You might ask why I’m still not writing about learning techniques. Don’t worry, we are getting there. I want to build a strong foundation with you, which lasts lifelong, first. Together we’ll set you up for success.
A decent part of that foundation is the ability to create habits. I underestimated the power of this for years. You could get so far with very little effort. E.g. to give my brain some new challenges and exercises, I decided to learn to play the piano.
I bought myself a cheap midi controller with weighted 88 keys and decided to spend each day learning some new keystrokes just for 10 minutes. After a few months, I was already able to play For Elise, from Ludwig van Beethoven and other plays. Of course, not perfectly, but I would say it sounded pretty ok. And trust me, there was no talent involved.
Ten minutes a day is not a lot. You can always arrange your daily schedule to fit in 10 minutes.
I experimented with several techniques to build habits. Still, the one thing which is the most important in my opinion is that you have to lower the barrier to do an action repeatedly as far as possible, like in the piano example – just 10 minutes per day.
When I didn’t want to play, it was not hard to still play for 10 minutes. But there were also several days where I played longer because it was just fun after a few minutes.
Just remember to take action. Small actions will compound to a massive outcome before you even realize it.
“We first make our habits,John Dryden
and then our habits make us.”
The second vital ingredient to build habits is to track them. Don’t trust the low barrier solely. Your brain will find excuses also for those small actions.
You can trick your brain by giving it immediate gratification. It is hard to work towards a long-term goal. E.g., stop eating junk food to stay healthy for the next 60 years. Or quit smoking to avoid the higher risk of getting lung cancer in 30 years. This is just too far away for the brain; it is too abstract. Your brain will find reasons and excuses not to take immediate action.
But here comes the power of tracking your results. E.g., I always felt I got a little dose of dopamine when I ticked off my 10 minute piano session.
You could track those small immediate actions in a journal, or there are also apps for doing this job. I am a big fan of Streaks (add snapshots). I’m tracking multiple daily and weekly actions with this app. Trust me, you won’t give up a streak so quickly, which lasts over 30 days already.
“Streaks is the to-do list that helps you form good habits. Every day you complete a task, your streak is extended.”
At one point, you actually have built that new habit. This won’t happen overnight and varies for each individual and the type of habit to shape. But an average timespan to establish a new habit is usually around 60 days. From this time on, you are on autopilot or even got addicted to your new routine.
To ensure that you reach that timespan and also to continue executing your routines afterward, you can also build in triggers in your daily life. This is a very powerful and simple way next to using various tracking tools. E.g., do you want to ensure that you eat fruits or vegetables every day? Then just put them visibly somewhere where you pass by multiple times a day. Put some apples in a basket on the table in your living room. Or another simple change caused me to floss my teeth now every day instead of doing it just every few days. It was as simple as taking the dental floss out of the drawer and putting it onto the basin, next to my toothpaste. I know this sounds too simple – but just try it. Trust me. Your brain will get those triggers then consciously but also unconsciously.
I can give you numerous samples of habits I built this way, drinking more water, reading more books, meditation, start writing a blog, losing body fat, gaining weight, doing sports in the morning, taking cold showers, and so on.
It is beneficial to know about this because it also works in the opposite direction with things you want to avoid or stop doing. E.g., putting sweets, alcohol, etc., somewhere visible in your flat or house will definitely act as triggers as well.
The same principle works with addictive apps on your smartphone as well. Are you using Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, Reddit several times a day? You know you are wasting your time and still follow the same pattern every day? Try the following thing, just move those apps from your home screen to another screen or folder. This will already reduce the amount of time you launch these apps significantly. Of course, it would be probably better to uninstall them, but I just want to prove the fact that those visible triggers work for you as well.
Understanding the principles of building habits and applying them to improve yourself constantly are essential tools for your future success. You will look back and can’t believe what you have achieved in just a few months or years.
Combining learning new things with the power of habits will make you unstoppable.
If you want to learn more about habits, then a must-read book on that topic is Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Don’t you have an idea for a good habit? Are you sleeping enough? Maybe not. Read about Sleep in my previous post and form your first life-changing habit.
As you can see, my blog posts build on each other, and if you combine the presented ideas, you’ll benefit so much more.
Now, which habit do you want to form next? Let me know.