All 2 of you readers know that I obviously stopped writing on here for a while, but for good reason. I took some advice from my meditation and spiritual mentor to “commit myself to something that I really want.” I chose golf and I practiced relentlessly all summer, putting in hours and hours of practice, some days were upwards of 8-10 hours.
Truthfully, if I had another way of making a living outside of my corporate job, I would have practiced upwards of 15 hours a day at least 5 days a week. Perhaps some day that will happen for me, although I wouldn’t do for more than 1 year total (I’ll explain later). In actuality, I probably averaged about 2-3 hours of practice 4-5 days a week since I also had to manage my other obligations, like eating food and working.
I simply was not able to make the time for other interests like writing on this blog.
The golf ended up paying off for me, both in skill level and in life lesson value. The final round of the season I shot a 78, which was a tie of my best score ever which happened about 10 years earlier. I improved in all areas of my game and completely relearned every single swing type, from putting to chipping, pitching to irons and driving. I was finally able to manage the golf course with very smart decision making ability and emotional control. I am now able to have control over my shot shapes and enjoy the process of hitting high/low shots and fades and draws, slices and hooks.
The first half or even three quarters of the season I would have intense anger when I would hit bad shots, not as much on the outburst side, but internally I would be so upset that I would be at the point of swearing to myself that I would never play another round of golf in my life after this current round was finished. I simply could not handle the fact that I could put in so much work at something and still not improve.
Somehow though, due to my own endurance and lots of indirect and direct encouragement from others, I tapped into my grit muscles and decided to finish out the golf season. Miraculously, I started to play better and better during the last quarter of the season.
What I started realizing was that it was not so much that I didn’t have the skills developed (which I could clearly see on the practice range), but more so that I didn’t have the identity of being a 70s or better golfer. I simply wasn’t able to assimilate that identity into my reality. My standing reality was that I was only “so good” and that being any better than “so good” was a foreign reality that I couldn’t break into.
That realization taught me the importance of patience very quickly. Suddenly, when I would hit a bad shot, I had no attachment to the outcome and was not unhappy because I simply knew that I was still in process of assimilating into the identity of being a good composed golfer.
One round I started out birdie, par, birdie, par and then put a ball in the woods and almost put another out of bounds to finish at a 7 on a par 4. I wasn’t upset. Obviously it wasn’t ideal, but I simply knew that my mind wasn’t used to being 2 under after 4 holes, so there was nothing to fret about, there was only more time that needed to pass, more persistence, more grit.
When we commit ourselves to something, we are able to focus on the life process. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, focusing on something makes us face ourselves. It puts us through a metaphorical/micro life journey that is analogical to the rest of life, it is both actual life itself and also a recursive metaphor for the greater totality of our lives. This may not make sense, but what I am saying is this:
The struggle that comes from focusing on something is the same struggle that shows up as any kind of pain or suffering in any other part of your life. How you handle it with your focused subject matter is often how you will handle other life suffering. Essentially this is because when we go through struggles in life, we are faced with managing our resources.
Struggling or suffering “well” has to do with your ability to manage your resources “well” and I believe we can learn to manage them very well through good practice.
I though my dream career would be to be a professional golfer. I didn’t actually necessary think that this would happen but was willing to put in as much effort as I possibly could to see just how good I could get. Truthfully, i think I could get very very good, maybe not ever at the professional level but still I could get extremely good.
However, I realized I don’t care about that type of career. I think I would personally be miserable running around the globe from tournament to tournament competing in these ultra-serious competitions. It seems like it would get very lonely as well. Life has loneliness for sure, but I feel like that path would be even more pronounced in myself than normal.
I would still love the opportunity to practice for 15 hours a day 4-5 days a week for 1 year to see how good I could get, but it would simply be out of curiosity, fun and for the love of the game.
I also noticed that practicing that many hours sort of turns into a big meditation. The mind goes through all sorts of emotional ups and downs and has all sorts of interesting deviating thoughts but the end goal is to always return the focus to the task being practiced. This returning of attention is the “meditative repetition”. Meditation is thus the practice of repeating lots of these refocusing repetitions. It is extremely beneficial to the mind (and body, emotions and soul).
I wrote in another post about how a dream immersion habit has a dark side. My habit was to watch a video of my dream house in Hawaii every day. This beautiful exercise brought out the dark side of my dream, which is that any house, any where, means absolutely nothing to me if it isn’t filled with people I love. I simply don’t care about houses like I thought I did when I pictured my “dream”.
