You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.
People reflect your behavior back to you
In the early and middle stages of any quest, there is often a Valley of Disappointment.
Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems
With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.
True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.
There is internal pressure to maintain your self-image and behave in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. You find whatever way you can to avoid contradicting yourself.
This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning.
Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
More precisely, your habits are how you embody your identity.
Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it.
The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
It is a simple two-step process: Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
What do you want to stand for? What are your principles and values? Who do you wish to become?
Who is the type of person that could run a successful start-up?
Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. Quite literally, you become your habits.
This is the feedback loop behind all human behavior: try, fail, learn, try differently.
How to Create a Good Habit
The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious.
The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive.
The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy.
The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
How to Break a Bad Habit
Inversion of the 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible.
Inversion of the 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive.
Inversion of the 3rd law (Response): Make it difficult.
Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying.
Before we can effectively build new habits, we need to get a handle on our current ones.
That’s the origin of the Habits Scorecard, which is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behavior. To create your own, make a list of your daily habits.
Once you have a full list, look at each behavior, and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or a neutral habit?” If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it. If it is a bad habit, write “–”. If it is a neutral habit, write “=”
If you’re still having trouble determining how to rate a particular habit, here is a question I like to use: “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?”
implementation intention, which is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit.
The punch line is clear: people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.
In fact, the tendency for one purchase to lead to another one has a name: the Diderot Effect. The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption that leads to additional purchases.
Going to the bathroom leads to washing and drying your hands, which reminds you that you need to put the dirty towels in the laundry, so you add laundry detergent to the shopping list, and so on.
Exercise. When I see a set of stairs, I will take them instead of using the elevator. Social skills. When I walk into a party, I will introduce myself to someone I don’t know yet.
“When I close my laptop for lunch, I will do ten push-ups next to my desk.” Ambiguity gone.
Your habits change depending on the room you are in and the cues in front of you.
we are changed by the world around us. Every habit is context dependent.
a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do.
If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.
Make sure the best choice is the most obvious one.
Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.
Our behavior is not defined by the objects in the environment but by our relationship to them.
The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.”
Whenever possible, avoid mixing the context of one habit with another. When you start mixing contexts, you’ll start mixing habits—and the easier ones will usually win out.
If your space is limited, divide your room into activity zones: a chair for reading, a desk for writing, a table for eating.
I know a writer who uses his computer only for writing, his tablet only for reading, and his phone only for social media and texting. Every habit should have a home.
Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.
Here’s the punch line: You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves of habit have
If you can’t seem to get any work done, leave your phone in another room for a few hours.
When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate
Desire is the engine that drives behavior. Every action is taken because of the anticipation that precedes it. It is the craving that leads to the response.
You’re more likely to find a behavior attractive if you get to do one of your favorite things at the same time.
And as we are about to see, whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you’ll find.
Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering. As the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote, “The customs and practices of life in society sweep us along.”
We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful.
One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
Whenever we are unsure how to act, we look to the group to guide our behavior. We are constantly scanning our environment and wondering, “What is everyone else doing?”
The human mind knows how to get along with others. It wants to get along with others. This is our natural mode. You can override it—you can choose to ignore the group or to stop caring what other people think—but it takes work. Running against the grain of your culture requires extra effort.
Humans everywhere pursue power, prestige, and status.
Some of our underlying motives include:* Conserve energy Obtain food and water Find love and reproduce Connect and bond with others Win social acceptance and approval Reduce uncertainty Achieve status and prestige
The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them.
A craving is the sense that something is missing. It is the desire to change your internal state.
Desire is the difference between where you are now and where you want to be in the future.
When you binge-eat or light up or browse social media, what you really want is not a potato chip or a cigarette or a bunch of likes. What you really want is to feel different.
the specific cravings you feel and habits you perform are really an attempt to address your fundamental underlying motives. Whenever a habit successfully addresses a motive, you develop a craving to do it again.
You can make hard habits more attractive if you can learn to associate them with a positive experience.
Now, imagine changing just one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.
We can find evidence for whatever mind-set
You can transform frustration into delight when you realize that each interruption gives you a chance to practice returning to your breath.
“Odd realization,” he wrote. “My focus and concentration goes up just by putting my headphones [on] while writing. I don’t even have to play any music.”
refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same. When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.
Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.
If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.
And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure.
If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.
One of the most common questions I hear is, “How long does it take to build a new habit?” But what people really should be asking is, “How many does it take to form a new habit?” That is, how many repetitions are required to make a habit automatic?
But the truth is, our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient.
calm. Journaling is an obstacle to thinking clearly.
The problem is that some days you feel like doing the hard work and some days you feel like giving
On the tough days, it’s crucial to have as many things working in your favor as possible so that you can overcome the challenges life naturally throws your way. The less friction you face, the easier
One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practice environment design.
Nuckols dialed in his cleaning habits by following a strategy he refers to as “resetting the room.”
The purpose of resetting each room is not simply to clean up after the last action, but to prepare for the next action.
