Tipping the Scale

If you were to gain a cent you wouldn’t consider yourself rich. If you were to continue increasing in value by a single cent, you probably wouldn’t be as excited as if you were given a briefcases full of $100 notes. However, if you continuously gain a cent, there will come a time, a moment when that single cent moves you from whatever you were to very rich.

-Self-stylised paraphrase from Atomic Habits’ by James Clear

Habit-forming isn’t glamorous. It may feel similar to gaining wealth at the rate of a cent at a time, sometimes even less. The one that reaps the reward is the one who accepts that their ‘wealth’ will come a cent at a time.

Will you be that person? Will you stick to it long enough to tip the scale?

Image from Scale

Fancy A Reward?

(Approx 1.5 min read)

Welcome to episode three of ‘Comfort Zone’!

Hey you. Yes you! Who else did you think I was talking to? Jeez… Would you like a reward?

Come on. Who doesn’t like gifts?

Let’s use this and some points to flesh out our discussion today.

Point number one – Gifts are nice because they get given to us, which implies very little work on our part. However, working for something and then receiving a reward based on that work adds value to the reward. It doesn’t become more expensive but mentally we attribute the effort we put into attaining it as a cherry on top of the original value of the thing we earn as compensation for our work.

Point number two – Do you know why we find it easier to stay in our comfort zone than to break out of it? Any guesses? Ding ding ding! You got it! (I think) We find it easier to stay in our comfort zone because it’s comfortable ditto the name “comfort zone”. (“Wow. World-class content there Ayanda.” “Yeah XD well… it doesn’t make it any less true.”)

Point number three – Like any chemical reaction – to move from one state to the other requires activation energy. This is the extra push that gets the ball rolling, otherwise if we believe, think and say things are “ok” as they are, why should we want to change? This activation energy can be in the form of a new perspective, motivation or (the topic for today) … a reward.

Conclusion – Do you want to escape the confines of your comfort zone? Do you really? Like, REALLY? Well then, to help you achieve that dream, apply yesterday’s lesson ie look up something new you’d like to do, then once you’ve pinpointed that I dare you (Dare you I say!) to do something outrageous. Are you ready? Here it goes… plan a reward for doing it. Then once you’ve done it, reward yourself with that thing.

That’s it.

If you love yourself as much as I love you, do make it something nice.

See you tomorrow.

Stay awesome!

Lying Is Good For You: Trumping Fear

If you have followed this blog for a while you’ll probably know this story. I used to sleep with the lights on. My hyperactive imagination and darkness went hand-in-hand like a lick of flame to a bale of dry hay draped in gasoline. However there came a time when I fell in love with novels and nothing in the world could compete. I would spend an untold amount of hours immersing myself in Fantasy or Sci-fi worlds and it was pretty awesome. My favourite time to read was late at night, because that’s when I had the least distractions; my homework was done and most people in the house were fast asleep. When my parents started questioning why I was so sleepy in the morning it didn’t take them long, with all the wisdom at their disposal, to realise that I was staying up late doing something. Soon enough they found out and eventually asked me to stop reading at night so I would be alert during lessons. Fair enough if you ask me. It was a super sensible decision – but did I mention I LOVED my novels? Coz I did. As the good kid I was I “obeyed”. Back then I had a tiny Nokia just a shade cooler than the 3310. It had a bluish-white background and a game of football (soccer) that I mastered at the highest level (yeah I know I’m amazing). That was my first and most fondly remembered phone. I got into the habit of switching off the light (this was how they would know I had actually gone to sleep) then turning on the torch on this thing whose battery is probably still going strong a decade after it was last charged. I would read my novels under the covers until I could read no more. This is how I read Stephenie Meyer’s ‘New Moon’ in 2 nights. I didn’t notice it at the time but through the power of love (for novels) I overcame my fear of sleeping with the light off. It is this power of love that is a powerful tool. Similar to yesterday’s post, you need to lie to yourself that you can’t access the thing you love until you overcome your fear. Overcoming your fear just for the sake of it is hard – but doing so for a reward you cherish? Totes doable.

See you tomorrow for Part 5 of the Individuality Series: We Are Not In This Together.

Lying Is Good For You: Building Habits

Starting a habit isn’t always easy. The proof is in the number of people who say they want to start a new habit who don’t actually end up doing so. Or maybe they’ll start but stop before it’s really become a habit.

Habit – a regular tendency that is hard to give up.

Lally’s study claims that it takes anywhere between 18 days to 254 days to form a new habit.

How can one actually achieve such a feat that requires an incredible amount of discipline? First of all we have to acknowledge that it is difficult to maintain something just because we see the benefit of it in the future. If you are one of those people that can do it by just intentionally making the decision, kudos to you! If you are like me then you have to use a different way. The good news is it works just as well. Here it is… it’s time to lie again!

There’s this story about a mouse that’s put in a cage. Scientists would ring a bell at a certain time and then put cheese in the cage. Over time the mouse associated the sound of the shrill bell with cheese and would come out of its little house when the bell was rung and wait, even if the cheese wasn’t forthcoming. The bell didn’t sound attractive but the cheese was attractive. Over time the mouse would come out for the bell because to it the bell = cheese. We’re not mice though so what can we do? We use the horse and carrot stick method.