I am not even really concerned with my geographic region being all that beautiful or exciting (and it helps because I live in freezing/flat Minnesota). There is simply more to life than our external conditions and I am finding that what goes on internally is in many ways far more interesting than what happens in the external world.
The Dream Immersion Habit is a beautiful exercise that forces us to face our thoughts and beliefs around happiness and well being.
I was too busy to write here on Dream Habits because I was too busy facing my Dream Habits.
I hope you feel inspired to face yours.
Lets talk about getting more work done without burning ourselves out.
Cranking is a helpful tool in the form of a mindset that we can use to “turn on” our ability to be very productive when it is time to get work done. We start out by understanding the concept, then later we turn it into a “muscle” and finally we engrain it into our productivity style as an unconscious habit that we don’t have to think about most of the time. We want it to become our “inclination”.
Cranking is the mindset we tap into when it comes time to “shut up and get to work”. It is the mental muscle we “flex” that puts us into an overdrive state of focus that allows us to be very productive. Essentially it is our work ethic muscle.
The goal is to get out of our heads and into our work. We want to be able to channel our ideas directly into “actions”. To get to this point, we have to first practice with short periods of uninterrupted and focused productivity. Starting with five minutes at a time can build a firm foundation to build on. It also helps if you can use a timer, either an an actual timer or a digital one will work as well.
To do this successfully, there has to be a specific task you are going to focus on for the full five minutes. It could be practicing an instrument, an art project, writing a story, writing an email, updating a slide on a PowerPoint, reading an article/book, learning a language, writing a line of code, prepping materials for a sales meeting, practicing a sales pitch, analyzing/updating a spreadsheet, etc. You can only do one task during the five minutes.
Start the clock and start working by focusing on the task at hand through your actions instead of through your ideas. When you have an idea or thought, put it into action immediately. If you are doing a more passive activity like reading, make it more engaging by reflecting on what you are reading, writing notes down, rereading sentences, etc.
A helpful way of explaining what this looks like is with the writing process. Especially writing that is done in a flow state. When you write, you are in the midst of the creation process.
What we are attempting to do with the process of writing is to produce organized ideas that others can understand. Whether our intention is to express ourself, our opinions, or knowledge, it helps if the ideas are organized.
Good ideas need a channel to flow through if they are to become alive. Entrepreneurs are especially good at taking ideas and bringing people together to take action on those ideas.
Action is the most important variable.
Each time you “crank”, or write as in our example, you create neurological pathways in your brain that become engrained, and then when you write more, the pathways become even more engrained. Eventually what this turns into is a sort of “writing muscle” that you can “flex.” You set the intention of getting your good ideas out on paper. However, we don’t necessarily do this by letting only our good ideas come out. In fact, we often don’t even know what a good idea looks like until we are deep into the writing process.
What we do instead is to put our best effort forward towards getting all of our relevant ideas on paper. And if we are really having a difficult time, we just simply write out all of our ideas and pseudo ideas and thoughts and feelings and anything else that wants to come out.
“Table is fun to set drinks on.” “I like the way the chair screeches across the floor.” “I think that wood tastes funny”. “When I pour lemonade into a glass, it makes my insides go woo hoo hoo .”
Yes, it is weird, and it is often what is needed to get started and bring about newfound creativity.
Writing your thoughts out in this silly manner is like warming up with 5lb or 10lb weights. This helps entrain and engrain your brain to be more conducive to good weight lifting technique and support your process for strength gains as you increase the weight in later sets. In the same way, the practice of simply just getting started helps to set you up for a mindset that is conducive to producing good ideas.
Another way of stating this is “experimentation”.
Now as many of you hot cats have figured out by now, this concept does not only apply to writing, but it applies to many endeavors, and is especially useful for getting work done.
Part of this process is stepping away when the blocks hit, or the fatigue starts to set in, but then we come back refreshed. Sometimes we need to leave the project for the day and come back in the morning.
Where many of us get stuck is waiting for the good ideas to come to us before we get started with the writing process.
Even the greatest musicians don’t typically have the luxury of knowing exactly how a song is to be constructed before they play it and write the music out for the first time. It is by far most commonly done through a process of trial and error that resulted from simply just getting started with ideas, both good ideas and bad ones.
Over time, we can trust that the breakthrough ideas will come more naturally in quick bursts, but until then, we simply embrace the process.
