Doing Hard Things Easily
The 7 Steps to Transformation: 1. Dream it. 2. Envision it. 3. Think it. 4. Grow it. 5. Become it. 6. Live it. 7. OWN it.
Change happens to us insidiously. We live with ourselves and our families on a daily basis.
When we look at pictures from a few years back we can see the collective effects that our habits over the years have had on us. Sometimes we hardly recognize the version of us we see in those old pictures. Maybe we were younger, fitter and happier. Or maybe we see an old us that wasn't nearly as cool as the modern version. Whether the latest edition of ourself is more or less favorable than the version in the picture, the change that we see is likely due to small routines and choices that we made each day.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses the power of tiny gains.
If you get 1% better every day for 365 days you get 37.78 percent better in a year... if you get 1% worse every day, entropy takes hold and you become worse than you started by the end of the year. 1% is not very noticeable...But 38% is. Of course nobody is going to get 1% better every single day of the year but if it happened 80% of the time, there would still be a significant improvement by the end of the year.
Willing positive change all of the time can get exhausting. When we are exhausted, it's even harder to make good choices all of the time. So how do we make enough good choices to consistently net an overall better version of ourselves?
It goes deeper than our actions. Most of the time becoming who we want to be requires an identity change. We need to identify as that person that we want to be. Sometimes that means faking it until we make it. If we start to act like we already are that person.... we adopt the habits that will eventually lead us to become her.
Here are 5 strategies for making hard things easy
1.Become ruthless about the things we focus on.
Decision fatigue is real. Willpower or the lack of is linked to how many decisions we have to make each day. There are many ways to reduce the amount of decisions that we must make each day. Decluttering in general is very useful. We can declutter physically mentally and emotionally. We can proclaim certain things not an option so that the decision around that particular thing is already made. It is also possible to remove decision by leveraging the following cycle: Trigger- Routine-Reward. For example if I want to STOP doing something such as eating muffins every day wasting time and money while gaining weight, I can:
👉Identify the trigger
Hunger, Boredom or Procrastination in between seeing clients which leads to
leaving the office to go to my local health food store which actually leads to:
👉 Another trigger
walking down the bakery aisle where smells of fresh baked goods waft, and
👉Another routine buying a warm gluten free muffin which finally leads to:
👉The reward: a carby dopamine hit and full tummy
I can eliminate the trigger simply by planning my meals for the week so that I can satisfy my hunger with the macros that work best for me before I get caught up in my old self sabotaging habit. To alleviate the boredom or procrastination... which is really just stagnation from sitting in one place for too long or the challenge of putting what I just experienced with them into words... I can....a. use the two minute rule below and just start writing immediately to transcend the sluggish momentum.... or get up and walk around the block and or listen to some energizing focus music as I transition to the next task or client. I save my time, money and health and I improve my work habits!
I can also use this cycle to help perpetuate a new habit that I want to START such as drinking more water.
Having an aesthetically pleasing full water bottle (with a silicone straw... one less thing to do if I don't have to tip it) with me throughout the day.
Mindlessly reach for it between tasks when I am working, driving or prepping meals after work. Take advantage of that hand to mouth oral fixation that coffee or snacking often tries to satisfy.
Immediate: thirst quenched, satisfaction in knowing I am drinking enough water
Ongoing: more energy & focus, not feeling like I am lacking something like...coffee or sugar.
2. Pre-Commit & Implement Incentives
When I decided that physical fitness and readiness was one of the highest things on my value list, I started scheduling it. I realized that when I didn't schedule physical activity, it didn't happen. Life so easily got in the way. If it wasn't scheduled, I could so easily find an excuse for why it couldn't happen on any given day or string of days. I also discovered it was much easier to schedule it out a week at a time. If I reached out to a friend and scheduled a day and time to meet my chances at succeeding improved even more. A standing day and time worked the very best. Mondays would be with one friend Tuesdays were an on my own...listen to podcast or energizing music day Wednesdays with another friend etc.
3. Use the two minute rule.
Rather than focus on the entire task....focus on the first two minutes. Motivation often comes after we start, not before. In fact the hardest part is often starting. If we just focus on putting our workout clothes and running shoes on and manage to accomplish this... we are way more likely to follow through more consistently than if we thought about the entire event of going for a run.
4. Focus on Keystone Habits:
There are some routines or rituals that create a ripple effect in the rest of your life. One habit that leads to changes in other habits throughout the day. For some people exercise will lead to multiple other habit changes like better eating and sleep habits. For others, meditation might be that keystone habit. One that I LOVE is reducing or eliminating mindless media consumption. This habit helps to form other great habits because it forces one to think of new productive and or enriching forms of entertainment such as evening walks, or knitting, journaling, drawing, reading... Find the habit that gives you the biggest bang for your buck and start with that one. Without giving much thought, other positive changes that you wanted to make in addition to this one powerful habit will naturally fall into place.
5. Environment design: Designing for Laziness.
Create work environment and living environment in a way that is conducive to success. If there are cookies in the pantry and ice cream in the freezer but you don't want to eat cookies and ice cream... until you do... then this is not a good environment for the desired change. If you want to run regularly, you might do better if you have more than one pair of comfortable running socks and layers that accommodate all weather conditions easily accessible in your closet.
Bonus Strategy: Temporary challenges:
30 day challenges are just long enough to experience the benefits of whatever discipline we try on. They are great. It is truly challenging to do something unnatural or outside of our established ways for 30 whole days. We have an end in sight so it's not like we have committed to letting go of our beloved vices forever.... but.... they are not long enough usually to really change our identity. 90 day's however does seem to set our habits in deeper. Our new defaults are more permanent. This also encourages getting a chain of success which goes back to the 1% gains when aggregated lead to significant change in the long run.
Speaking of Challenges....
I recently finished the #75 hard challenge https://75hard.biz/the-75-hard-challenge/. It was fantastic and I am definitely benefiting from my new default operating system. A lot of people have expressed that they would like doing something similar but some people feel like this is a big leap or they are not interested in being so darn disciplined for so long. Personally, I didn't feel like the actions were particularly hard once I got used to them but the routine became tiresome... like chewing old gum. It wasn't that I didn't want to work out twice a day or that I was hankering for a glass of wine. I was really doing fine, enjoying the workouts and my sobriety. I wanted to be able to break protocol once or twice without feeling that I had failed the challenge but without breaking the seal and unraveling all of the good habits only to find myself exactly where I started. I wondered what I would do when I was done with 75 hard. Would I just revert back to my old ways? ... Would I do another round? I thought and thought and concocted what I imagine would be an ideal way to do such a challenge again. I call it Disceplenish. It is a 90 day challenge with intentional intermittent breaks and reflection. Join the Group and check it out! You can jump in whenever you are ready.