I recently posted my first guest post ever, talking about my approach to habit building. In passing, I also mentioned that, every time I break a habit, I punish myself by paying $100 to an anti-charity. Quite predictably, that is the thing most people commented on. The tone was, “Oh, that’s an interesting idea but that’s taking it a little bit too far.”
To which I simply have to say: the danger is never overdoing it.
What do I mean by that? For 99.9% of us, the danger is never being “too strict” about success. Yes, there are the Michael Phelps and the Donald Trumps of this world, who, in everything they do, don’t seem to compromise. But those are very rare exceptions. THEY might actually profit from cutting themselves some slack every once in while, instead of constantly driving themselves to exhaustion. But is that you? Are you a Donald Trump or a Michael Phelps? Did you ever spend 5–6 hours in cold water, 5 years straight, no day off? Me neither.
The natural inclination of most people is to take it easy on themselves. I’m no different. We take the little pleasure we get in life: we eat that chalupa at Taco Bell, we have a few too many at the weekend, we gossip around the water cooler. And yet at the same time, we crave success. We admire people who have a mission in life and pursue it relentlessly. We obsess about celebrities and their exalted position in life, their fame, their money, their power. Admit it: you too have fantasized about being one of these outliers. Most of us do on a regular basis.
So in essence, we want to be successful. But at the same time, we don’t really want to take the steps or build the habits that get us there. It’s just so much damn work. And what’s even worse: it requires so much damn patience. We want success right here, right know, but without any real cost to ourselves.
Do you know what you call a person like this? A hypocrite.
So how do you avoid being a success hypocrite? By chipping away at the same thing, every day, over years. As I wrote in my guest post, not every single one of these days has to be über-productive. Heck, not even most of them have to be. But you have to establish the habits so that when the right day comes around, you will get a lot of meaningful work on your most important projects done; this way, making up for the majority of your less productive days.
To get this straight: Chipping away at a thing on daily basis over years is something very different from constantly pulling all-nighters and the like. You DON’T want to overexert yourself in one giant act of effort, what I call “Radical Effort”. If your goal is somewhat complex, you won’t get there in 4 weeks. And putting the rest on your life on hold, to die trying, is not very sustainable. Success is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you think about it this way, sticking to your habits on a daily basis becomes vitally important. In a sense, your life depends on it: it’s the deciding factor if you will get to live an extraordinary life or if you will waste it on petty pleasures. But sticking to your habits over YEARS requires more than good intentions – those never stand the test of time. That is exactly why 99.9% of us never go through with it. We just don’t have the patience and life always gets in the way, sooner or later.
To sum it up, our dilemma looks like this:
- We all crave success, we all want to do something extraordinary with our life, whatever that is.
- These life goals we desire tend to be complex ones, that cannot be solved by radical effort in a short amount of time.
- Instead, we need to chip away at these goals on a DAILY basis, over years; if you don’t, you won’t reach them and your life won’t change.
- But even having understood that intellectually doesn’t help much, because psychologically, we want success right here, right now, not in 10 years from now.
- So as a consequence, we don’t stick to a daily habit regimen, at least not over years, like we would have to.
- The result: we don’t reach our life goals and just fantasize about them; you become a success hypocrite.
So, start to wrap your head around it: extraordinary results require extraordinary measures – if you like it or not. If the idea of paying $100 bucks to an anti-charity every time you break a habit appalls you, that means either one of two things. You either don’t understand that sticking to your habits over years is the key to success but at the same time very hard work; good intentions won’t get you there. Or you are simply not serious about success, because deep down you’ve already admitted to yourself, you won’t go through with your chosen habits anyway. Either way, you lose.
Don’t be that person.