Trick yourself into a healthy default.

Create a good baseline, because they are easy to maintain. You have a baseline. A set of habits, routines and thoughts that you do and think regularly. This is what most people are: a personality that expresses itself through specific patterns. And whatever your habits are – gaining 1kg of weight a month, stressing about trivial things, overspending and impulse buying – they don’t take a lot of effort to do.

You have a baseline. A set of habits, routines and thoughts that you do and think regularly. This is what most people are: a personality that expresses itself through specific patterns. And whatever your habits are – gaining 0.3kg of weight a month, stressing about trivial things, overspending and impulse buying – they don’t take a lot of effort to do.

You don’t have to strain and try hard to be who you usually are, you just do what you always do. Habits are an effect of the optimization of certain processes that happen regularly. So your habits run with minimal effort. This applies to good habits and to bad ones.

Changing your habits uses a lot of effort. Really a lot. That’s why most habit change fails. To change your habits you need a sustained effort – against your normal, default settings. This sustained effort is what most people cannot do. But you don’t need to.

Successful people don’t use massive, sustained effort to change. They make one small, easy change. Then another. Then another. Their habits and momentum build, until they become unstoppable. Given that change, and not maintenance, is the hardest part of healthy and productive habits, how can we make change easier?

Given that change, and not maintenance, is the hardest part of healthy and productive habits, how can we make change easier?The easiest way to make change more attainable is to aim for smaller improvement. Instead of trying to go from a regular junk-food customer to a raw-only vegan in one go, decrease your junk food by just one meal a week.  Then lock in your gain (by turning it into a habit that is part of your identity). Repeat.

The easiest way to make change more attainable is to aim for smaller improvement. Instead of trying to go from a regular junk-food customer to a raw-only vegan in one go, decrease your junk food by just one meal a week.  Then lock in your gain (by turning it into a habit that is part of your identity). Repeat.

Another way to make it easier is by making the consequences of not doing it more painful: if you miss a workout and you know that 5 of your friends will be calling you to ask where you’ve been, then those excuses that sound sensible in your head suddenly disappear. Often all that’s standing between us and the habits we want to follow is a little bit of laziness.

Slow and steady is highly preferable to fast and inconsistent. If you have been eating a certain way for three months, you can say with a high degree of certainty that you will continue eating that way. If however, you have only been eating a certain way for the last three days, my bet is that you will revert to your previous habits. You need to convince your mind that this is the type of person you are, not just a fad that you are trying for a few days.

One minuscule positive habit change that you can carry off successfully is worth a lot more than a large, ambitious habit that fails to take root. E.g. By stretching every morning for just 5 minutes, I have increased the mobility in my lower back to the point where I can easily touch my toes. This is amazing feat for me because I never could! After the first two weeks, I gave it no more thought, yet it kept motoring away, increasing my flexibility with almost no effort.

Your happiness is also mostly static and returns to a baseline. Whether you win the lottery or lose both your legs, you will probably return to your baseline happiness level. Big events have a smaller impact on people than they suspect.

Something interesting can be deduced from these statements: changing habits are hard and can cause unhappiness or pain. Maintaining habits feel easy and do not have a noticeable effect on your happiness. Because they are always there, your mind stops noticing things that happen regularly.

To be a healthy person uses just as much energy than to be an unhealthy person. Being a healthy person will actually be even easier that being an unhealthy person: people who are healthy and in physically good shape have more energy than those people who don’t.

Most people don’t realize this and think that the intense effort needed to change unhealthy habits will have to be sustained for the rest of their lives. This totally demotivates them and then they stop trying.

 

Once you have good habits in place, you continue to reap their benefits almost without any effort. Compounding them with more good habits leads to exponential improvement over time. Start small, start today, and trick yourself into better habits!

To happiness, and beyond!

 

 

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One thought on “Trick yourself into a healthy default.

  1. I enjoyed the way you assessed the total state of humanness through small parts. Those parts being habits, of course. Incrementalism certainly can be a successful way to approach large life changes, because habits are definitely hard to kick. I am currently writing a similar post about finding the faults in your default. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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