Cranking encompasses two things, getting started and getting work done for a specific amount of time. In the early stages, we set small goals to accomplish. We start out with five minutes at a time and work our way up to 20 to 30 minutes at a time. This time is dedicated focus to the task at hand and continual forward progress majority of the time.
Building up this muscle means that we will be able to get a lot of work done when we are able to have 2-3+ hours of total crank time. It also means that we will have more free time to devote to the things that make life important, people. It allows us to automatically be more efficient with our time since we can get the majority of our important work done in the set focused periods of time. We don’t need to waste time
With writing there are two phases, the writing process and the editing process. The writing process is the easy part, the organization process is harder. Being organized from the beginning helps organize the editing at the end but often we don’t know what we are trying to say at the beginning so it presents challenges that we have to learn how to overcome. We learn how to overcome them by embracing the learning process.
Developing a mindset like this does not have to be stressful. We simply start by trying it out for five minutes once a day and work our way up to where we have an accelerated ability to turn on our “crank” machine and maximize the amount of work we get done.
Instrumental music can help us get in the zone, so put on the Sandsoy already and get to work.
Crank hard, crank often.
There is only so much that you can get done in a day, go home/quit at your set time as frequently as possible. Trying to get too much done, especially at obscene levels, ultimately leads to getting less and less done, at least in terms of quality. It also often leads to burnout. Being uncomfortable is okay, but if you are stressed, take a five minute break and come back to try again.
Using instrumental music that ends at a specific time (5, 10, 15 minutes, etc.) is a good way to go into the flow state and be brought back out once the music stops for a period of reflection. Then, take a point of feedback as to what worked during the past five minutes and what did not and then restart the process if you are up for it.
If you are anything like me, you wake up each morning in a different mood. I would argue that this is basically the same as waking up as a completely different person, each day. Who you are today is in many ways completely different from who you were yesterday. Your emotional state is completely different, and as a result you could be capable of completely different outcomes than you were capable of yesterday.
There may be only slight differences in your emotional state on some days, but on other days, there may be a big difference. Getting all of these different “people” to work together is often like herding cats.
Wikipedia has the following to say regarding Cat Herding:
“An idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are inherently uncontrollable – as in the difficulty of attempting to command a large number of cats into a group (herd).”
It is difficult to herd a group of cats.
When its time to get all the cats rounded up, some of them want to come with you, some of them want to play, some of them want to leave the house, others are upset with you for no apparent reason, they all have their different agendas and your agenda doesn’t always matter to them.
Herding Cats is a difficult task and it is important to have structure in place to help get all of the cats on the same page. We can do this through behavioral training, rigid dinner times, positive reinforcement and many other ways, but at the core, it is the structure that helps us herd these independent creatures.
As humans, we have all sorts of different emotions and in a given thirty day period, we probably have more than a dozen different types of common mood patterns that we wake up with. I would argue that all of these emotions are important, but many of them can act as obstacles to our goals if we do not have structure and habits in place.
In a given thirty day period, we may wake up with any of the following emotional states and maybe even more:
The list goes on…
These emotional states, or “versions” of ourselves, come and go and a lot of the time it feels like we don’t have control over them. This is a lot of different “people” to deal with. Only some of the people want to get out there and get things done and the rest of them have other agendas.
We need a way to get all of these different people on the same page and headed in the same direction if we are to accomplish anything over a 30, 60 or 90 day period and certainly any larger time frame.
Since any given day we may be faced with a different person who has a different attitude about what direction the day should take, we need to implement daily structure into our routine so that on any given day, there are specific minimum things that must occur, regardless of who shows up.
We add structure in the form of habits, our “Daily Habit Structure”.
The “Base Minimum Habit” is built into this structure.
We are adding structure to our lives so that we can get “everyone” working in the same direction, regardless of their emotional state.
What we crave as humans is freedom to express ourselves, but the great paradox is that we are not fully able to reach our individual potential for creative expression until we master aspects of ourselves through rigidity and discipline.
“So in order to do cool things… I have to practice?!?!”
Yes, I’m sorry, you do.
There are many ways we can implement discipline and rigidity into our structure, but the most important factor is how we handle the daily changing frequency of our emotional state.
Having a practice frequency that is any less than every single day will not account for these ever changing emotional states and will leave us closer to quitting entirely on our endeavor. We must dedicate ourselves to the practice regardless of the emotional state and this is why we must expect ourselves to practice regardless of how we feel on any particular day.
