Putting the ‘Bits’ in Habits.

How not to be mediocre at anything… by Timothy WesticebergIf you’re anything like me, every now and then you get this bright idea that you’re totally gonna follow through with until you’ve succeeded completely. You go full-throttle on this new idea and you may even make some real progress. And then you quickly get bored or burnt out and give up. This, my valued blog readers, is why I’m mediocre at…. life.

For instance, I’ll wake up one morning and say to myself “today is the day I’m going to start eating healthy and working out and I’m not going to stop until I am the fittest I can be!” So that same day I’ll chug lemon-water, drink my green-vibrance vegetable shake, eat only salads and lean protein, avoid bread at all-costs, give-up drinking beer, go for a ten mile run and be asleep by 11:00pm.

Three days later I burn out HARD. I’ll have a greasy breakfast sandwich, drink nine beers, and eat seven slices of pizza at midnight.

Fitness and wellness is only one of the hundreds of things that I’m decent at due to the terrible formula I follow. Writing, reading, business, soccer, networking, snowboarding, martial arts, haircutting, chess, running, speaking spanish, surfing, drawing, swimming, public speaking — to name a few also on that list.

However, the things I’m great at cannot even be made into a list because there are so few of them. I’ll prove it to you:

    • Parallel parking
    • Manhunt
    • …Damn it

Let me get to the point.. I just read James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. In it, he talks about how his dentist told him he needed to start flossing his teeth every single day. Most people who try to get into the habit of flossing stop after a short while because they see it as a lengthy, tedious process that they don’t enjoy doing. The solution: “floss one tooth, that’s it.” Suddenly, your brain will say “flossing is no longer a lengthy, tedious process that I don’t enjoy doing.” After a day or so maybe you go on to floss two teeth. It won’t be long until you’re flossing all 32 of those pearly whites because your brain no longer recognizes the process as a futile fight for dental perfection. The habit, then becomes just that.
So what does this have to do with being great at something?

Later on in Choose YourselfAltucher talks about how to write and publish your very own book. I thought to myself, “Hey I like to write, Altucher says it’s easy, I’m going to write a book!” I ran over to my computer, opened up Microsoft Word, and began listing a bunch of chapter titles that I could write about. Then I experienced a moment of clarity: “I should probably just floss one tooth first, before I try to get into the habit of flossing all my teeth, or else this will just be another thing that I am only half-decent at.”

So guess what?! I’m blogging now! I’m going to blog for a while, then maybe I will try to write a short story, then an essay, then maybe down the road I’ll be ready to floss all of my teeth and write a book.

In the meantime, I’m going to remain average at a ton of other things. Once I have succeeded at this, I will be ready to floss the first tooth of my next passion.

Taking baby steps is something that none of us like to do. As humans we are result-driven beings who thrive off of progress. Rarely do we care to recognize the ridiculous amounts of persistence and hard work that go into a success story.  That part of the story however, is the part of the iceberg that we don’t see. And so, if we don’t experience results immediately we (I) give up.

Going back to my fitness and wellness problems I mentioned before, I plan to implement the “floss one tooth at a time” plan. Next time I try to get into shape I will make changes that are sustainable over a long period of time. Maybe I won’t lose 10 pounds in the first week, but I will be able to endure the small sacrifices I make without burning out.

Like this? Then Watch:

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Or Read:

The One Quote We Wake Up to Everyday.


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