Small Changes for Bigger Gains

Mediocrity seems to have invaded your life. You need to set up a defense strategy, and then plan an offensive attack.

The Mediocrity

Over several years, I have built up some pretty good habits. I go to a few different gyms each week, run and cycle regularly, practice my guitar and languages, and read and journal daily. Although I don’t have much of a problem getting to Genesis Health Club a few times a week, I’ve hit a stale mate once I’m there. I may do a few exercises for my shoulder, and something a little more intense, but leave the gym feeling as if not much was gained. Same with the guitar. I have no problem picking it up and strumming a few tunes, but I’ve fallen away from my deliberate and purposeful practice.

Perhaps something similar is going on in your life. Maybe you have purchased the running shoes and have the idea of going running, but haven’t made it a habit yet. Maybe you’re wanting to begin a new hobby, but find yourself in front of the television or your smartphone instead.

Build Up Your Defense

To build up my defense, I listened to the audiobook Atomic Habits by James Clear. It turned out this is what I needed to hear and think about. Listening to this book helped me build a strategy of attack on the mediocrity that set in. I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to break bad habits and build better ones. Until then, I’ll share what I learned.

Let’s revisit the example of your desire to go running . You have the shoes, right? Start with something very easy. When you get out of bed for the next 5 to 10 days, put your workout clothes on along with your running shoes and take a step outside. Then make yourself go back in. Be strict. Don’t go for a run. Or even go with something more simple, by just going out of your bedroom door and then back inside.

The idea here is that you start with something really easy. After 5 or 10 days of doing this, you will see a habit beginning to form. After this habit building period, you can say to yourself, “well, I’m already dressed and ready to run, I might as well go for at least a jog around the block.”

Maybe you need to break a bad habit first before you can start the good habit (a new hobby). Bad habits are easy because they are friction-less. It is so easy to turn on the TV and flip through the channels, or just let Netflix and Amazon auto-play that next episode (so you don’t have to go out of your way and press a button on the remote).

Build friction into these bad habits. When you’re finished watching television, unplug the TV and take the batteries out of the remote.

Set a timer on your phone for a few minutes. Check what you need to check. When the timer goes off, power down your phone.

If you want to watch TV some more or check your phone again, it requires a little friction. About the same amount of friction that it takes to start that new hobby you wanted to start.

Offensive Strike

To combat the lackluster gym workouts and guitar sessions, I have inserted a habit building exercise that requires me to make a quick plan. I write down 2-3 intense exercises (usually I get ideas from Cross Fit websites) and stick to those. At the end of each guitar practice, I write down the exercises and lessons I will go through on my next lesson.

I’ve struck back at mediocrity. I want you to do the same.

Just go around the block on the run for several more days. It is easy, right? Let the habit build and take root. Don’t make it hard.

Key Takeaways

  • Build friction into the habits you want to break.
  • Erase friction from habits you want to make, and make them easy at first.
  • Check out Atomic Habits by James Clear and start reading or listening to this book and more books like these!

Feature photo by Scott Gruber on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Small Changes for Bigger Gains

  1. I haven’t read the book, but have used this form of ‘re-start’ many times. It works very well for me. I do need to lessen the gap in ‘time’ to begin my ‘re-starts’. LUV U MOM


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