This is why it is important to develop habits that become part of our life style that we do on a daily basis, so that we can train our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves to follow a specific set of habits regardless of how our body feels, regardless of our emotional state, regardless of what our mind wants to wander to today and regardless of where we are at with God or our purpose in life.
The book, “Atomic Habits”, talks about how we must take on an “identity” if we are to keep consistent motivation with our daily habits, our daily discipline.
If we are a painter who doesn’t paint, then we are really not a painter. If we are a painter who doesn’t paint, then maybe we don’t really like painting. If we like painting and we don’t paint, why are we doing that to ourselves?
Pick your identity and get the daily practice structure in place so you can become who you desire to become.
Structure is like the field and boundaries on a soccer field. Without the boundaries, there is no game, it is the boundaries and the rules that make the game fun. We are allowed to express our creative freedom within those boundaries and it “forces” us to use our inner resources to write our “story”.
The fundamentals of your dream come down to learning through practice and progressing on that practice every single day of your life. There is no other way around getting your dreams accomplished. Some people may do it differently, good for them, if it works, don’t fix it.
But this is you we are talking about, the quitter. We need to police you into sticking to your goals this time around because what you desire is greater than the part of you who talks yourself out of everything.
I am not advocating beating yourself up by any means, but I am advocating that you simply accept that to follow and live out your dreams, you have to devote your life style to it. You have to put in the time every day so that each day you live, you are enjoying a fraction of your dream via the process of pursuing it, and as a result of the process, you get closer each day to your dream goals.
I am not advocating giving up important things like family, friends, fun, etc. But I am advocating that you find the 20-30 minutes a day that you need to devote to creating the life you want to be living.
Sleep faster if you have to.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day.
Our Daily Habits are the cover to our book, the intention behind our prayers, the canvas to our painting, the clothes to our body and one of the highest expressions of self love to our entire being.
It is our daily habits, and only our daily habits, that truly allow us to move in the direction of our individual creative potential.
There is no room for missing days.
There may be extenuating circumstances, do your habits anyway.
There may be days when it is impossible, fine, restart tomorrow, but this should happen no more than 3-4 times in a year.
If you are missing your daily habits, you need to go through a refinement phase and figure out how to make yourself and your environment more conducive to implementing your daily habit actions.
There is a cue, habit, reward pattern that comes along with our habits once they are engrained in us, and this is helpful, but the true reward is the embrace of the process and this may not always feel like a “reward”.
The pain of the process is our friend and our teacher. Exposing ourselves to this pain is the gateway to our dreams.
As time passes, it becomes apparent that the true reward we have been looking for this entire time is progress, the satisfaction that you have grown into a new “dimension”, that you have progressed in your skill and ability, this feels good to us.
Tony Robbins has been quoted as defining happiness this way, “Progress”.
Taming ourselves is very much like herding cats. Let us rely mostly on our inner strong cat to keep us on track.
Here is a good visual on what we are up against.
We must add structure to our lives and in a way that is reasonable and yet rigid enough that it keeps us on track towards our dreams, even when we feel like shit.
We can accomplish more when we are free from distractions and are able to visualize ourselves succeeding in our mind.
When we have distractions out of the way, we are able to focus on getting the things done that matter, which is our daily practice, our daily habits of practice rather. These are the habits of practice that build our dreams, day by day.
Building in daily visualization exercise is paramount to our long-term success as dream builders. We can actually put ourselves in the most ideal state possible, right here in the present moment, by visualizing our future success right now, because it taps us into the eventual outcome of our dream building process.
We can experience confidence right now by being confident in the eventual outcome. For instance, many of us have a feeling of knowing that we have a great potential inside of us that could get extremely good at a particular endeavor if we were just able to focus and practice for long enough.
This is the inner drive that we all have, although many of us have come to a place of seriously doubting our own potential. For just about all of us however, this is an illusion. There are certainly limitations that may occur when we view the world through the lens of Newtonian Physics, but in terms of our individual potential, there is no room for doubt. We can all achieve our individual potential, that is our birth right.
The concept of Expanded Habits is a lot about refining, and visualization is another tool we can employ to refine our practice and get our entire being (mind, body, emotions, spirit) onboard with our mission. There have been several studies on the power of visualization as a complement to practice and when run against a control group, the group that visualizes along with their practice sees more progress than the group that does not. This is very impressive, but many groups of people have known this throughout history, and from many different walks of life such as spirituality, athleticism, business, and more.