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Looks ridiculous right? The carrot is the reward after you’ve done the hard work of doing whatever the new habit requires you to do. This way we associate the reward with the work. For example, I love movies! When we got back from a service on Sunday that’s the first thing that I wanted to do. Unfortunately for me, I lived with very wise, orderly parents who would have me do the dishes first (after we’d made and eaten breakfast) before watching any film. Doing the dishes was work. Watching the movie was the carrot. My love for movies was so strong that I would speed through the dishes to have my carrot – ahem – I mean watch my movie. You couldn’t motivate me to do the dishes because it wasn’t something I looked forward to, but because I looked forward to watching movies, the labour of doing the dishes was no longer as hard as it seemed initially. Over time I stopped doing it as an inconvenience and started viewing it as a sort of key, a key to me watching the movies that I wanted to watch on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve used this same trick to exercise daily, write more consistently and to drink enough water each day – all things I never used to do.

So what are the practical bits you can use for you. The only thing you need to do is to make a list of the things you love. Lie to yourself until you believe that you can’t do one of those things until you’ve actioned out the habit you’re trying to build, then reward yourself with the thing you love at the end – and repeat. Make sense?

A short real-life illustration of the effectiveness of this technique:

Mom: Where are you?

Me: I’m in the kitchen. I’ve just started doing the dishes.

Mom: We’ve started watching a movie, come watch with us – you can do the dishes after.

Me: I don’t like doing dishes well after we’ve eaten. I’ll finish up fast then come watch when I’m done.

True story.

I’m a dish dog now!

See you tomorrow for Lying Is Good For You: Trumping Fear.

 

 

Singleness Is Underrated

Am I going to be endorsing debauchery in this post? Not one bit. However if you are looking for encouragement and advice in the single phase of your life, carry on, you are most welcome.

Before I enter into why the phase of singleness can be a crucially beneficial time of your life I would like to quash some world notions on the ‘benefits’ of being single. Yes I’m going to sound like a preacher when I denounce couldn’t-care-less relationships, casual sex and nights spent bent over ceramic chambers, but if you are honest with yourself you’ll realise that the aforementioned activities don’t do your physical wellbeing or mental health any favours. Are all these activities fun? They wouldn’t be temptations if they weren’t… but they are bad for you and most likely you don’t need to look deep down to know it. The good news is I’m not here to condemn you but to affirm you! We all have the gift of free will. You aren’t bound to certain actions or habits forever. Today I would like to introduce two terms that will help and will pop up a lot in this ‘Individuality’ series:

  1. Intentionality – living a life of deliberation, without constantly stumbling into things
  2. Plasticine brain – the ability of the brain to change throughout life

Life has prime stages for explosive growth. Singleness is one of them. Another stage is called ‘the Pit’ which I’ll refer to later this week.

When you’re single and intentional in your singleness, you’re in the best time to learn about yourself, the best time to figure out what you enjoy and what you are good at. Often in this chapter of your life you have one major responsibility, yourself, meaning you have more time as you have less people to be responsible over. What can you use this time for? More learning and setting yourself up for whatever your metric of success is. This is achieved first of all by coming up with a metric of success. This is vital. How can you hit the target when you don’t know what you are supposed to be aiming for? In this period explore by reading books, learning languages, travelling, building healthy habits, working to delete bad habits, learning organisation, studying people and coming up with the traits of the person you would want to be with once the phase is over.

I’d like to challenge a fallacy that we let ourselves be deceived by far too often. How many people have you heard say these words, “I wish I had known this when I was younger?” Or “I wish I had known this before I got into the relationship?”. We lie and say we’ll pick up the behaviours we need when we need them. Learning all the above once this singleness phase has passed is possible; it’s much more difficult but it’s possible, it’s why we have plasticine brains – but why would you want to grow a plant in the dry season when you can do so in the rainy season? The friction of embarking on a discovery of self when you have several more responsibilities is incredibly grating.

Lastly we have plasticine brains, which means the old ways of thinking don’t need to be the ways of thinking forever. It means we can learn new things. However it takes significantly more effort to unlearn things than it does to build new habits. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’ll do these things now then stop when I’m in a serious relationship or when I reach 30, 40 or 50. You’re setting yourself up to fail and to eventually drown in depression.

Conflict rises when expectations and reality don’t align. Internal conflict leads to stress and prolonged stress may lead to depression. So I’ll help you out a bit and be a bit harsh when I say:

Don’t expect the bad habits you’re cultivating now to instantly disappear when you want them to. Instead be intentional today about what habits you want to build in this crucial period of your time.

Cherish your singleness and grow baby, grow! It may be hard, that’s cool, I’ve got tips to help you do just that starting with tomorrow’s post: ‘Lying Is Good For You’.

P.S. Thank you all for helping this blog reach 100 followers! Onwards and upwards. Be blessed.