Goals + “Taste” → Inspiration
Inspiration + Energy → Motivation
Motivation + Environment → Action
but there’s an entirely separate path that runs parallel to that one! And it’s very simple!
Habits → Action
And that, my friend, is the power of habits. If you have a habit to do something, you just do it! You don’t need to do any alchemy or tasting or inspiring or energizing or motivating! You just do it.
So, how does one go about acquiring good habits (habits that support our goals and our passions) and breaking bad habits (habits that distract from our goals and our passions)? You’d think that The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would have a lot to say about that. It has a bit to say about it, but not a lot. So I’ll use my friend Bill as a reference instead of Stephen Covey:
I have only a few hard rules, and they’re extremely rigid and specific. I spell out exactly what I have to do, and under what conditions I must do them. I only change them once a month. Any changes I want to make within that month go into my soft rules until my month is up. This helps me form a consistent habit.
Yesterday’s post was about motivational alchemy — what Bill called “soft self-discipline”, with “soft rules”. But he also talked about “hard self-discipline”, with “hard rules”. Is hard self-discipline completely unnecessary? Is it possible to be effective with just motivational alchemy and never forcing yourself to do things you really aren’t in the mood to do?
Sure, I think it’s possible to be pretty effective with just motivational alchemy. But, if you want to be even more effective, there is one really awesome use for hard self-discipline: creating habits. And get this! It’s possible to do it without resorting to fear-based motivational tactics! (I’ll have more to say about that in the next post.)
So I’ll write down an equation for it, because I’m on an equation kick with all this motivation stuff.
Commitment + Discipline → Habits
By “commitment” I mean making a commitment to yourself. Saying “This is important to me, so I am going to make a plan and be accountable for sticking to this plan.”
By “discipline” I mean the “hard self-discipline” that we’ve been talking about. Forcing yourself to do something even when you don’t feel like it at the moment, sacrificing your short-term desires in service of your long-term desires. Sticking to the plan you’ve committed to, even when you don’t want to at that exact moment.
Commitment and discipline used to have negative connotations for me. I used to associate them with fear-based motivation, and I wanted to avoid them whenever possible. But now I see how to make them positive forces in my life. I’m going to use them to create really excellent habits. And those habits will create actions that support my goals and my passions. It will be awesome!
Just think about one action where motivational alchemy is sluggish for you. Maybe you have a hard time tasting it, maybe you just don’t have enough raw passion about the goal to alchemize into inspiration, or maybe you have a lot of resistance to the action itself. Think about what it would take to create a habit for that action. Imagine how it would feel if you stuck with it long enough for it to become a habit, at which point it would require less of that hard self-discipline, eventually none at all! Feel how good it would feel to reach that goal, to establish a habit that made those actions effortless, or at least a lot less challenging. Then, if that positive feeling outweighs the resistance you feel, make a plan. Make a plan, make a commitment to that plan, and use self-discipline to stick to the plan. You’ll end up with a super awesome habit that will make you feel good all the time because you’re achieving your goal. And plus, you’ll be upping your credit score with yourself, because you will have earned your own trust in making a commitment and sticking to it.
And that is the power of habits. (: