For those of you who are suffering and feeling bitter and resentful about where you are in your lives, I ask that you ask yourself one question:
What stupid things have I been doing that are wasting my time and energy?
If you’re willing to be honest, I bet you can find at least 5–10 things that you can stop doing to change your life for the better.
Do you spend too much time on social media?
Do you spend too much time playing video games?
Do you find a compulsive need to look at pornography and masturbate?
Do you spend too much time browsing youtube, watching random and useless videos that bring no value to you?
Does your diet only consist of unhealthy food? Are you not being cautious with your sugar intake?
Do you feel too lazy or unmotivated to go out and join a gym or go for a run?
Do you indulge in habits that destroy your body? Do you drink alcohol excessively and smoke cigarettes often?
Now, this is not to say that no one should ever do anything on this list. In fact, we engage in some or most of these activities because they bring us momentary satisfaction. They make us happy for a short amount of time and allow us to distract ourselves from the stress and anxiety that we face going through our daily lives.
I don’t expect any one of us who indulge in any of these activities to drop them cold turkey and strive to live like a perfect, healthy, and productive human being. We can certainly strive to become ideal versions of ourselves, but expecting radical changes to stick after years of building and enjoying the effects of these unhealthy habits is unrealistic.
The biggest mistake that people make when trying to get rid of their bad habits is to burden themselves with a regimen that even the strongest Spartan soldier would struggle with.
They get overzealous with the momentum and adrenaline that they’ve built up, end up tyrannizing themselves with rigorous and unrealistic schedules, inevitably leading to a burnout and opening the door for the bad habits to come back with a vengeance.
Many people lose motivation and quit their initiatives after a few weeks or even a month. This can crush self-confidence and makes it harder for people to try again — why try when the results are probably going to be the same?
Instead of analyzing why they failed, they see themselves as inherent failures and lose trust in their own abilities to change their own lives.
I would implore people to have more faith in themselves. We all have the ability to change and improve ourselves — it’s just that we’ve been tackling our problems the wrong way.
We’ve never set a plan for ourselves, made proper commitments, and have burdened ourselves with too much change in too short of a time range.
I’ve found that the best solution to change your life and destroy all the bad habits you’ve adopted is to take them apart one by one. We have to tackle each bad habit one at a time, and the best way to do that is to center your focus on changing one aspect of your life.
Building a keystone habit will help sever the other habits you’d like to erase from your life and create a strong foundation that makes it easier for you to create newer and healthier habits.
I started changing my life with one keystone habit — doing pushups at home. The thought of joining a gym can stress you out because it makes you think about the technical details.
- How far is the gym from me? How much is membership going to be? Will I go for a week and end up wasting money? I don’t even know how to use the machines or the routines I can do for my workout. What if I look stupid and clueless? What if people make fun of me in their heads?
You now have no need to worry about any of these financial or social concerns. Just start at home and set a goal for yourself. Set aside a time every day (maybe 30 minutes to an hour) just to complete this habit. Set the goal high but not unrealistically high.
If you can only do 1- 2 pushups in succession, you can just do them and rest. You can also congratulate yourself — you did 1–2 more than you’ve ever done before. This will put you in a great mood and will encourage you to try to do at least 1–2 more.
In no time, you’ll find that you’re able to do maybe 10–20 in a day. Before long, you’ll be able to do 10–20 in succession, and your daily count can rise to 100. The best part is, you’ll reap the rewards extremely quickly. You’ll start to notice that you don’t feel as tired or as sore the more you keep doing pushups.
Baby steps, patience, and encouragement will help you build this habit.
Once you’ve gotten this keystone habit in place, do you know what will happen? You’ll recognize that you do have the ability to change yourself and you’ll start looking into other parts of your life that you can fix.
You’ll start critically examining which parts of your life can use some work. Maybe you need to stop spending so much time laying around and watching Netflix or Youtube all day.
Maybe you need to get to bed an hour earlier so that you can be more energized the next day. Maybe you need to start learning how to cook instead of eating take-out Chinese or pizza for dinner.
The things you need to fix in your life will lay themselves out in front of you. With a keystone habit in place, you can start tying that habit with other habits.
After 10–20 pushups, why not read a page or two of a book? Why not listen to a podcast or an educational Youtube video while you do pushups? Why not write a few words about your experience after you do the pushups? Why not try to meditate for a minute or two and see what the experience is like? Why not go for a walk around the block or neighborhood?
Also, to help with decreasing the time you spend on bad habits, you can tell yourself that you will not engage in certain activities until you finish something you find productive. This way, you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in some of what you call “bad habits” and instead consider them as rewards.
For example, you can tell yourself that you will finish your push-ups and read a couple pages of a book before you watch an episode of your favorite Netflix show or browse through Instagram. Since you’ve finished everything you told yourself you’d finish, you can now reward yourself and refrain from tyrannizing yourself by not allowing yourself to have any fun.
You will, however, have to be fair in evaluating how much you should be rewarded for the work you put in. If you only do 5–10 push-ups and read 2 pages of a book, you shouldn’t be binging on Netflix for 3 hours. Maybe one episode can be justified.
If you want more, you have to work harder. Sooner or later, you will find that the Netflix shows you used to find so much joy in will give diminishing returns.
Why? Because you start to think of how many other things you could be doing instead. You start to think of the other parts of your life that you can change once you start to see the incremental improvements that appear from your keystone habits.
Another variation of the initial question that I presented to you is:
“What stupid thing can I stop doing for a month that will make my life a bit better?”
What kind of habits came to mind when you asked yourself this question? And then ask yourself the following question:
“Am I willing to do what it takes to stop doing it? Do I ACTUALLY want to improve my life, or am I just saying that to make myself feel better?”
When you believe in something, you’ll act it out. I don’t care what you tell yourself and other people. Talk is cheap. Actions truly speak louder than words.
I don’t respect anyone who talks excessively about what they want to do and what they want to achieve but never acts upon their words.
You can say whatever you want, but I will know what you truly believe based on your actions.
How much better could your life get if you stopped doing just ONE stupid thing a month?
How much closer could you get to your goals if only you stopped wasting your time with meaningless and useless activities that give you short-term pleasures?
Ask yourself the aforementioned question with radical honesty. If you want to change, you’re the only person who can make it happen.
Originally Published on Medium