It is my hunch that most of the masters throughout history have been able to visualize very well and made a habit of using this tool on a regular basis. Nicola Tesla was known to have a very powerful imagination and did a lot of visualizing for almost his whole life. As a result he was able to make unprecedented innovative strides with his inventions and progressed into major breakthroughs for his field, many of which were not recognized or utilized until years after his death. The same can be said about Albert Einstein, he spent a lot of time using a technique called Image Streaming.
Our imagination is one of our greatest assets. It is a powerful force that can have a major impact on our goals. Many spiritual practices believe that our imagination is essentially a sort of communication with the divine. When we visualize the outcomes we desire, we are essentially praying for that outcome. We can use our imagination to improve our state of mind and to effect future outcomes.
In golf for example, the best golfers often have been found to visualize very well. Before each shot, they would picture the exact shot they are attempting to hit. If you or I were to go and do this as novices, we would not notice the effect as much, but as professionals, they have been practicing the pattern of visualizing the shot, then hitting that shot, over and over again. At some point, with all that practice in reality and all of that future expectation placed out into the universe (in the form of a vision), there is a compromise that occurs.
This compromise results in betterment of the actual shots hit in reality. The more this is done, over and over again, the better the golfer can get.
The technique of visualization is obviously not just limited to scientists and golfers. We can use this for our Dream Habits. Whatever habits of practice we are building, we can visualize our ideal outcome for each repetition in our mind. The more vivid we can make this image over time, the better. The more we can incorporate all of our senses, the better.
The goal is to immerse and focus our mind on the ideal outcome through a visualization and then to actually follow the visualization with a repetition or set of repetitions or an entire practice session. Then, we repeat this process over and over again. Over time, we will become close and closer to our dreams.
We can enhance the quality of our lives by enhancing our skills. Developing a skill is only a matter of practice and we can build practice into our lives through our daily habits. We start by breaking down the macro skill into its micro parts and we practice these micro parts every day.
We start with 30 days and we pick one micro skill that we know we will be able to accomplish every single day for those 30 days. Then, when the 30 days are over, we move forward and expand upon this foundational practice habit we have formed. As we continue on to our next 30 days, we not only get better at the skills we are pursuing, but we also engrain the habit of practice into our mind, body and soul.
As the habit of practice gets engrained into our entire being more and more each day, we become more and more compelled to practice our given endeavors and before we know it, there is so much momentum pushing us towards our goals that we become the very skills we are pursuing.
If we do this for long enough, we become masters of these skills and then we go into the teaching phase of learning, which helps us to learn our given skills on yet an even deeper level. The possibilities are endless, we can continue to get better and better and have fun the entire time we follow this process.
I struggle with assertiveness and advocating for myself at times in different areas of my life and this struggle is really just a reflection of my lack of skill. There are many reasons for the lack of skills but whats important to recognize is that assertiveness is a skill. With practice, this skill can be learned. Communication itself is made up of micro skills that form our macro communication style and effectiveness as a whole. We can build all sorts of micro communication skills, one by one, and become great communicators after a while.
The same goes for a career change, even a drastic one. You could be a doctor today and completely transition yourself into a new career path of music just by picking up the guitar and putting it down every single day for 30 days, and then expanding upon that habit. The next set of 30, you could pick it up and do 1-2-3-4 finger fret and pick exercises. From there, you could learn the G chord. The next 30, the C chord. The next 30, the D chord. Now you can spend another 30 learning 1 whole simple song. From there you have now built up the habit of practicing guitar for over 150+ days and can expand on it even more, by learning the rest of the chords, then scales, then music theory, etc.
Before you know it, you are craving practice of 1-2 hours a day (or even more) and are willing to give up other focus areas in your life such as watching Netflix or reading magazines. You are getting better and better each day and you haven’t even been playing for a year yet. This continues on for some time and 3-4 years later you can go into teaching guitar or playing open mic nights, or join a band.
Obviously, a career change like this could have substantial financial hindrances, but even those can be handled with skills. We live in a day and age where there are less and less barriers to entry for business opportunities and just about anyone can make money from their skill sets.
