“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Will Durant
Did you know the act of teaching others can significantly enhance your own personal development and mastery of a subject. This phenomenon is referred to as the “Protege Effect.” Studies have found that individuals who spend time teaching or tutoring others work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately, and apply it more effectively.
Some highly speculative research suggests that you and I make about 35,000 decisions per day.
How did they come up with that number?
I don’t know.
But the important thing is that we make more decisions than we think.
I remember in Joe Rogan’s jaw-dropping podcast interview with Yeonmi Park, a brave woman who escaped North Korea at the age of 13, Park said that the number of decisions she had to make after gaining her freedom (even when doing something simple like grocery shopping) was overwhelming, having grown up in a country where the only thing anyone ever thought about was finding their next meal.
For you and I, it doesn’t feel like 35 thousands decisions because the vast majority are automatic (like getting your morning coffee), and only a few actually require conscious awareness (like trying to decide whether to keep your kid home from school even though they might be — probably are — faking it).
What’s freaky is that those decisions — whether automatic or conscious — define us.
They define what we do, what we don’t do, and by proxy, who we become.
In fact, who you are now (who you’ve become) is just a result of thousands of previously conscious decisions gaining enough reinforcement to become automatic.
In the past, many of your current habits demanded conscious consideration.
Now they don’t.
For better or worse, you made those repeat decisions (and forged the bedrock of your habits) at a time when you didn’t fully understand how they would impact you over years or decades.
It wasn’t really a fair fight.
The good news is that you now know better.
You know who you want to be. And you know what habits and routines you need to build to become more of that person.
The question, then, is how do you replace your old habits with better ones?
Here are five dead-simple, science-back steps…
1. Start SMALL — You want to snap your fingers and change everything all at once. You can’t. Don’t try. Choose a single habit that you want to change in 2023.
2. Choose a Keystone Habit — You might be starting small, but that doesn’t mean you should play small. Choose a “keystone habit” that will “trigger widespread change”, in the words of Charles Duhigg. Exercise, for instance: “Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.” Other examples are eating healthy, making your bed, journaling, or meditating.
3. Don’t Try To Break Old Habits — Quitting old habits is far more difficult than replacing old habits (which is why people quitting smoking chew gum). Don’t think about how you can stop doing something… think about a new healthy habit you can build to replace the bad habit. Charles Duhigg calls this the golden rule of habit change: “You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
4. Make It So Easy You Can’t Fail — Want to run 10 miles every day? Start with a single step. Literally. James Clear writes, “Pick a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.”
Check out James Clear’s full guide to building and breaking habits here — it’s worth reading.
If we could visualize the paths you’ve taken so far in your life and if we could visualize the paths you still could take…
Perhaps the whole thing would look something like this.
I don’t know about you.
But I sometimes spend far too much time thinking about the past and what choices I could have made… thinking that I messed something up.
Look at the right side.
There are just as many choices (opportunities) before us as there are behind us.
Don’t dwell so much on the choices you could have made… focus on the choices that you still get to make.
Your current path can go in a thousand (a million?) different directions.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
Image of The Week
This Week’s Riddle
Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!
A girl has as many brothers as sisters, but each brother has only half as many brothers as sisters. How many brothers and sisters are there in the family?
This Week’s Journaling Prompt
Take some time to think through the following journaling prompt.
Life is short. What’s something you want to do more of that you’re not doing very much of recently?
This Week’s Challenge
Use the above tips to start building a new habit! It could be as small as drinking a nutritious drink every morning or as big as starting a writing or exercising habit.
Riddle Answer: Four sisters and three brothers.