3 Steps To Turn Tiny Personal Habits Into HUGE Results

We live in a magic pill society.

  • Get rich in 30 days!
  • Lose 20 Lbs in 20 workouts!
  • Find the woman/man of your dreams in 7 easy steps!

After being exposed to so many different marketing messages, we start to believe that WE’RE SPECIAL (it’s everyone else who needs to figure it out!).

Ramit Sethi calls this “Special Snowflake Syndrome”, Andre 3000 of OutKast calls it “thinking your shit don’t stink” and Charlie Munger calls it “delusional confidence”. These phrases all point back to same fundamental flaws of human psychology.

  1. We can’t see how our daily habits affect us in the long term.
  2. We think we’re going to become an overnight success.
  3. We think we’ll avoid the decades of hard work that typically goes into building a life worth living.
  4. We think we deserve it.

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid the truth.

 

If marketers told the truth, it would look like this:

  • Want to get rich? Work your ass off all day/every day for 10-30 years doing the work that everyone else is unwilling to do. Solve huge problems and do it the best it can be done. Then you can become rich.
  • Want to Lose 20 lbs? Only eat vegetables, meats and high quality fats for a year. Avoid processed carbs and sugars, while living a low stress lifestyle and exercising everyday. Then you can START losing the weight.  
  • Want to find the Man/Woman of your dreams? Spend 20 years working on yourself and master your own psychology and become a dateable person. Learn to love yourself. Then go put yourself out there and meet new people. Then take 100% responsibility for everything in your relationship.

As you can see, the truth is ugly. It doesn’t sell.

If we want to make lasting change in our lives, it’s going to require a rewiring of our expectations. It mandates a change in our perception and a dedication to our craft. If we are going to remake the world in our own image, than it’s going to demand a fundamental paradigm shift.

We must execute thousands of habits each day that are in alignment with our big goals. The outcome of these actions (compounded over time) will result in our success or failure.  

We’ll call it the compound effect.

 

This post is for:

You dream big, but set realistic expectations. You realize that in order to become rich, lose weight, or meet the person of your dreams, it is going to require that you make a habit out of it. You understand the value of doing it everyday.

 

Invest in Your Success and Let It Compound

If we invest in the stock market and let it compound, years later we’ll have more money than if you put it in your checking account.

If we put $1,000 in our investment account (assuming an 8% return) we’ll have 1,080 in 1 year,  1,469.33 in 5 years, and $2,158.92 in 10 years. That’s if we don’t make any additional investments.

However….

If we put 1,000 in our checking account, we’ll only have 1,000 in 1, 5 and 10 years. In other words, you stay the same.

If you take withdrawals from your checking, you’ll have even less.

Our daily habits work the same way.

Imagine your success as an investment account. Each positive habit you execute puts a small deposit (+1) in your success account. Each deposit moves you towards your goals and builds on top of the previous day’s work.

Each negative habit takes a withdrawal (-1) and the value of your success account goes down.

Are You Investing In Your Success?

 

Bad Habits Sneak Up On Us

One of my best friends understands the power of tiny habits and their effect over time. After college he worked an extra job to pay the bills. Nothing crazy, just a few hours during the week and Saturday nights.

The extra time spent working caused his stress levels to elevate. Like many people, he handled the extra stress with Coke (the soda not the drug), Netflix, and pasta.

Because he was slightly more tired and stressed, each day he made the decision to go home and sit. The days flew by, watching the same TV shows and eating the same bad food. He gave up exercising, challenging himself and got comfortable.

A few years went by and he found himself at nearly 300 lbs.

It was a few small choices that he made each day that resulted in his dramatic weight gain (withdrawals from his success investment account). It didn’t happen overnight.

He knew he had to make changes and did 2 very smart things:

  1. He invested in his brain and bought a subscription to Audible.

  2. He invested in his health and started walking each day (listening to inspiring audiobooks).

Each day (regardless of the weather), he would put on his new audiobook and go for a walk. First it was just a 5 minute walk. Then it was 20 minutes. Soon he was walking more than an hour each day and his eating habits improved (no more soda, garlic bread and pasta).

With this simple strategy, he’s lost almost 100 lbs!

In a little more than a year, he has turned his life around. His eyes are brighter, he walks with energy and feels good in his own skin. Talk about inspiring progress!

He didn’t tell himself that he was going to go to the gym each day for an hour and exercise until he puked. He decided to make small changes and focus on making tiny progress each day.

Side Note: Because he was listening to inspiring audiobooks while walking you can actually see the clarity in his eyes (It’s like a few more circuits in his brain turned on).
 