In our Doctor to Musician example above, who is to say that they could not work really hard and start posting content on YouTube showcasing their guitar skills, providing free unique lessons, then branching out into Skype 1 on 1 lessons, developing a whole personality around how they play and teach guitar, etc.
After a while, maybe they can build an entire website around their music and teaching guitar in new and innovative ways. If someone was truly diligent in an effort like this, building up the foundational habits, theoretically, they could make a nice living doing something like this or perhaps there are other creative monetization tactics they would think of.
The same concept goes for learning history, learning another language, writing a book, learning to code, martial arts, leadership skills, eating healthy, going vegan/vegetarian, reading 50 books a year, spiritual pursuits, cooking, photography/film making, learning to dance, sing, skydive, ski/snowboard, design clothes, start a business, the list goes on.
Keep it simple and start small, develop the micro skills first and the macro skills will come together naturally later on.
Trust the process.
The real trouble is choosing what you want to focus on, but just go after things you like doing to simplify that decision.
If you want to be a documentary film maker for instance, record 5 minutes of footage every single day for 30 days, the next 30, learn how to mix and edit some of them together and add sound. Next 30, focus on one topic, record 10 minutes of footage per day, the next 30, edit them together. The possibilities are endless when you look at life in this new light of expanding our habits.
If all of this is at your fingertips, why aren’t you practicing towards your dreams right now?
– Mark Twain
Say that every day for 30 days and see what happens.
In a future topic I will talk about how we can use the Expanded Habits concept to tackle fear as well.
It is important that we understand the concept of Flow during our journey of building Dream Habits. Flow is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The concept describes the state of mind we go into when our current challenge is “just outside” of our current abilities or skill level. The state of mind is described as losing one’s sense of space and time while performing a task.
In other words, it allows for full “immersion” in the task at hand. This is quite the opposite of an anxious, depressed or otherwise negative emotional state of mind. Often times what happens to me and many other people I know is that when we take on too much at once, we become overwhelmed, stressed and filled with lots of negative emotions. This is not conducive to a creative mindset.
All of our habits should bring joy most of the time when we practice them. There will be days that we dread doing anything, especially our Dream Habits, but the majority of the time we should feel a sense of excitement and happiness when we move towards our dreams by our daily practice. This can only really happen if we are practicing at a level that is enough to challenge us, but easy enough that we don’t feel overwhelmed.
The beauty is that all of the positive emotions that we think we will feel when we finally accomplish our dreams, we actually start feeling right here, in the present moment, and even more so, every day. All of a sudden we give ourselves more and more opportunities to feel good as we practice and it leaves us with a sense of fulfillment and progress.
When we feel like we are fulfilled and we are also progressing, this also has a tendency to build momentum. When we finally experience the effect of momentum, what happens is that we become “compelled” to practice our habits every day, because they bring us such a positive overall experience.
This is even more than motivation and desire, it is more like a “I have to because I want to” type of experience. It is like we are shoveling good emotions into our body by doing our practice. As humans, we like the idea that we can do a given task or activity and get a certain type of outcome. Smoke a cigarette, feel energized, have a beer, feel relaxed, eat chocolate, feel happy. However, these quick pleasures don’t keep us in positive emotional states for long and we also do not get to experience the joy of being fulfilled.
When we have momentum behind our Dreams that compels us forward, we start to crave our Dream Habits, because we know that most of the time when we do them, we will feel great about it.
This is why we practice every single day of our lives, because we crave it.
The Expanded Habit concept is simple. You first determine what goal, dream or identity you want to take on in your life. Then you commit yourself to developing a simple foundational habit over the next 30 days that you can then expand upon and refine in 30 day increments until you are living out the goal, dream or identity you chose.
It is not rocket science, but it does require that you cultivate and develop your inner resources. Let me explain.
Decide what your long term dream, goal or identity is for the next year. Break that goal down to a step or habit that you know you can do EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next 30 days without missing a single day. This is what we call the “Base Minimum Habit”. It should be easy enough that you will absolutely not miss a single day out of the next 30 days.
If you are trying to become healthy, then the “Base Minimum Habit” could be walking for 10 minutes a day, or eating an apple every single day, or eating a salad every day or doing some form of physical activity every day. It must be something that you KNOW you can do EVERY DAY for the next 30 days.
You make an agreement with yourself that you can reasonably commit to. You agree that for 30 days you will do the “Base Minimum Habit” every single day so that you can move closer to and experience progress towards your life dreams.
