Be a slave to good habits
‘Thus, the first law I will obey above all others — I will form good habits and become their slaves’
From the ancient scroll marked I
Freedom is good. Freedom is something we all need and enjoy having.
We get to decide what we eat, what time we sleep, if and where we go to work, who we spend our time with, what we want to do with the rest of our lives.
But freedom without limits, without direction, is a dangerous thing.
I’m the biggest advocate for liberty; I’ve been fighting for my ‘rights’ since I was a kid. I would never let anyone impede on my freedoms — no matter who they were. From my family members at home to teachers and wanna-be bullies at school.
I wasn’t a bad kid by any stretch — I respected my elders, attended classes, did pretty well in my exams. But if I believed I had a right to do what I was doing, I didn’t allow interference from others.
Needless to say, that got me — or should I say my backside — in hot soup too many times to count. But no matter how many times I was ‘corrected’ with physical punishment, it never changed what I believed.
Was I right all the time? No. But my way of thinking was just different from others. I believed in freedom of action and expression so long as it did not impede the freedoms of others. As such, rules were generally a nuisance for me.
However, later in my life I came to see that rules exist for a reason : To teach us discipline.
If we gave in to our every impulse and desire, what would the world look like?
How many of us would even get out of bed in the morning?
If you were accidentally charged less than the actual cost of the item you bought or given more money back than you were supposed to get, would you speak up?
Would you obey the traffic lights when you’re late to work?
Most of us would be overweight from spending our days sleeping, eating, and watching TV.
Broke from buying everything we lay our eyes on; sick from excessive consumption of unhealthy things and people.
And in various ways, the above is already a reality for many of us.
How do you avoid or get out of it? Good habits and Discipline.
Good habits are the practices required to have a better life: eating a balanced diet, exercising, planning ahead, limiting consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful things, getting enough sleep, working hard, saving, investing, reading, peak experiences, widening your repertoire of skills, building connections, spending enough quality time with family, being grateful and so many more.
Most of these things are in line with our fundamental nature as human beings. We all want to be well-off, have happy families, look good, feel good and live long peaceful lives. So naturally we should want to do practice these good habits. But our innate desires and impulses normally crave the opposite.
When it’s time to get out of bed, we want to stay in. If it’s time to exercise, we find excuses.
At work, when it’s time to focus and work, we find distractions.
And when we know we should add veggies to the plate, we choose more fries instead.
Instead of facing our problems and finding ways to solve them, we procrastinate or turn to alcohol and drugs to help us forget.
How do we combat this? Discipline.
What is discipline? Discipline is the practice of obeying a particular standard of behavior or system of governance.
It is pushing through even when you lack motivation.
So it’s not about what you want. It’s not about what you feel like.
It’s about doing whatever you have to do to get where you want to be.
“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling, than feel yourself into acting” — Dr. Jerome Bruner.
5 simple steps to acquire good habits:
1. Identify your goals across all the sectors of your life.
God, health, family, income, network, future.
2. Write down, in detail, exactly how you’re going to achieve those goals.
You will undoubtedly experience some difficulty as you do so, given you can’t have the answers to questions you’ve never faced before. But it’ll be fun too because solving those questions is what will help you grow and get to where you need to be.
3. Form good habits that will lead to you achieving those goals
Identify the actions, routines, and environment that will make it inevitable for you to hit your goals. Apply them immediately and continue to make an effort every single day, without fail.
Set reminders in your phone so when you inevitably forget, you’re still covered.
4. Record and track your progress daily to keep yourself honest and on the right track.
Without proper recording and analysis, we’ll always fail to hit our targets. It may seem like unnecessary extra work, but it’s all that’s keeping you from becoming soft on yourself and allowing your standards to slip — and going right back to square one.
5. And when any of these gets hard for you, repeat the mantra
I will form good habits and become their slaves.
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