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The Power of Habits

Think of life as a bicycle wheel. You are at the hub, the center. The outcomes of your life are on the outside, with different spokes or paths leading to different potential outcomes. In Life on a Scale of 1-10, the focus was on making sure we are on the correct path heading towards the optimal outcome. To give ourselves a chance at living a 10, we need to put ourselves on the right spoke: the right job, surrounded by the right people, in the right geography.

However, getting on the right path is just step 1, and executing step 1 does not ensure you achieve your optimal outcome. You can put yourself in the ideal environment, but without putting in the required work, nothing is guaranteed. After we put ourselves on the right path, we need to focus on moving from the center of the wheel to the outside.

There is a term I recently came across: entropy. It can be defined as a process of degradation, running down, or a trend to disorder. As James Clear explains, there are more ways things can go wrong than right, creating that feeling of losing control. The natural state of life is to become disorganized. It takes no effort for things to fall apart, but it takes effort to keep them neat. Have you ever had the feeling that you spend your entire day putting out fires and trying to contain the chaos? This is entropy. We have a messy home, an inbox with too many unread messages, an overflowing hamper, bills that need to be paid, and work we need to catch up on. No one likes this feeling of playing from behind, and yet it is all too familiar. Without putting in any effort, it feels like our lives are doomed for complete chaos. Without putting in any effort, entropy knocks us off our path and we end up zig-zagging through life instead of staying on our straight-line toward our goals.

We need to put in the work and effort to combat entropy and remember that we are in control of our lives. We decide our future and our outcomes. Habits are the little bit of effort that we have to exert to maintain that control. As James Clear says, success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.

It is important to create habits that are realistic and repeatable, so start with something as simple as making your bed. If you want to run a marathon, don’t try to start on day 1 by running 10 miles, as that isn’t very sustainable. Start simple, with just putting on your running shoes. Get some wins on the board and find the feeling of making progress, of being motivated to continue. The key is consistency. By definition, a habit is a regular tendency or practice, one that is hard to give up. Create habits that are easy to replicate day after day – that you can be consistent – with in order to maximize effectiveness.

Consistency leads to compounding returns, which is where we see the exponential value of habits. You don’t see huge results in just a day; it takes time and consistency to grow. If you want to read more books, start by reading just 10 minutes a day before bed. If you want to be stronger, try working out for an hour instead of watching that extra episode of Netflix. If you want to be more productive, take the hours you spend on social media and channel your focus into something more useful. Again, the key is consistency and compounding returns. We won’t read many books in just 10 minutes, we won’t become a bodybuilder after just an hour, and we won’t be a new person after just one day off of social media. However, extrapolate those out for a year and you see where the results are. In a year, you can read many books with just 10 minutes a day. In a year, you can become a bodybuilder if you work out for an hour every day. In a year, you can become a new you if you cut social media out of your life (or at least limit your time, it’s hard to completely resist The ‘Gram). Habits in our day-to-day lives have profound and compounding effects, and it is up to us whether we want those effects to combat entropy and advance us towards our goals, or if we want to succumb to the chaos of life.

Both winners and losers have the same optimal outcome on the outside of their wheels, but what differentiates them is how they get there. There is a documentary on HBO called The Art of Coaching that features two of the best football coaches of our lifetime, Nick Saban of Alabama and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. What is the secret that makes these coaches and their programs so successful, year after year? Every other coach has the same goal of wanting to be the best, to win the National Championship or the Super Bowl. Why is it that these two are able to consistently win, no matter who is on their roster? It is the systems that they put in place and the habits they instill in their players. They didn’t win the Super Bowl in year one, but they understand that changing the systems and habits of the organization is permanent and long-lasting. It is the little things, the attention to detail, that have compounded over the years to turn their programs into dynasties. That is how these coaches have dominated their respective leagues for decades, and how you can create change that will last your entire life.

1 thought on “The Power of Habits

  1. You have provided some very sensible advice here.

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