The World’s Best Understand The Power Of Tiny Habits

If I had to choose one example of the extraordinary results of the compounding effect, it would be Bill Gates. His entire life is an example of how focus, hard work and consistent habits lead to extraordinary results. He’s made a lot of deposits into his success investment account.

  • As a child Gates read books (a lot of books). Each day, he spent many hours pouring over reference documents such as the encyclopedia. This habit continued for the rest of his life and he still reads 2+ hours each day.
  • As a teen he made the decision to skip lunch in the cafeteria and spend his time in the computer lab. This allowed him to become a leader in a new field and get ahead of the competition.
  • While at Harvard he continued the same trend. Each day he found himself spending more time in computer lab than in class. 
  • He and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen made the decision to start programming for the Altair computer. Their efforts soon turned into Microsoft.
  • Microsoft soon dominated the PC software world and we all know what happened next. [1][2]

Each investment Gates made in himself paid off. Over time, his success account compounded and became what it is today.

 

Your Call To Action: Where are you wasting time and energy each day?

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it

— Seneca

Step 1: What Habits are helping You and Which One Are Hurting You?

This exercise is designed to take you out of autopilot.

We are going to take an inventory of all of the behaviors, actions and habits that you do each day. Literally, keep a notepad or use your phone to record how you spend each hour for an entire week. Set a reminder on your phone to write down what you do each hour.

It will shock you.

The first time I did it, i realized I was spending 3+ hours each day on sports. SPORTS! I was living vicariously through the lives of others and didn’t even know it.

It won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which actions are hurting and which ones are helping.

Insider Tip: Install Rescuetime on your computer to see which websites you are frequenting. Or for the diehard super habit hacker, check out my post on the matrix method where you can set goals and track your daily habits. 

 

Step 2: Replace Your Disempowering Habits with Empowering Ones

In step 1, you found areas for improvement. Now, we are going to find a superior way to spend your most valuable resource.

Now ask yourself 2 Questions:

  1. Is how I am currently spending my time reflective of my values and my goals?
  2. What can I change so that my daily habits reflect my values and big goals?

For example: After doing this exercise, I realized that I was spending a few hours each day on sports. I value a athletics and being fit, however sports (to me) are just entertainment and not a lifestyle.

From there, I decided to go cold turkey on sports (not recommended for most people). That time was replaced by reading books, taking online courses or listening to inspiring audio programs. Those resources gave me the inspiration to start my first online business, upgrade jobs, get a pay raise and be happier throughout the day.  Literally every aspect of my life has improved since making that decision.

Your Turn.

Which bad habits are you going to replace? Write down whatever comes to mind. You should have a small list (3-5 things).

 

Step 3: TimeBlock

Now that you have a small list of empowering habits that are in alignment with your big goal, you must  timeblock.

How You Should Spend Your Free Time

Time Block Your Way To Success!

Time Blocking is simply, setting aside a block of time each day to do the habits that support your big goals.

A Few Examples:

  • During his Olympia days, Arnold Schwarzenegger blocked out 4-6 hours each day to lift weights. 
  • Mark Cuban sets aside 3 hours of his schedule to read.
  • Steven Pressfield writes 4+ hours the first thing in the morning.
  • Tim Ferriss meditates 15 minutes as part of his morning routine.

If you big goals motivate you, there shouldn’t be a problem with cutting non-value added time (TV, mindless internet shopping, Facebook) and replacing it with success habits .

One more thing…

Your timeblocked periods are sacred. It’s there so that you can do your work. Find a quiet place, free of distractions and get to work.
 

Key Takeaways:

It is the small decisions we make each day that ultimately decide if we are going to be successful or not. It never happens overnight.

The world’s most successful people have built habits around their success. Whether it was Bill Gates reading or Larry Bird taking 500 shots before school each day. They made the conscious decision to do the work that everyone else was unwilling to do. They focused on getting better each day and set time aside to focus on their success habits.

If you want to mimic their successes, do the same. Start making deposits in your success account and watch it grow.

 

Sources:

[1]  Bill Gates. (n.d.).  http://www.biography.com/people/bill-gates-9307520#early-career

[2]  Keller, G., & Papasan, J. (2012). The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Austin, Tex.: Bard Press.  

[3]  Hardy, D. (2011). The Compound Effect. S.l.: Vanguard Press.  

[4]  Schwarzenegger, A., & Petre, P. (n.d.). Total recall: My unbelievably true life story.  

 

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About Ben Austin

My friends call me the illegitimate love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Nye. I’m a bodybuilding-yogi-science loving-foodie bringing an engineering approach to lifestyle design. Join me as I analyze the systems that go into optimal mental and physical performance and explore the stories and tactics of people who set the standard for the rest of us.
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