Whenever possible, I leave my phone in a different room until lunch. When it’s right next to me, I’ll check it all morning for no reason at all. But when it is in
“How can we design a world
Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. I refer to these little choices as decisive moments.
use the Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
The point is to master the habit of showing up.
creating. By developing a consistent power-down habit, you make it easier to get to bed at a reasonable time each night.
Journaling provides another example. Nearly everyone can benefit from getting their thoughts out of their head and onto paper, but most people give up after a few days or avoid it entirely
similar advice for any kind of writing. “The best way is to always stop when you are going good,” he said.
A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future.
It is a way to lock in future behavior, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones.
Some actions—like installing a cash register—pay off again and again. These onetime choices require a little bit of effort up front but create increasing value over time.
Unsubscribe from emails. Turn off notifications and mute group chats. Set your phone to silent. Use email filters to clear
During the year I was writing this book, I experimented with a new time management strategy. Every Monday, my assistant would reset the passwords on all my social media accounts, which logged me out on each device. All week I worked without distraction. On Friday, she would send me the new passwords.
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After I removed the mental candy from my environment, it became much easier to eat the healthy stuff.
“It is a lot easier for people to adopt a product that provides a strong positive sensory signal, for example the mint taste of toothpaste, than it is to adopt a habit that does not provide pleasurable sensory feedback, like flossing one’s teeth.
Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.
We are not looking for just any type of satisfaction. We are looking for immediate satisfaction.
It is only recently—during the last five hundred years or so—that society has shifted to a predominantly delayed-return environment.
The brain’s tendency to prioritize the present moment means you can’t rely on good intentions.
What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
What we’re really talking about here—when we’re discussing immediate rewards—is the ending of a behavior.
It is worth noting that it is important to select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity rather than ones that conflict with it.
To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.
“Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar,” he told me.
Finally, record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs.
Simply doing something—ten squats, five sprints, a push-up, anything really—is huge.
It’s about being the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.
Just as we are more likely to repeat an experience when the ending is satisfying, we are also more likely to avoid an experience when the ending is painful.
The people at the top of any competitive field are not only well trained, they are also well suited to the task. And this is why, if you want to be truly great, selecting the right place to focus is crucial.
Learning to play a game where the odds are in your favor is critical for maintaining motivation and feeling successful.
In the beginning of a new activity, there should be a period of exploration.
The goal is to try out many possibilities, research a broad range of ideas, and cast a wide net.
After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you’ve found—but keep experimenting occasionally.
In the long-run it is probably most effective to work on the strategy that seems to deliver the best results about 80 to 90 percent of the time and keep exploring with the remaining 10 to 20 percent.
What feels like fun to me, but work to others?
What makes me lose track of time?
Where do I get greater returns than the average person?
What comes naturally to me?
“What feels natural to me? When have I felt alive? When have I felt like the real me?”
If you can’t find a game where the odds are stacked in your favor, create one.
When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out.
A great player creates a new game that favors their strengths and avoids their weaknesses.
Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on. Once we realize our strengths, we know where to spend our time and energy.
one of the best ways to ensure your habits remain satisfying over the long-run is to pick behaviors that align with your personality and skills. Work hard on the things that come easy.
How do we design habits that pull us in rather than ones that fade away?
The human brain loves a challenge, but only if it is within an optimal zone of difficulty.
The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.
“At some point it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over and over and over.”
Mastery requires practice. But the more you practice something, the more boring and routine it becomes.
The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.
Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next. As soon as we experience the slightest
no habit will stay interesting forever. At some point, everyone faces the same challenge on the journey of self-improvement: you have to fall in love with boredom.
But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur.
Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
Reflection and review enables the long-term improvement of all habits because it makes you aware of your mistakes and helps you consider possible paths for improvement. Without reflection, we can make excuses, create rationalizations, and lie to ourselves.
I know of executives and investors who keep a “decision journal” in which they record the major decisions they make each week, why they made them, and what they expect the outcome to be. They review their choices at the end of each month or year to see where they were correct and where they went wrong.*
In the beginning, repeating a habit is essential to build up evidence of your desired identity. As you latch on to that new identity, however, those same beliefs can hold you back from the next level of growth.
“I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge.”
“I’m the type of person who builds and creates things.”
Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail. —LAO TZU
The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. It’s remarkable the business you can build if you don’t stop working. It’s remarkable the body you can build if you don’t stop training. It’s remarkable the knowledge you can build if you don’t stop learning. It’s remarkable the fortune you can build if you don’t stop saving. It’s remarkable the friendships you can build if you don’t stop caring. Small habits don’t add up. They compound.
Happiness is simply the absence of desire. When you observe a cue, but do not desire to change your state, you are content with the current situation.
Likewise, suffering is the space between craving a change in state and getting it.
Peace occurs when you don’t turn your observations into problems.
Being curious is better than being smart. Being motivated and curious counts for more than being smart because it leads to action.
As Naval Ravikant says, “The trick to doing anything is first cultivating a desire for it.”
We can only be rational and logical after we have been emotional. The primary mode of the brain is to feel; the secondary mode is to think.
Your actions reveal how badly you want something.
This is the wisdom behind Seneca’s famous quote, “Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more.”
Desire initiates. Pleasure sustains. Wanting and liking are the two drivers of behavior.