The power of rituals and habits: they bypass (heavily) the maw of motivation and the womb of willpower.
And the only way for a behavior to reach habit-ritual status is through consistency.
This is why it's better to start small and build a behavioral backbone, even if the small behaviors themselves don't yield any results.
Because then, once there's less Resistance, you can build upon the behaviors.
Meaning once you make doing ten push-ups at 5PM your daily ritual, it's easier to then do ten chin-ups right after those push-ups. And then once you do those chin-ups, you can…
SUSTAINABLE > OPTIMAL
I'm reminded by a story Ramit Sethi tells:
I recently got a fascinating email from one of my readers. I had emailed my email list, asking “What’s something you CLAIM is important…but you don’t do?”
She wrote back, “I keep saying I want to run 3x/week, but I can never seem to do it.”
I replied: “Why not start once a week?”
Her response was amazing. “Why would I run once/week? That wouldn’t accomplish anything.”
She would rather dream about running 3x/week than actually run once a week.
Part of the reason starting small is hard (and not usually done) is because we don't zoom out and see the larger picture. The stepping stones.
We compare ourselves to some ideal, some idea we have of “perfection” that was (probably) informed by people we look up to and respect.
The ironic part being those people are speaking from an entirely different position. Meaning they have years and years of experience under their belt (otherwise you wouldn't be looking to them for advice), and the way they attack the world NOW is a lot different from when they attacked in when they were in a spot similar to yours.
They're relaying their NOW best practices, but they're neglecting the journey they took to reach those best practices.
For instance, I can write down what I eat right now. You can look at what I eat and use it as your idea of “perfect” and you can judge your behavior(s) based on mine.
But you're missing the fact that it took me an entire year to stop drinking carbonated junk. And I did it back in high school. I didn't change much else with what I ate until I was in college.
Most people that reach a respectable level of competence didn't get there in one big leap. They inched their way up, and, over time, the inches added up.
The problem being: our brain doesn't help us look back and respect the journey.
So when someone comes to me and asks me, “How do I get your results?” My answer is simple: I just tell them what I do.
But this is almost always the wrong question because it focuses on the PRODUCT rather than the PROCESS.
Maybe the better question to ask is, “Here's where I am now. What's one thing I can work on starting tomorrow in order to get me closer to where you are?”
And then understanding that said “one thing” might consist of many different things.
Drink only water (black coffee and plain unsweetened teas are okay).
I had to tackle this in phases. First, I got rid of carbonated sodas. I still let myself drink sweet teas and juices, et cetera…
Once I kicked the carbonation, I worked on the sweetened drinks.
Once I kicked the sweetened drinks….
And the funny part about this: I didn't know what I was doing. I was a teenager. I didn't have some master plan. I was operating (primarily) out of ignorance. I didn't think sweet teas were bad for you.
There's great power in ignorance (and not thinking too far ahead). If you have the knowledge and aren't ignorant, then you have to find solace in apathy.
The goal is to create habits and rituals, no matter how small. Because, once these are created, you can build upon them.
So the initial goal is to choose something sustainable over something optimal.
Accepting this requires you to take a PROCESS over PRODUCT mindset.
The expectation(s) you have about what something SHOULD look like are HUGE because they can derail you before you even begin.
And let's pick up there.