*VIDEO AT THE END OF THE BLOGPOST*
The quest to find flexibility in my schedule and the desire to live up to certain standards I had read about in books made me adopt certain behaviours which would pass off as ‘self development’ behaviours. Although I did these without full knowledge of the benefits then, it gave me a sense of urgency and responsibility which I was comfortable with. The other benefits which I only realised after cognisance of the fact that these habits which had already become a “ritual” were actually self development habits was just a plus.
This started with the small things and implementing them wasn’t as difficult for me since I’ve always been one to follow a strict routine and schedule out every second of my day.
These habits include journaling, taking cold showers, quitting sugar, meditating, eating healthy, working out and waking up at 3:00AM.
*Now for the purpose of this blog post we’d limit our discussion to 4 of these*
Some of these practices I don’t regard a novelty as they were a natural call to action. Peculiar of these is journaling. Journaling was the piece I needed to solve a difficult puzzle in my life and that’s to say the least. My previous ‘Thursday Talk’ elaborates everything about my journaling experience. I’d link it here for interested viewers.
The initial idea wasn’t to make all these habits stick forever but to simply try new things and push myself to do things that I hadn’t done before. Well let me tell you, I learned a lot. I screwed up a lot too hence this blog post; a dissection through the entire process that is the good things and the bad, the areas where I completely screwed up so you guys could use my results as a template and avoid making the same exact mistakes that I did.
Alright, let’s just get right into it.
I distinctively remember thinking to myself early on that I’m probably over committing here. I continuously questioned myself, my motivation and my motive for doing these stuff because over time it became a vicious cycle. The things I was doing to grant me calm started to haunt me when I failed to pull through with them. What I’m trying to say is that it started to add to my worries.
I can tell you firsthand that I made a lot of assumptions about building habits that I eventually realised were wrong. Along the line I did some hard thinking about the situation and eventually realised that I began to feel drained by my habits because I was trying too much. Back in 2020 I decided to develop one habit a month, and a new habit next month and so on for an entire year. That’s twelve new habits that I’d have developed and brought into my life. That as it turns out was a bit more ambitious than I had thought. It sounded great in theory, but completely impossible in practice. It was difficult enough for me to keep these habits going for thirty days, but to layer them on top of each other and stack them on top of each other over the course of the year. It was absolutely unrealistic. The disappointing side of that was that I learned firsthand just how difficult building a habit truly is but then on the positive side I realised that you actually don’t need 12 habits to live a really good life.
The sentiment behind my original statement is that it’s better to start slow and steady and take things one thing at a time. And that has definitely been proven through my own life experience. Build just one habit at a time instead of trying to tackle five in one month. If you focus on the right habit, it can cause a ripple effect throughout other areas of your life. You just have to choose wisely where to start for yourself.
So if I were to pick three habits that have changed my life the most I would choose exercise, eating healthy and working on my blog. I would count working on my blog as a habit because it was something that I had to build into a routine. Something that I had to do every day, regardless of how much money I was making. And for all of these habits that was the greatest investment I made. I allowed time for it and worked on it when I didn’t feel like it, when I didn’t have the time and when I didn’t think things were actually going to work out. When I showed up and just did the small things each day, that’s when I saw the biggest growth in the long run. It wasn’t from journaling daily or waking up at 3am.
When I built the habit of exercising on a regular basis that changed everything for me. That was the spark that led to so many other positive changes in my life. It was just doing one very simple thing on a regular basis.
Now there are other habits (waking up at 3am, doing intermittent fasting and journaling) that I read about in books and decided to implement. Now although these were absolute game changers for some people I learned they didn’t help me nearly as much. Now this is really important because we often hear what’s worked for others, especially those who have achieved some level of success and we think that’s the reason why they became successful. The truth is that there are hundreds and hundreds of factors that go into someone’s success. Some that are controllable others that aren’t. Some are completely arbitrary and others might happen to work for that person but not for you.
I think the results of the one experiment that surprised me the most was waking up at 3am every day. Ideally I wake up at 4:00am because of school. That meant I was losing an extra hour of sleep. I was so certain it would change my life for the better and I would be crazy productive and efficient during this time.
But it ended up being a complete nightmare and ruined my sleep schedule and thus my productivity. I had to reorient my entire routine by going to bed early and cutting corners where necessary because it is important for me to get my blood pumping through my morning jogs. Most importantly I hate to rush my mornings so it was requisite that I have enough time to myself. Now I think this is a valuable lesson. First, it made me more confident in my previous schedule and made me understand my body better. Instead of feeling like I was being lazy for retiring to bed early I realised I was just giving my body what it needed, which was sleep. I also learned how much I value flexibility. While I love to have a structured routine and keep myself on my toes my body needs rest. So yeah, waking up at 3am every day was a struggle initially but I managed to pull through with it by making a few adjustments. It might not work for you which is totally fine. Don’t beat yourself down over it.
I also decided to cut hot showers and take only cold showers throughout. I tried this out of curiosity and it was only for a month. I had read about it in many self help books I just had to see what the fuss was about. Now this wasn’t because of the physical benefits; whether it reduces inflammation, reverses muscle soreness or heals a chronic illness. I’m not really sure if that’s true neither did I pay any particular attention to my body’s response to corroborate any of those facts. The real reason I did it was to embrace what David Goggins calls “callousing the mind”.
