If you start doing small daily activities (aka habits) that inch you toward your goal and fuel your motivation? About 66 days.
Three Ways to Change
There are only three to four known ways to modify human behavior for good. You can wait for enlightenment, and this is one way. However, it’s highly unreliable. You cannot engineer enlightenment.
Another method is to change your environment, what surrounds you. You can throw out every piece of furniture from your bedroom. You can change jobs. You can move to a different city or country. Each of those changes will introduce changes in your environment, and your environment often provides cues for your habits.
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Thus, your habits will change. But this kind of change lacks the element of conscious design. Some of your habits will disappear, others will emerge and you will start behaving differently. How differently? Time will tell.
There is one more problem with this method: not everyone can afford it. It’s not so easy to change a job on a whim or move to another country, especially if you have family and life obligations.
When I decided to change my life at the age of 33, I had a day job, was married, had three kids and a 35-year mortgage to pay off. I could not drop everything and start a new life.
The Third Way
Another great way to change your behavior is to spend time with people you want to be like. Find people who have the spark and motivation. Mingle with them. Interact with them. That’s all. Human social nature will take care of the rest.
We are social mimicking machines. Everything, from body language and vocabulary to value systems, transfers from one person to another at a subconscious level. You can slow down or accelerate this process of osmosis only with your conscious effort.
The Fourth and Best Way
Meeting new people may not be an immediate option for everyone. I was shy like hell when I began to change my life. Others may be constricted by geography, physical disabilities or circumstances (it’s pretty hard for an ex-convict to get into the top tier of society right after getting out of jail).
Hence, the most reliable and available method to change one’s behavior is by changing personal habits.
The idea of habit does not include the size of the activity. Doing a pushup once a day is as much of a habit as working out in a gym for two hours a day.
When building new habits, don’t chase immediate results, aim for sustainability. If you can do something for 100 days in a row without fail, that’s sustainability. Michael Phelps can swim four hours a day, every day. You can’t. Aim for something YOU can do every day.
I recommend starting a couple of habits: one that will be directed toward your goal, and one specifically to fuel your motivation.
So, if you want to write a book, write every day. If you want to lose weight, exercise every day. If you want to graduate, study every day.
Remember, the scale is irrelevant at the beginning. It may be one sentence, one pushup or half a page from a textbook. Only sustainability truly matters, and it’s easier to maintain if your initial discipline is tiny. Also, keep in mind that “tiny” is subjective. One swimming pool length is tiny for Michael Phelps and writing 1,000 words is not a problem for Stephen King.
When I started developing my habits I decided on several 10-minute disciplines that might have been grueling for others, like reading a book written by a saint or studying database administration documentation. But they were small in my mind.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar
Whatever your primary discipline is, you should start also a habit of igniting and maintaining your motivation. You cannot just wait for it to appear. You need to cultivate it.
The range of options is wide: you can read your personal mission statement, look at a vision board or visualize your success (or your process of getting to that success; or both).
The key is to make it a habit, not to invent the fanciest motivational tool.
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