The key to finding discipline and productivity
I have been a vegetarian for 7 years. Often people ask me if I don’t get tempted to eat meat. Not once in all this time.
I turned eating meat into a no-question. 7 years ago I made a decision to not do it. It’s better for my health, for the animals, and for the environment.
It was a conscious, informed commitment. No need to question it every time I sit at the table.
Humans are excellent at tricking themselves. They believe their future self will have the same clarity of mind and willingness of heart as their ideal self.
They decide to go to the gym 3x per week. Their current self is happy. “I am a healthy, sporty, motivated person”, they congratulate themselves. But their current self did nothing except deciding on something. It’s the future self who will have to do the hard work.
When the time comes, excuses pile up:
- I have to help my kid with homework
- My back hurts
- A raccoon ate my gym card
Our brain tricks us into believing we have a legitimate reason to not do it today.
Rules Give You Freedom
I like to jog in the morning, right after waking up. But when I lived in Budapest, it was hard sticking to a routine in the winter because it was too cold outside.
Waking up in a warm degree bed, I would freeze at the idea of jumping out of it and onto the street. So I created a rule: I was allowed to skip a session if the temperature was below zero.
But if it’s not an exception, it’s a no-question.
Our brain should not have a say in it. The minute we let it start talking, it will convince us on trading long-term goals for instant gratification.
The trick is to shut up our brain before it even opens its mouth. To turn our hardest, most important commitments into no-questions. To not create room to ponder or alter the decision we made before.
We decide to stick to our decisions the same way we go to work every morning, even when we don’t want to. We don’t stay in bed wondering if we should call in sick every day. It’s a no-question.
Sticking to a decision for long enough turns it into a habit. You naturally stop thinking about it and just go with it.
This way, your future self, and your ideal self will be more and more the same person.