“If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.”– BJ Fogg
Habits are what form the definition of who we are. The way we think, the time we spend on the things we do, the actions we put out into the world, and the way we react are all byproducts of the daily rituals and habits we perform. The beauty in creating free must then lie within our ability to shift the way we interact in our world; in my experience habits are not set in stone.
Let me share what I mean by a habit. A habit is a set action that has become a part of ourselves, almost an automatic action that we take without little thought. For example, brushing your teeth in the morning and at night before you go to bed, taking a shower before we start the day, and even the way we think through the challenges that occur in our daily life.
Some habits are good while others are, by our own definition, bad. So, if habits are not set in stone, can we not change our behavior to better our lives, the quality of our experiences, and the way we show up in the world?
I would like to think that the answer is yes. Not only can we change our habits, but I believe we can change our habits quite quickly.
Keeping up with habits inherently by definition takes time, but I would argue that starting habits effectively takes hardly any time at all, just a good mind set, some solid tools, and a really good reason you want to change your habits.
Now, I don’t believe that there is one silver bullet that will solve all life’s problems. In my experience, it’s more like a barrage of silver bullets. It takes a lot of bullets because we don’t always hit the target.
In that vein of thought, this is what worked for me. It is my hope that this repeatable pattern will work for you.
And, it all starts with this one simple thought: habits are formed in the subconscious mind not the ego.
Our subconscious rules most of our habits.
Like the subtext hidden within the words of a page or a script, so too does our subconscious dictate the way we show up in the world. The voice that we hear in our thoughts is what some would call the ego, or the thinking mind. I have found that sheer force of will, which is a trait of the ego, simply does not work to create a habit. The voice in my head is a fickle one. Maybe yours is too. Regardless, using the ego to start a habit has never worked for me in the long run. Those habits quickly die out for me to the woes of life’s challenges.
Habits then must be then programmed into my mind; that way we are pulled instead of pushed into the rituals that we deem will make our life better. We need to use our subconscious mind to create lasting habits.
I want to tell you how to I hacked my subconscious mind. Now, note that I am not a scientist. I have no credentials. To be frank, I have a Bachelors in Liberal Performing Arts (that’s a degree in acting folks). I am going to combine my postulations, share my results, and let you make a personal decision.
Okay, here we go!
The subconscious mind is the most active during the time you sleep and right after you wake up. This is a scientific fact. You know that feeling you have in the morning when you feel all groggy, have a hard time using words, and your thinking feels all bumbled? Yeah, that’s your subconscious firing louder than your ego. (Once again, I am not a scientist. If you are, please reach out and inform me further about nerological patterns of the subconscious mind during the average day cycle of a human.)
When I used to wake up in the morning, I would seek to get out of that groggy state as fast as I could. Whether that would be drinking coffee, immediately jumping into a shower, plugging into my phone, or rushing to work because I was “running late”.
This was bad. Why? I was forcing my subconscious mind to do what I told it to do all the while teaching it to worry about other people’s problems. This ultimately lead me to dealing with anxiety for most of my life, pushing off happiness for later when I “had it all”, and giving little space for myself to honestly be myself. I had built a very negative habit that prevented the creation of new positive habits.
One night I realized that I might be going about habits the wrong way. Over the next few weeks I did a shit ton of research, critical thinking, and personal meditation on what was going on. I simply couldn’t see clearly, and I wanted so desperately to be able to.
I broke through this negative morning habit, but it took a long time.
Once I cracked that negative morning habit through sheer force of will (which took more than half a year), I realized that it was going to take forever to build more habits this way. Then, one night I had a crazy idea: why don’t I figure out what I want to work on during the evening, and then I would do that the first thing when I got up. I had nothing to lose, so why not give it a chance.
I decided I would first try this with weight lifting. I will be honest, I was having a hard time going to the gym consistently; plus I had some major insecurities that would deter me from even wanting to show up. I felt so weak, too skinny, and simply had some past bullying issues that made it difficult for me to start this habit.
I remember waking up on day one, grabbing my gym bag (I had packed everything the night before), and heading out to the gym. I didn’t even have to think about what I was supposed to do, and within a few weeks I began to realize that it had become automatic. Score! Within a week, I had built a steady start to a positive habit of going to the gym. I gave it another two months, just to be sure, and miraculously, I was still going to the gym without fail, 5 days a week, every week.
I had built my first positive habit through this method. And, ever since then, I have been going regularly to the gym and my life is better for it. The craziest thing, it didn’t have to be in the early morning anymore. I could go to the gym whenever I wanted that worked for my schedule, and regardless of the time of the day, the habit stuck.
I got excited. Maybe I could repeat this with another habit.
I decided to try to build a habit around gratitude.
I had a hard time loving myself for a long time, and I wanted to get better at understanding the value of what I had in my life. So, I downloaded a few motivational speeches off of YouTube that talked about the importance of gratitude, set my phone to airplane mode, and went to bed.
The next day, I woke up and the first thing I did was listen to that motivational playlist. I let my subconscious absorb the material, and, without letting my ego take over, I would follow the advice these amazing humans were offering. Crazy thing is, this habit stuck too. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t even difficult. And, within a few months this habit led to be becoming far more grateful for my life as well as providing me with a much more positive outlook on life. This habit was one of the key pillar towards finding my personal happiness. Side note: I wrote a killer blog post called I Wake Up Happy Every Morning & Here’s How I Got There. Click the link, and save it for reading later.
Once again, I was please to find that I could do this habit whenever I chose now. To this day, whenever life gets hard and I need some inspiration, I pull out my motivational playlist, remember my gratitude, and push into the day.
Over the last 2 years I’ve built habit after habit using this method.
Since that time, I’ve done this with a vast majority of habits. So as to not share a really long story, here’s a list of the habits I have formed over the last 2 years using this method:
- Positive Thinking
- Drinking Plenty of Water
- Nutrition and Macro Management
- Practicing Dance 1 Hour a Day
- Actively Paying off Debt Faster
- Substantially Improving my Dating Life
- Listening to a Book a Month
- Reading Educational Articles Every Day
- Writing Two Blog Posts per a Week (for this blog actually)
The best part of this is that I don’t have to think about doing most of those things above. I want to do them, they are fun to me, and my subconscious pulls me to perform each of these habits every day. I’m not going to lie; it’s pretty cool.
The trick is building one habit at a time.
God, I have a story for you about me first trying to learn habits. This all went down about 4 years ago when I decided that I was going to have the healthiest morning routine in the history of morning routines. Not because I wanted to, but because that was what society said works best for being successful.
I can’t believe I’m about to share this story…
So, I posted publicly on my Facebook asking people what their best advice was for morning routines. I got a pretty decent list of about 30 things. I took the best of them, and I decided, the next morning, that I was going to do all of them. Using this logic, I figured they would become a habit, and I would become the ultimate morning-ritual-Justin-Timberlake-look-alike-badass-machine-of-a-man.
I was so very wrong…
It all started with me waking up at 5:30AM which was about 3 hours earlier than I normally wake up. I immediately dropped down and did ten push ups. I got up, drank a full 16 oz of water, and then dropped down and did another ten push ups. This was, for the most part, okay. It’s the next few things that made things go from okay to kind of bad.
I then took a shot of straight apple cider vinegar. Know that I had never done this. Image my surprise when I almost nearly lost last nights food and my cup of water all over the floor in front of me. I could actively feel vomit trying to come up. You know when you get those hiccup burps that are slightly unnerving like you are about to hurl? Yeah…I had those hard.
But, hell this is my new morning routine. I GOTTA GO! And, folks, it is only going to get better from here. And, when I mean better, I mean far worse.
So, somehow, god knows how, I dropped to the floor and started doing crunches, hiccup burps and all. (30 of them to be exact.) My stomach, yeah, 3 seconds from exploding, and my brain, I think I was having a migraine about to start. Even typing this is making me feel queasy…
I got back up, somehow, and then I promptly downed another 16 oz of cold water. But this time, instead of just water, I popped a Zinc and Vitamin D pill.
Here’s something that I didn’t know. Did you know:
“In some people, zinc might cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, metallic taste…”
Holy mother of all things hurled, my stomach went from a tornado before to a hundred tornadoes all with some serious attitude problems. I don’t know how I hadn’t throw up yet. To this day, I am amazed. But, hey, my morning ritual wasn’t over…The fun keeps coming!
I then dropped to the floor and did 30 of the most fitful crunches in the existence of mankind. They were straight up pathetic. My migraine was now in full effect, great. After that delightful workout, I started the shower, which was of course a cold shower, and promptly froze my goddamn ass off for 5 minutes as I “got ready for the day.” At this point, I don’t even know what my body was thinking. What I know was that it was not happy.
Shivering, about to throw up, and rapidly getting more and more hungry, which of course added to my migraine, I landed on my couch, turned off the lights, lit a candle, and started my 10 minute meditation.
Have you ever tried to meditate while shivering, about 3 seconds away from throwing up, all while knives stab at your brain, and having hanger attacks to boot? Well I have, and, you know what, I didn’t get any fucking meditation done. I mostly stared at the candle, praying to every deity I could think of to speed up the damn timer which, of course, I had hidden from my view.
The timer did go off, thankfully. And, then, with as much dignity as I could muster, I promptly went to the bathroom and had crying shits between throw-up fits as I texted into work that I would not make it in today due to feeling the absolute worst.
This was not the most epic morning routine. This was a routine from hell, and I was feeling the full wrath of my ignorance on habit building.
I did learn something that day, trying to change everything about your life in one day, yeah, that’s bullshit.
Unfortunately, I decided that habits were a piece of crap, and I didn’t touch the idea until 2 years later. Thank goodness I did. My life would not be as good as it is today without my habits.
So, here’s some action you can take today to start building habits that will support your life.
This is what I would recommend. I write down a list of all the things I want to do in my life and why you honestly want them. (You will need a very good reason why.) Once you have that list, write down all the things that you could do (habits) that would support that type of life decision. This is when the research comes in, and, if you are so lucky, ask people who you know who have already achieved what you are looking to do!
Now you should have a list of things you want in my life with your reasons why, and the habits that should, in theory, support them.
Some of those habits are going to be on the list a lot for multiple things you want in your life, so that’s where I would recommend you start.
Find your first habit you would like to start. Only pick one.
Then, set yourself up the night before and execute this habit first thing when you get up. BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE, ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTION.
Dedicate to a full week minimum, and, after that week is up, see how you are progressing.
It is my hope that you just might find yourself with your very new habit that will help you achieve the things you want to succeed at in life.
With love, as always,
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