Habits will form whether you want them or not, tweeted author James Clear, author of the best selling book on habit, Atomic Habits. Habits will be a part of the shape of your day to day whether you decide to work on them or not. So why not make the best of every single day at least picking the ones you can control or default to. I just started tracking monthly goals on a daily basis, something Paul Graham and even Sam Altman recommended. The hardest thing for me was delaying the rewards of my actions. Some days you have those amazing wins or something just clicks and you feel an amazing fulfillment that you are taking steps forward. The big problem is when there are just OK days, the days where you accomplish a bit and nothing very special, you’re tired and need to sleep. That’s when you need to acknowledge the small steps forward and avoid being down.
It is specially hard since we are now so addicted to small wins and always having likes or loving stuff. Social media, immediateness of information and gamification of all the digital products allows us to always be winning and feeling good. Even if there is nothing that truly should trigger happiness. The problem is not the over exposure to winning but the habit of always being liked or have external validation on the smallest things we are doing. Starting things that will provide internal value in the mid to long-term is hard because we don’t have a proper way of validating whether we’re doing those things right. But that’s the beauty of it. With these type of habits you develop patience for wins that are worth a lot more. Sometimes delaying the gratification is worth it. It may make you feel dull at the beginning but overcoming that allow us to grow and create better things, reach more impressive goals, the things that matter the most in life.
For some reason is not easy to be patient with oneself. At least with other people in some cases you can find yourself justifying their behaviors or conducts. But when it comes to self-judging people tend to be harsher or maybe the harshest they can be. Not a big thing but definitely something we should work on since life is basically a single player game and we are on this for as long as we are able to exist. No respawns.
The thing that I found easier with habits is just deciding what I’d like to accomplish, it’s just like going shopping you choose a couple nice things and be done with it. The hardest part is showing up for the task. Every day. No excuses, even if for some reason you truly are out of possibilities to show up you can always just barely accomplish something by working as minimum as 15 minutes. Or so said a piano teacher in youtube.
Twitter is like ice cream. You might want it every day, but you know it’s not healthy to abuse it and have it for every meal. Your belly is going to hate you for it! Same happens with all social media. Every now and then you can use the stream of great news and curated content you established from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. But you need to let it go and move on.
The more important thing with habits is that they allow you to improve a little bit everyday and create compound interest or wins that create the bigger wins in life. You need small boring wins during the days to become a master. Maybe that’s why Paul Graham talked about letting yourself be pulled by delight. Being pulled by delight allows you to just plainly enjoy whatever activity you’re involved thus you won’t need such a big win or outcome from the activity just to be doing it.
What I’ve done so far to try to keep up with building the habits I want: A simple file where I just keep track of a list of the habits I want to build on a daily basis, assign one single character to each one and just write what I accomplished during the day by writing the chars of the habits I actually managed to deliver. I feel now way guiltier to not accomplish anything at all when opening the file and a good day now looks like:
August 09: Swrym
And the whole file so far looks like this:
# Daily reports of habits in August
Symbols: Study write read yoga meditation (ru)n
Started on August 4
It is my own equivalent of what Jerry Seinfeld recommend to keep track of doing things you needed to do: literally just cross a day in the calendar, once you have a big chain you will feel guilty to miss a single day. Remember, habits will form, whether you like it or not. Build them to support you on the long run.
You can quickly visualize how your days have been and even get an idea of what you could be doing today or tomorrow to keep on track. As you can tell from the example I have been writing a lot but my running has been missing. Now I can go on and fix that today.Thanks to Luis Rodriguez for reading drafts of this.