As part of this agreement, you must to the MINIMUM amount or task that you agreed to, but there is another important caveat to this plan. You also must be careful to not go ABOVE the minimum that you set as your daily goal. This is a crucial part of the process of building habits, but it will require patience and discipline to hold yourself back on certain days where you are feeling extra motivation.
This “extra motivation” can actually inhibit your long term success. This is because when you start taking on too much before you have built a foundation, you often lead yourself into burnout and end up quitting your dream journey all together.
This “extra motivation” often comes at the cost of using up all of your extra energy that you will need to complete your FULL set of 30 days. You are committing to doing a full 30 days and so you must make sure that you respect your reserve energy and time resources and allow it to remain intact for when you need it in the future.
The goal is not to rush the process and speed by which you accomplish your dream but instead to simply and build life long habits that will eventually snowball into great success.
Above the “Base Minimum Habit” is what I call the “Danger Zone”. During your 30 day habit, you may feel like you are ready for more challenge and suddenly go from walking 10 minutes per day into running for a couple miles. However, this often leads to over exertion and rushing of a process that requires patience to develop.
Often times the end result of over exertion is quitting. It actually makes perfect sense that it happens like this because really if you take on too much too soon, before you are ready, you overwhelm your limited capacity. You need to first build up your foundational capacity before you can ask more out of your daily practice.
You must do the “Base Minimum Habit”, but you also must stay under the maximum you set. You are trying to cultivate habits that you will have for the rest of your life, there is no rush!
Once you complete the first 30 days of performing your habit every day, you begin your first expansion of that habit. You can do things like increase a 10 minute walk to 20 minutes per day, you could increase the number of pages you are reading per day from 15 pages to 20 pages, you could try learning a new coding skill and focus on that for 30 days, add another putting drill to your practice routine, focus on a new yoga pose, learn a new karate move, you get the idea, but the point is to add to your foundational habit gradually so that overtime the results “Snowball”.
You must do this NEW quantity/task for the next 30 days and this becomes your new “Base Minimum Habit”. If you do have days that you overextend yourself and cannot make the time, at least make sure you do the old “Base Minimum Habit” so that you keep the momentum of your habits in place. You are still in the habit forming stage and it is more important to have a reduced repetition rather than no repetition.
Together, we can do this my friends, believe.
Big wins are very nice, but they are often unrealistic and our dependence on them can often lead us down paths that guarantee failure. Failure is good, but not guaranteed failure. We do not want to set ourselves up so that every time we try we set ourselves back. We want to fail in ways that was a result of a genuine opportunity that didn’t work out in the way we thought it would.
I have traded stocks for over the past decade of my life and for the most of that decade I lost a lot of money. The problem was that I was always, and I mean almost always, trying to make each trade a “big winner”. As a result of trying to get a big home run winner each time, I would bet too big and break my trading rules on the next idea I thought would be provide a sizable price move.
It has not been until the last few years that I have realized the power of focusing on small, consistently winning trades. What actually sparked this was when I was at the gym on the stair stepper and Jim Cramer’s Mad Money was on one of the televisions. There was no sound, but I was reading the subtitle, and Jim explained how lots of small wins could add up to a lot of money. I have never traded so well since I adopted this idea into my trading.
I have had three successful years in a row as a result of this. I am amazed at my ability to make consistently winning trades and limit my losses when I stick to my rules and bet in smaller size trades. The small gains have added up to substantial amounts of money as a result and I am on my way to making back all of the money I lost.
One of the most recent trades I had was almost a 90% gain in only a few months on Carvana, CVNA. Of course, this was on a smaller amount of money, but the point is I have built a strategy that allows me to capitalize on big gains, and over time as I refine the strategy, I will be able to bet bigger and bigger, but this must take place slowly, there is no rush to increase the size of the bets since that is how trouble and failure creep in.
We must get in the habit of not only seeking out small wins on a daily basis, but we must also celebrate them. Our progress is everything to our dream. If we are progressing, life is good. If we stagnate, we stress. We will not be in the state of mind that we need to be in if we stress too much. A little bit of challenge is good, but too much is deadly.
Whatever your hobby is, get in the habit of celebrating even the tiniest of wins. If you are trying to lose weight, and you drank a glass of water, that is a win. If you took even one flight of stairs during the day, that is a win. If you walked to lunch, that is a win.
