“We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle said, and so becoming a whole new person—a smarter, fitter, wealthier, sexier person—is only a matter of breaking some habits and building others. Humans are an animal the survives by finding patterns, and routines or habits gives us an anchor for our lives. This can be a powerful tool for maximizing our ability, but if you want to change your life, you have to change your habits. If instead of making an annual list of New Years Resolutions which end up abandoned in days you committed to breaking one bad habit and starting one good habit every 3-4 months, in a year you could revolutionize your entire life.
Such change can be instantaneous and the notion that you can’t be a different person, a better person tomorrow than you are today is quite simply false. Two simple steps guide success in making instant lasting habitual changes: have a good reason, and set simple rules. Here we will talk about the first step, having a good reason for the changes you make; we discuss the second step–setting clear and unbreakable rules–elsewhere.
Too often we go into a lifestyle change with no reason or bad reasons. Guys think seduction is about sex with a lot of different good looking women when a girlfriend is what they really want. When they have one bad night they’ll quit because they went in for the wrong reason. People try to stop smoking to prevent health problems that are still abstract to the smoker. Withdrawal is a lot more painful immediately, emphysema only somewhere down the line and the smoker will relapse. Other people see something on TV about slaughterhouses and try and give up meat. Mom serves meatloaf that weekend and they give in.
If these people had better reasons, concrete reasons, they would have the strength to stick with their changes. Going into seduction can help you meet a girlfriend and keep your relationship interesting. Quitting smoking so you can survive a transatlantic flight you will be taking or to save money for a specific purpose can be great motivators for some people. Giving up meat so you can dramatically lower your cholesterol gives you concrete benchmarks to motivate your perseverance.
We all know the power of this practice from our own experience, even if we haven’t noticed it. In college or in periods of unemployment it can be easy to start sleeping in everyday, and getting up at 7 or 8 o’clock will seem next to impossible. If you get a job, however, and have to be there by 9, you will fall into the habit of getting up early within a couple of days. The tricky part is doing self-analysis and learning your own desires for life so you can compel yourself for your own reasons, not because another entity (your boss or school) makes you do it.
Finding the right reason for a change involves learning about what you really want out of life, it demands an honesty about yourself. Maybe you don’t have a good reason for making a change, but feel compelled to make it anyways because other people or “society” tell you that you should want to make it. Most people keep trying to make the change over and over again, failing each time and loading themselves up with guilt and shame. This is incredibly unhealthy and robs you of your own life. Either come up with a reason of your own, one that really resonates with you or otherwise compels you or own your refusal to change. Alternatively, recognize the habit as a bad one, but prioritize other changes which will give you the confidence and creativity to address this habit later. Life is a process of growth, and there will always be areas for improvement.
Finding a good reason for your change thus enables you to change your life rapidly without being in a hurry. Small changes—one habit broken, another built up—can produce big differences in your life and open new doors of opportunity for you. Over time you can form yourself into a more perfect being, and it can all start immediately. Find out more and get started today!
A TV psychologist once said “we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.” Wanting to make a change, wishing your life was different, intending to be a better person only matters in your own head. For the potential lovers you want to take out, the employers you want to impress or the friends whose lives you want to brighten only your works matter. The simple conclusion from this is that if you want a better life, you need better habits. By breaking your bad habits and developing new, positive patterns of behavior you become more attractive, more valuable and more charming: you get more out of life.
The idea of instant lasting habitual change is a simple principle which can inspire many, but discourages others at first. They have tried to change before and always failed; they are convinced that the work isn’t worth the reward. If they could change overnight, they would, but with all the time it will take, it is better to give in.
This is a defeatist mindset which produces self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. You have the power to succeed where you never have before, and it is possible to instantly change your habits and be a better person when you wake up tomorrow than when you go to sleep tonight. Instant lasting habitual changes are possible by following two simple rules: have a good reason and set clear and unbreakable rules. We’ve covered finding a good reason elsewhere, we’ll deal here with setting clear and unbreakable rules.
Too often our resolutions or goals are amorphous and abstract. We say “I want to eat more healthfully” or “I want to write more,” with no further details. The problem comes when we are faced with a decision: if a friend goes to get fast food, what should I eat? If I wrote each of the last three nights, can I lay off to watch TV tonight? If I eat a cheeseburger this once, will it be a big deal? If I don’t write two nights running, but did write the three nights before that, does that still count? We can all recognize these questions as the places where resolutions go to die.
Clear and unbreakable rules can be simple and few in number, but they will prevent any of this sort of ambiguity. If instead of saying “I want to eat more healthfully” you say “I won’t eat processed, fried or sugary foods” you will have a clear answer at the fast food place: either get a salad with fat free dressing or wait until later to eat. If you say “I will write every day,” or “I will write at least four nights a week,” you know that if you’ve written three days in a row you ought to still write tonight. You make your decision to change one time instead of constantly reevaluating and redefining your intentions. You turn your intentions into concrete actions.
One good idea is to formulate your rules as positives as opposed to negatives, as there are some who claim that your subconscious can’t process a negative. So instead of saying “I won’t eat junk food,” try saying “I will avoid junk food.” There are indications that this makes a big difference.
Nothing makes more of a difference, however, than your discipline. Making the rules unbreakable means that there is no excuse. If you set a rule to be in bed by midnight every night, you must tell the girl you are talking to that you have to hang up at 11:45, period. If you say you will write every day and you had to be at work for 18 hours on 4 hours of sleep, you’d better slam an energy drink and get to typing for at least 15-20 minutes before crashing out. Unbreakable means just what it says; anything short of this will mean failure.
This is true until you have mastered the habit and rebuilt your life on those new terms. The rules can change over time, and you might be able to break them after some time. The guideline to adopt for this is to keep the rule unbreakable until you don’t want to break it any more. Stated in another way, only break a rule that you have made an unconscious habit. If you force yourself to eat a few french fries to be polite after you have come to prefer healthful food, you aren’t at much risk of relapsing to your old diet. If you take your birthday off from writing, feeling antsy the whole time and writing twice as much the next night, you will still have a good habit. Don’t make this ability to break the rules something that motivates you, but recognize that moderation is the reward for the intensity it takes to remake your life.
One lofty goal will usually break down into dozens of tough questions about real world applications, and the facts of life will keep you from changing your life. A few simple, clear, unbreakable rules can guide you in making immediate changes. When these rules have the right motivation, breaking old habits and building new ones is demystified and your life becomes your own. You know what you want, and you have good intentions—put these steps into action and you can give others the person you want to be. Find out more and get started today!