I subscribe to the Everyday Method of habit formation. Doing something every day is easier, especially when forming a new habit. It might seem counterintuitive but doing something every day is easier than doing it certain days. You decide once and do it daily. You become an unstoppable machine. You don’t waste energy debating, you simply perform the routine at a specific time each day. Getting started, finally committing to act is the most challenging step in adopting new habits and routines. That first step can be intimidating. It requires a lot of guts and determination. It is very taxing to begin a new routine.
Starting small can help make that first step a little easier, but we will still need to overcome weakness and any negative self-talk that we may have told ourselves for years. Habits rely on our primitive subconscious brain that is condition through repetition. The sooner you get your reps in, the faster you will develop the habit. Overcoming bad habits and disempowering beliefs is difficult. We need to find pleasure in the new routine and link it to the long-term benefits it will provide. We need to connect pain to our bad habits. We must take conscious control of these linkages, these Nero-associations, or they will be created the subconscious level. Bad habits develop when we allow our subconscious to create these linkages because our subconscious brain only links the immediate results of an action to the action. It isn’t capable of long-term linkages; which is why all bad habits are created at the subconscious level.
Bad habits are like weeds that grow stronger roots over time. Removing them can be difficult. It is helpful to link them to the detrimental effects they are having on our lives and to link the new routine with the benefits it will produce in time. Progress is never immediate but is inevitable when we sustain positive action over time. The easiest way to develop a positive routine is using the Everyday Method.
Everyday removes the need to decide. The behavior becomes automatic. No need to stop and think about what day it is. Every day is Monday. I start virtually every day the same. I wake-up at the same time and the first hour is always the same. I thrive on the regularity. I love how it sets the tone for the rest of my day. That first hour is magical. It is life changing.
When you don’t do something every day, it feels like you are starting over again. It is more taxing. The ‘initiation phase,’ during which the new behavior is being formed, is the most difficult. That initial resistance during the first 5-days is especially taxing. It is like what scientist call activation energy. The energy required to put something into motion. This energy requirement is much greater than the energy to keep it moving. Launching a rocket is a great example. Most of the fuel is burned-up during the launch. Earth’s gravitational pull is strongest at the earth’s surface, and the still rocket must overcome inertia.
The mental trap that most people fall into when forming a new habit is thinking that the energy to start is the energy required to maintain the behavior. IT ISN’T! After you overcome the first 5-days of resistance, it will get a little easier. As you repeat the new routine, you enter into the ‘learning phase.’ Repeat the activity long enough, and you will transition to the ‘stability phase’ in which the habit is formed and will persist with minimum effort. Researchers at the University College of London determined that, on average, it takes 66-days for a new behavior to become a habit. The researchers said, “Our experience is that people are reassured to learn that doing the behavior gets progressively easier; so they only have to maintain their motivation until the habit forms. Working effortful on a new behavior for 2–3 months may be an attractive offer if it has a chance of making the behavior become ‘second nature.’”
Using the Everyday Method, you pre-decide what you will do at a specific time and place every day, and you do it. Without hesitation, you act. Using the Everyday Method, you eventually become a machine. You automatically execute the routine without a second thought, without a conscious decision. You decide once, and you do it daily.
When you do something every day, there is no hesitation. You don’t ask yourself, “What day is it?” Every day is the same. No days off. You just do it. The more consistent you are, the quicker the behavior will become a sustainable habit. When you only do something on certain days, it is like starting and stopping. You lose momentum, instead of building it. When someone that works out regularly gets injured and cannot workout, they have to start all over again. It requires a lot of motivation and self-discipline to start over. If you vary the type, duration, and intensity of your workouts, there is no reason you cannot exercise every day. We are designed to move and think every day.
I begin each day the same, weekday or weekend. I follow a specific morning routine that primes me for the day. Part of my morning routine is exercising for 20-minutes. I don’t do it because I am trying to lose weight. I do it because it energizes me and improves my mood and focus. There are other benefits, but that 20-minutes help set the tone for my day. Why would I only want to be energized on weekdays, or certain days of the week? Don’t you want to feel energized every day?
Another part of my morning routine is reviewing my journal. Yes, I have a journal. It isn’t a diary, as some might think. A journal is a great place to store your goals, ideas, list of things you are grateful for and record life’s lessons. When I read a book, hear a persuasive speech, or learn something valuable, I capture it in my journal. Then I review it each morning, and each afternoon. Written goals that aren’t reviewed daily lose their power because they don’t influence your daily behavior. A journal is a great place to put the lists of reasons why you now love to exercise and enjoy eating healthier.
Jim Rohn produced a fantastic program on how to keep a journal. One of the best suggestions he made was creating an index of the topics you write about in your journal, so you can quickly locate them again. I developed my index on a spreadsheet, so I could update it and reorganize it in alphabetical order. When my journal is complete, I will transfer the final index to the last couple of pages of the book. The journal will become an essential part of my extensive personal library. Speaking of libraries, did you know that expensive homes almost always have a library? Why do you think that is? Perhaps it is because successful people tend to be readers. Most CEOs read two or more books a month. A journal is a great place to capture great ideas. Don’t rely on your memory. “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” – Chinese Proverb
Why wouldn’t you want to review great ideas often? The more often you review ideas, the more ingrained it will be in your memory. Zig Ziglar often recommended you listen to an audiobook 16 times to absorb it. He said his recommendation is based on ”several university studies revealing that two weeks after you’ve learned anything new unless it’s reinforced, you only remember about 4 percent of it. That’s the first reason. So, by listening 16 times, the odds are that you will have absorbed the entire content.” The importance of repetition in learning has been known for ages. Aristotle said, “It is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency.”
Each time you listen or read a book, the more ingrained it will become. Each time, you will glean new insights. I would rather read a great book, a dozen times than a dozen excellent books once. Capturing critical points of a book, in your Journal, so you can quickly review them repeatedly until they become ingrained in your consciousness will help you translate knowledge into action. Just because you read something once, or attended a class once, doesn’t mean you absorbed it. If you read a great book that could improve your skills, but you never apply the material, did you absorb it? Repetition is the mother of learning.
You don’t want to read something until you understand it. You want to study it until you are practicing it. Then you want to practice it until you not only perform the skill well, but you can’t perform it poorly. The famous basketball player, Larry Bird, was filming a commercial in which he was supposed to miss a basket uncharacteristically. It took several takes before he could finally compel himself to miss. His inability to miss supports Aristotle’s opinion, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.