“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Will Durant
Did you know that approximately 90% of all news stories from traditional media outlets are negative? Or that 95% of news headlines are sensationalist? It’s a problem… One that has encouraged separation, extremism, and “mean world syndrome”, making us think the world is scarier than it really is.
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– Mike & Alec
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 quit smoking and 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 the 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.”
5. Get Curious When You Slip — Don’t get angry with yourself when you slip up on your new habit, get curious. Ask yourself why you didn’t do it. Was it too hard? Do you need to start smaller? Should you change the time of day for your habit? Have you forgotten the long-term importance? Fix it if it needs fixed… and be honest with yourself if it doesn’t. Then get back up. You don’t need to be perfect. James Clear recommends “building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.”
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Image of The Week
This Week’s Riddle
Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!
What can you catch, but never throw?
This Week’s Journaling Prompt
Take some time to think through the following journaling prompt.
What is the most important keystone habit you need to build? Why is that so important to build for a happy future?
This Week’s Challenge
Choose a habit and walk through the process outlined in this email! The New Year is right around the corner. Now is a wonderful time to start planning out the keystone habit you’re going to build in 2023.
Riddle Answer: A cold.