How do I convince myself to change my habits?

Very few people truly realize the power of habits. Once you get it, you are less prone to ignore the matter.

Of course, it’s not a guarantee. Plenty of people realize the importance of health and education and neglect those areas nonetheless. It’s easier to do nothing than to put the effort and reap the fruits of your hustle.

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The best educational resource on habits? A free Tiny Habits course created by BJ Fogg, the head of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University.

Method #1: Spend time with the right people

This is a good way for slackers to start. You see, you don’t need to do anything else. Be around people who changed their habits, who convinced themselves to change those habits and you will become more like them. It’s a given.

We are social mimicking machines. We copy everything from those around us — gestures, vocabulary… and life philosophies.

Spend time with the right people and if you don’t consciously fight off their influence (which by the way is a lot of work), you will deem habits more important in your life. The change will happen in the background, on autopilot.

Method #2: Develop a keystone habit.

This is another method that bypasses your conscious mind. Instead of convincing yourself, which most people are very poor at, take the effort to develop a keystone habit.

“Keystone habits are habits that have a multiplier or a domino effect in your life.” — Brian Tracy

The two keystone habits known to science are exercise and healthy eating. “Healthy eating” became so diluted in modern society that you may even be confused about what the heck it is. Thus, I recommend exercises.

(my pushups routine)

You don’t need to train for hours. I started my habit development journey with only one consecutive series of pushups. It was enough.

If you cannot do pushups or can only do very few of them, do some other bodyweight exercise. The point is to balance the level of difficulty with your current abilities. When I started my pushups I could only do them for 1–3 minutes. If you can do sit-ups for 15 minutes, don’t bother with them. Pick an exercise that will exhaust you in a few minutes.

And don’t “convince yourself.” Just do it. Consider it a must, like brushing your teeth, dressing up for work or turning on your car’s engine on before you drive. It may be a chore, but do it anyway. Every single day.

How will it make a difference?

A keystone habit provides a domino effect by begetting more good habits without much conscious effort. Everybody’s journey is slightly different, the sequence of habits you will develop will vary from my sequence, but you will develop more habits.

The first habit I added to my routine after getting into my pushups routine was a morning prayer. I had problems remember to do it. When I prayed during my pushups, both routines solidified immediately. Later, I implemented some time management tactics, introduced more exercises and changed my diet.

It was never a struggle for me. Each step seemed a natural consequence of the previous one.

And then the dam broke and I was flooded with good habits.

Method #3. Extrapolate.

This is how you can convince yourself about the importance of practically everything, including the examples of healthy lifestyle and education. You simply reflect on your current lifestyle and visualize how your life will look like if you continue the current path for the next 10, 20, 50 years.

It’s not a mystical ritual, it’s common sense. Normally, you don’t think in a long enough time horizon. You are used to what your life looks like even if it’s slightly uncomfortable. But if you put your life and your actions in the perspective of decades, the level of pain that will accumulate becomes apparent.


Extrapolation example

We had always struggled financially. I was used to it. Comparing our situation from 2012 to the one from the beginning of our marriage, we improved significantly. When I was a student at the university, most of the time I had no idea how we would make it to the beginning of the next month. In 2012 I had a stable salary and a permanent full-time contract.

We only couldn’t save enough money to make a difference. We lived pretty comfortably, we even owned a flat. I had our finances (barely) under control. I kept monthly budgets and managed to save 2–4% a month.

Then I extrapolated our situation till retirement. Ugh. $40,000 was the most we could count on when we reached retirement age and our flat wouldn’t have been even fully paid off.

THIS situation was unbearable. It pushed me over the fence. I had no idea how to make or save more money, but I knew I have to take action or the outcome would be absolutely not acceptable.

— — —

This stuff works. I developed a keystone habit. I extrapolated and got convinced by my own reasoning, not someone else’s. The thing that got me to extrapolate was a book — interaction with someone outside my social circles.

And I became fanatical about the importance of habits. I changed my life.

Use those three methods. Change your life.

Originally published at Quora.

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