Life is a box of Pringles, the more you take, the more you’re going to take. It is a series of “just one more,” each action you take in the present dictates how likely you are to repeat that action in the future.
In his book, The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely calls it “self-herding.” He describes two versions of self-herding:
The Specific Version. Self-herding comes from remembering the specific actions we have taken in the past and mindlessly repeating them (I brought wine the last time I went to dinner at the Arielys’, so I’ll do that again”). This kind of past-based decisions making provides a very simple decision recipe — “do what you did last time” — but it applies only to situations that are exactly the same as ones we’ve been in before.
The General Version. Another way to think about self-herding involves the way we look to past actions as a general guide for what we should do next and follow the same basic behavior pattern from there. In this version of self-herding, when we act in a certain way, we also remember our past decisions. But this time, instead of just automatically repeating what we did before, we interpret our decision more broadly; it becomes an indication of our general charter and preferences, and our actions follow suit (“I gave money to a beggar on the street, so I must be a caring guy; I should start volunteering in the soup kitchen”). In this type of self-herding, we look at our past actions to inform ourselves of who we are more generally, and then we act in compatible ways.
Because none of your decisions are made independently of each other, your short-term decisions has more influence over the direction of your life than you would think. Basically, whether or not you hit the snooze button in the morning directly influences whether or not you decide to go to the gym after a long day.
This has never been more evident to me than these past few days.
I’ll come clean.
These past few days, I haven’t been diligent on my 730 hour journey. And with each day that passed, it becomes harder and harder for me to fall back into my previous routine, especially the “wake up at 5:45” part of the routine.
What I’ve learned is hard isn’t so hard when you do it everyday. Introduce an interruption, however, and any hill becomes a mountain.
There are no excuses though, like Gary Vaynerchuck says:
“Excuses are negative ROI.”
I understand in the grand scheme of things, my taking a few days off won’t be something I’ll remember when this chapter closes.
But I realized something important.
The past, while it does affect our situation in the present, is still only one variable in the equation. Just because you’ve always been one way, doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way.
Just because I was lazy and undisciplined for a few days, doesn’t mean that I’ll be lazy and undisciplined for the rest of my life or even the rest of the week.
And likewise, just because I worked hard for a couple weeks doesn’t mean that I’ll keep running my routine indefinitely.
It takes energy.
It takes self-awareness.
And last not least, it takes confidence. Confidence to become to person you want to become, every second of the day.
What do you want to become?
More positive, more productive, more confident?
Whatever it is, all you have to do is start building, piece by piece, step by step.
And it starts right now.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb