For as long as I can remember, I bit my nails to the point where my fingers were sore and bleeding. I was extremely self-conscious of my hands, and often hid them from the world.
For much less of time, I used to meditate. The effects were utterly profound and made such a huge impact on my thoughts, feelings and actions.
However, after a short amount of time, I fell out of the habit. Despite the immediate effects I began to find myself inconsistently practicing it.
What do these two things have in common?
Pretty much nothing EXCEPT that they are both habits.
Habits govern our entire lives. From the moment we wake up and brush our teeth to before we turn in for the night, our internal functioning relies on previously formed processes.
Habits make our lives easier. Our brains want to use the tiniest amount of energy to do the things we want to do.
However, breaking bad habits and formulating good habits are hard work. Hard work that our brain does not want to do.
In my case, the bad habit was easily sustained and the good habit easily lost. It should have technically been the other way, right? I should have wanted to prolong the effects of mediation and cast away my ashamed feelings of my nails.
Through the process of learning and reading, I have managed to shake the bad and start the good. I haven’t bitten my nails in almost two years and have been mediating for about three months now.
I watched an open interview with Jerry Seinfeld. Someone asked him, ‘what is the key to your comedy success?’
The answer that he gave out changed my entire outlook on habits. Write jokes everyday and don’t break your chain.
He bought a huge annual calendar and every day, he would write at least one joke. When he considered his work done, he would put a big red ‘X’ over the date. The next day, he would do the same, until a long red chain was formed.
“Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing the chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain. Don’t break the chain.” - Jerry Seinfeld
Discipline over Motivation
Motivation is the buzzword for anything successful. Many people believe they need motivation to build or break down habits, to be successful or prosperous.
When someone stops doing something, people say, ‘they just lacked the motivation.’
I fundamentally disagree with that statement. I think that motivation is necessary to get started, but it isn’t the driving force to keep it consistent. Instead, this is where discipline takes the reigns and it primarily responsible.
Every day consistent practice can change anything—good or bad.
This is why I love Jerry Seinfeld’s approach to habit and, inadvertently, success. It’s based on just doing one thing and it creates its own momentum.
When we look at our calendars, the entire year looks daunting. We think, ‘how can I commit to this for an entire year?’ But his system is designed to bring your biggest goal into the now.
It forces us to just focus on the singular day.
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” – Walter Elliot
As we complete these short races and build our chain, it becomes easier and easier. Momentum and discipline slowly takes the reigns and the habit is formed (or broken).
Then our brains will naturally choose the shortest distance to the goal because it’s lazy (or efficient?).
Until next time, my beautiful readers,
Be bold, be free, and love on.