: reviewing your balance once a week lowers the odds of idiotic expenses. Writing daily to-do list results in more stuff getting done. Gym every Tuesday and Friday makes you fitter and more lucid.
When does a habit become EFFECTIVE?
When something it’s easier to DO than NOT to do. Repeatedly.
This is the type of habit you don’t need discipline for. Notice that I didn’t say a “good” habit. Smoking is definitely a habit, and I’m told it’s easier to take a cigarette that to NOT take it.
For instance, it’s easier to brush your teeth in the morning than NOT to do it. You don’t consciously think about feeling gross with un-brushed teeth. That knowledge is just there, prompting you to pick up the toothbrush.
It’s easier for me to spill my daily to-dos on paper, than have tasks and ideas partying in my head. I don’t think twice about opening my notebook.
LET'S GET TO WORK
Let’s do a little thought exercise. Name 3 habits that fit the definition above: things easier for you to DO than NOT to do. They don’t have to be all virtuous habits, and you don’t have to think strictly about habits you’d like to get rid of.
Here are some of mine:
1. A habit of relaxing in front of a screen in the evenings. Read: I have this habit of finding excuses to not exercise. My morning habits do not include exercise either, because I find it way easier to have my coffee, check my emails and forums and start working. Going to the gym? That would be breaking a habit.
2. It’s easier for me to plan my week first thing Monday morning, than NOT to do so. If I don’t spill my ideas and commitment on paper, it feels like ants of anxiety are crawling all over my body. I HAVE TO unload this anthill into a notebook and properly organize it for the coming week.
3. A wonderful habit I learned from Shawn Achor: morning gratitudes. Writing down three new things I’m grateful for each morning (the NEW part is what makes it really work). If I don’t write them down, I’d feel restless and it’ll be much harder to fight the negative thoughts that plague most people that work by themselves. Just like with teeth-brushing, I don’t consciously think about the consequences of NOT doing it anymore. The knowledge is there, triggering the habit each morning, without passing through the conscious part of my brain.
Now - your turn. Write down three habits you have that are so ingrained they are easier to DO than NOT to DO.