The Power of Mindlessness
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”
We only have so much time and energy so it’s useful to put a certain amount of our lives on autopilot.
For instance, I like not having to decide each day when it is that I’m going to go to bed and wake up and what I’m going to eat for breakfast. I’ve already decided those things. (Actually, in all honesty, I just eat what Tom puts in front of me.) That’s different than not deciding at all, and it’s different than making a decision each day.
This is on my mind because I’m taking a class in how to help people develop the habits that they’ve been trying to develop and not succeeding at. Habits around being more productive or exercising more or eating differently. Anything really.
So much of our lives and lifestyle depends on the things that we do each and every day. It’s better that those things support us and move us in the direction of our dreams and goals.
Have you ever tried doing something, even something that you really enjoy, and just having a heck of a time fitting into your life? For instance, a New Years resolution to go running twice a week, or give up eating chips, or go to bed on time?
If you’ve got a goal that’s important to you and you’re having trouble following through, you can make it easier by removing the need to make any decisions about whether you’re going to follow through or not.
Look for each point in the process where a decision is required, and then see if you can automate it by just making one decision.
Essentially you are making it so that it will require decision making energy in order to not follow through with the action, which, if it’s something that’s supportive for you, would be a good thing.
For instance, if you can see clearly why going for a walk every day would be desirable for you, then you can ask where the decisions come in to make that happen.
Will I go for a walk today?
When will I go for a walk today?
How far will I walk today?
Where will I walk today?
One place that new behaviors can get derailed is knowing that we want to do the thing every day (or every month, or 3 times per week), but not knowing exactly when we’re going to show up for it. That leaves us having to make a decision each time…which takes energy. Which then makes it less likely that the thing will happen.
At one point in my life I successfully showed up to do yoga 6 days a week, every week for several months because I knew when and where I would follow through. Not being there at the appointed time required a conscious decision for me to not follow through.
So, if you’re trying to develop a new healthy habit, or learn a language or an instrument. Don’t just decide that you want to do it. Also decide exactly when you’ll do it, where you’ll do it, what the duration will be, and any other details that are necessary for that habit (like maybe what you’ll wear or what equipment you’ll use). Once those decisions are made, you can prove to yourself that you can do it by showing up a few times. After that you’ll have to deliberately unmake the decision in order to not follow through.
That’s why appointments are so effective by the way. It takes so much energy to unmake them that we tend to show up.