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The habit of habits

How do we get ourselves to do the hard things?

Our alarm goes off to remind us to exercise, or read, or do our taxes, or whatever... but how do we summon up the energy or willpower to actually do it?

One method that I've found has to do with accountability, and brainwashing.

We've all heard of Pavlov's dog, yes? The bell goes off, the dog salivates because every time that bell goes off it gets food? As much as we'd love it to be so, human beings are just as simplistic to program. The only difference is that we get to see the "man behind the curtain" and do the programming ourselves.

The modern-day equivalent is that nice, red circle on your social app of choice. (side note: it's no coincidence that it's red!). It's why you think of typing the letter "F" into your address bar as soon as you feel idle, or uncomfortable. It's why your hand hovers over your phone the instant you find a moment of silence or solitude.

We are trained.

The good news is that we can harness this power for good (or at the very least, productivity).

Find a very, very unique sound, and have it go off as an alarm to do a thing. A small thing that you can always do no matter what. It could be as simple as doing one squat, or ten kegels, or simply taking a moment to do a diaphragmatic breath or think of something you're grateful for. The point is, it is simple, and non-negotiable.


The point isn't necessarily to get the outcome from the habitual behavior (though that's a nice side benefit, so you might as well make it something beneficial) it is to develop the habit of doing the habit.

Every time you IGNORE an alarm on your phone, you are building the habit of not-doing, procrastination, and are developing a belief about yourself that you lack self-control, accountability and worth.

Every time you ACT on your alarms, you are building the habit of doing, taking action, having accountability and self-worth.

This is why it is imperative it is not something you'll ever have to put off. In addition, the shorter the time span between the alarm and your execution of whatever it is that alarm means to you, the better.

The other day a zoom meeting went long, and my alarm beeped. I didn't excuse myself or even explain. I simply got up, lifted the weights my alarm told me to lift, and returned to the meeting. That is conditioning.

I am the sort of person who exercises every day. I know that, because I never (NEVER!) ignore my alarms to do so.

I do, however, move them around sometimes. Eg, if I know I'm going to be at a social gathering or watching a movie or something, I might move my exercise alarms to earlier in the day. But if I didn't - if I somehow forgot, then I'd be excusing myself and exercising in the bathroom or the hallway or something.

This method can be used for literally any habit, but I suggest starting small. One push-up. One squat. Something simple that you won't procrastinate.


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