It’s about becoming stronger in the mind, so we can take whatever life throws at us; callousing our minds so we don’t flinch when making difficult decisions. By doing something that is hard just because the other side is better we can deal with challenges more gracefully.
As individuals we flinch in so many ways and we prevent ourselves from doing the things that we really want to do in life. For me, I was flinching pretty hard when I was thinking about starting my blog. Currently, I flinch every time I have to put myself out there; social media posts, blog posts, etc. I would hope that it doesn’t have to be that way but then I remember that no one achieved anything in their comfort zone so I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. For you, it may be starting that YouTube channel, blog, trying photography for the first time or taking cold showers. The point is the more we push ourselves into discomfort, the more we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities.
There was something else I got from taking cold showers every day and it was the same thing I got from quitting sugar. These two experiments were really about deprivation. By proactively removing something from my life every day I grew to appreciate it even more and I also grew more resilient. I realised that if I just had to I could live without warm showers and sugar but thankfully I don’t have to. I’m not gonna do it. I could do it if I wanted to but I won’t. I mean why would I give it up? I don’t want to. I’m not going to do it. I can’t do it ever again.
The thing’s no matter what kind of luxury we’re used to, if humans are good at one thing it’s adapting. I personally learned that by pushing through these moments of deprivation and pain it made me much stronger than I otherwise would have been.
Strength is not born from strength. Strength can only be born from weakness. So be glad of your weaknesses now, they are the beginnings of your strength.~ Dr Clair
As physical strength can be built upon a scrawny frame, so to can mental and emotional strength. It takes work though, and courage to face these failures and shortcomings. The only real way to strength is through pain.
I do think it’s worth mentioning just how truly difficult it is to stick to building these habits back to back to back, to back to back to back to back.
I am really hard on myself to stay consistent and keep up with each of these habits and stay committed every single day.
Even with my desperate loyalty to these habits, I fail a lot. I miss days. Like journaling every day while trying to keep up with my academics and my fitness schedule at the same time. I’d come back from school at the end of a long day pretty exhausted with a huge chunk of slides to catch up to and a blog to update. I’d usually scribble down a few notes into my journal and be like, well, there it is. I journaled. Interesting thing’s, it’s not that I didn’t have anything to write about. I actually had a lot to write about but I didn’t have time to talk about my day/problems because time wasn’t my best ally. Moreover, I wasn’t ready to get emotional. Yes, I said it. Then I’d feel immediately guilty for not really showing up and failing to commit to my habits. That started to weigh on me in a way that was probably unhealthy. I am open and transparent about my failures, but I still put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to follow through even when things aren’t working out. Now this is entirely because of my ambition and drive to do things quote-on-quote the right way.
This is just a reminder that I need to put my health and my wellness first above this religious dedication to an arbitrary lifestyle.
Managing my own crazy high expectations and not being too hard on myself when things aren’t going according to plan becomes a challenge in and of itself. I have to continually remind myself that this is just a part of the process and if I am not getting the results that I am looking for or if I keep failing and messing up, that is okay. It’s okay to fail and that is something that I’m still learning. But the older I get, the more I realise that putting this kind of crazy pressure on yourself; to be perfect (if that’s even a thing) is probably not going to make you happy in the long run.
So if you did the math at the beginning of the blog post up to this point, you’ll realise that I’m not exactly consistent with my routine as much as I would like to but that’s not the point. I took initiative and followed through and that what’s really important. I had a nervous excitement about quitting sugar and hot showers. They were really fun to me and as time passed the struggle I had was layering these habits on top of the other. As I aforementioned, I started journaling at a pretty early age of 12 and working out was a natural call to action. The rest were largely a selfish practice.
I guess the take home message is that even if you do make a commitment to something and you really give it a shot, you don’t always have to follow through when you have a genuine cause not to. This is what Seth Godin calls the dip.
“To be a superstar, you must do something exceptional. Not just survive the dip, but use the dip as an opportunity to create something so extraordinary that people can’t help but talk about it, recommend it, and yes, choose it.”
Even when you battle through those really difficult parts you must ask yourself, “is this something worth continuing”, “is this something that you truly enjoy” or “is it something that’s worth quitting so you can dedicate your time to other things you are really interested and passionate in”.
All these habits that I took on actually stuck like quitting sugar. I mean obviously sugar is still a part of my diet. It’s just a much smaller portion. The second thing is meditating. Well, I don’t meditate every day. I wish I did. However, I do meditate a lot more often. The final thing is scheduling every minute of my day. I still continue to keep track of my calendar and schedule things out thoroughly and even though I don’t implement all of these habits into my life every single day, there is something that I have learned from each and every one of them and the only way for you to find out whether they work for you is to give it a try for yourself.
So a couple of things before I wrap up here. If you’ve got any habits you think are worth implementing let me know in the comments. Any ideas at all you have. The other thing I would say is if you have tried any of these experiments yourself or others that I haven’t mentioned please do let me know in the comment section. Thank you guys so much for reading this far. I’m really excited about your constant support. The growth of my blog has been amazing and the constructive criticisms have been really helpful. I think it’s really cool to see people genuinely excited about self development and trying a lot of these things for themselves.
If you found this blog post helpful be sure to hit the like button and share it with others who need to hear this. Love you so much if you made it all the way here🤗, enjoy your weekend!❤️🌤
*Tap the download button to download the personalised monthly habit tracker from Clarkson’s Blog.*