If you are trying to learn the guitar, even putting the guitar out in the open where you will see it, that is a win. Picking it up for 5 minutes and strumming G, C and D, that is a win. Watching a 5-minute YouTube video on how song writing works, that is a win. The key is that we allow ourselves to have these small wins every single day of our lives.
These small wins add up to substantial amounts of progress overtime, they “snowball”.
We must keep seeking these small wins until we crave them. Then once we crave them, it won’t be long before we are “compelled” to chase after them.
I had a tough time getting good grades in school. It wasn’t until college that I started to do a lot better and got A’s and B’s. Although there were many factors for this, I know that there was one factor that really stood out to me that threw me off. I knew it then and I know it now, but I didn’t have a clue on how to deal with it until my actual working years.
The factor was speed. Every time I started to do bad in school and get closer and closer to C’s, D’s and even F’s in some cases in my classes, I always had an accompanying anxiety of feeling “left behind”. I just wasn’t learning as fast as everyone, else so I assumed there must be something wrong with me and that I just didn’t have a lot of intelligence.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have learned a lot later in life just how capable I am of learning even complex topics, and I know that most of us have this ability as well. The caveat is that I need to learn at a pace that doesn’t leave me feeling “left behind”. We do not all learn at the same speed and it is not realistic to put people in a class and expect them all to learn in the same way and especially at the same speed.
Some people need to spend more time on certain topics, and each individual has a different topic that will require them to “take a few laps” with before they grasp the concepts and can apply the material. This could mean an extra 20 minutes, an extra 2 hours, an extra 2 days, 2 months, in very rare cases this may mean 10-20 years, like learning advanced skills on guitar or learning to lead a company or becoming comfortable performing putting under pressure.
The point is, we must slow down when we hit concepts and topics that we are having trouble with. We cannot add the anxiety of feeling “left behind” everybody else. We must run circles around the obstacle of learning until our brain starts developing the new wiring. It is a matter of neuroplasticity.
There are strategies to use while in a “circle”, such as spending lotted times and then switching to a different topic, and then returning to the topic you are struggling with, and this is helpful and we should do this, but we cannot rush on to advanced concepts until we have masted the fundamental concepts that are in alignment with our growth.
It may make sense to jump ahead at times and pick a topic that is out of alignment with the growth of our fundamentals, but we must make sure it is not too far. We need to stay in a state of flow with our learning, where our current challenge is only slightly outside our current abilities and comfort zone.
I am going through a book on computer programming right now and right away they are diving into the concept of Big O notation. This is completely new to me even though I do have a decent amount of coding experience. I have dedicated two full weeks to this topic. Some may learn and be able to apply the concept in a day or two. Good for them. I do not have that luxury. It will simply take me longer to learn something like this than others and that is okay. Once I have learned this concept, I will move onto the next and I will continue to enjoy the process of learning.
The joy is in the journey, not the destination. Dedication to the process is everything.
The goal of practice is not to do your best work ever. The goal of practice is really just to “get started”. Every single day, we must “restart” our practice from our current level of skill, building upon all the practice sessions we have held before that led us into our last practice session of “yesterday”.
Yesterday is where we left off with our practice and today is where we must begin our practice again. There is no concern with how our performance will be today or if we are performing worse than yesterday. We simply practice and observe.
By getting started with our practice session of today, we allow ourselves to start the learning process, yet again, for another day. Then, through the power of observation, we begin to notice how our practice session compares to yesterday and we can take notes on our progress and the direction that we might be heading.
It is this observation and awareness that gives us the “opportunity of a life time” today, to look objectively or subjectively at our current performance, and refine. We look for ways to refine our skill.
For professional athletes, there is a lot of data from the last few games played for areas to work on. Some spend time refining their strengths, some work on their weaknesses, some just simply want to get “better”. I have to imagine that all strategies are beneficial. What I think is most important about professional athletes is that they “get started”, over and over again.
Whatever they want to work on, thats what they work on. They don’ waste time trying to put in a perfect practice session. They may have goals and enhancements to make their practice sessions better and better each time, but they are not concerned with their performance during the practice session as much as they are concerned with simply just starting to practice.
This idea of “getting started”, over and over again, allows us to finally experience the power of momentum in our given endeavor. Momentum is a force that builds through constant “pushing”. We are not concerned with how well a given practice session goes, we are simply concerned with practicing.
This momentum leads us into new dimensions of mastery. We start tapping into flow states, we start seeing large amounts of progress, we start having more and more fun.