The Simplest, Easiest, Quickest Way To Build Better Habits
The answer to building better habits is deceptively simple. Here it is:
Take whatever ideal you’re trying to accomplish and immediately do the simplest, easiest, quickest thing you can do that gets you nearer to it, even if only minutely so. Run one flight of stairs. Drink one extra glass of water. Read one page. Whatever action creates the least amount of resistance inside you, or that you can accomplish fast enough that your mind doesn’t have the time to build the resistance to it, do that thing as quickly as you possibly can.
What most people do wrong is try to climb the entire mountain before sunrise. They try to win the trophy during training camp. They decide - usually via a fleeting, unsustainable moment of inspiration (or even worse, self-loathing): “I’m going to get in shape” and instead of taking a moment to recognize and prepare for the long, arduous battle that accompanies any goal worthy of accomplishing, they rush out to join a gym, decide to train every other day, and after vastly overdoing the very first session, suddenly find themselves back on the couch, sore and deflated, cursing themselves for signing up for a year-long gym membership they know they’ll never use again.
Their mistake was failing to recognize that while the ideal might be the inspiration, it’s not the goal. The GOAL is to build a habit. To do something consistently enough - for a long enough period of time - that meaningful progress has no choice but to appear.
The battle isn’t even against the thing itself, it’s against the voice inside our head that keeps telling us that we can’t do it, that it’s too hard, that it’s not worth the effort, that we’ll never be enough.
And so that’s how we beat it, that’s how we win the war, by doing the simplest, easiest, quickest thing we can possibly do in that moment. And once we do that, instead of patting ourselves on the back and adding ten more items to the list - or immediately progressing to a much tougher challenge - we come back the next day and do that same simplest, easiest, quickest thing again. And then again. And again. And again. For a few weeks, at least. We do it at the same time, in the same way, again, and again, and again. Because we know now, we’re not trying to attain an ideal, we’re trying to build a habit. And habits take time.
So go ahead, try it out: build yourself a habit.
Find your thing, do it for weeks on end, and observe - in wonder most likely - how much less resistance your mind puts up when it’s finally time to move on and add a bigger challenge.
Because that’s the real win here, the true life-changing treasure: facing off against the voice in our head that says we can’t - and showing it who is the one that's actually in charge.
“I build habits,” I often remind myself, “whether I like it or not.”
Inspired by the teachings of Atomic Habits