Habit Strategies

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”

Bruce Lee

A daily habit is just one strategy. I prefer because it allows you to live your life and practice multiple things.

When you’re practicing you need to be 100% focused on what you are doing. It’s like micro-moments of immersion. Practicing daily uses time as an asset and compounds your skills over a long period of time.

If you’re learning French you won’t likely be able to speak fluently over the weekend, but what about 6 months of consistent intention practice? Or how about after a year worth of daily practice? C’est top!

Same with any skill, whether you want to be a great guitarist, speaker, chef or painter. The more you practice over time, the better you get.

But daily is just one approach.

Another strategy is total immersion. The classic example of this is moving to another country to immerse yourself in learning the language and culture.

…But most of us can’t pick up and move. Another way of utilizing total immersion is to learn one skill (either with a full-time job or not) and focus all your energy on that one thing.

By focusing your efforts, you’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to learning. Which means if you’re working hard you’ll become better at it much faster. Maybe you want to try other skills, but you hold off on those until you’ve mastered the focused skill. Then, you use the lessons you’ve learned and brought them to the next skill.

These are just two strategies — a daily practice or total immersion — out of many. What strategy you take (or mix together) is all about priority.

For example, if you need to quickly learn something to get a new job, then taking a total immersion, boot camp style approach makes sense.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #880

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Daily Habits Aren’t Sexy (…Until They Are)

“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.”

William Shakespeare

There’s nothing sexy about taking the slow and steady approach.

The spectators watching the hare 🐰 and tortoise 🐢 run were definitely rooting for the sleek and energetic rabbit, not the slow lumpy turtle. But starting a race isn’t the same as finishing one. And what about the skills and traits we want to cultivate over our entire lives?

For example, An index fund is so boring compared to the ups and downs of the daily stock market. But an index fund is a fantastic way to build wealth overtime with very little effort. All you have to do is keep adding some in and let it grow.

There’s nothing glamorous about bookending your day with a daily writing habit. It’s difficult to find the time and energy to sit down and work on your dreams. When the time comes to write, I often want to do anything but.

But that’s what’s powerful about a daily practice. Every day you are proving to yourself that you’ve got what it takes. You are training yourself to practice no matter what’s going on in the world or what mood you are in.

After you build up a streak, you don’t want to stop.

Day 1: a habit is fun —but not sexy. It might even be a little hard or confusing.
Day 15: you are getting into the grove — but still nothing to glance at.
Day 50: Things are starting to take shape. Your practice is having a noticeable effect.

But when you have 365 consecutive days in a row? When you hit 1000 or 5000 consecutive days of practice? There’s no way you are going to miss today’s practice and break your streak.

All from just a simple 15, 30 to an hour of your time (whatever you have to give). Less than the time it would take you to cook and eat a meal, or watch one episode of a show.

Now we are cooking. Whenever someone finds our I’ve meditated over 2000 days in a row, they usually exclaim, “wow! No wonder you’re so calm and level-headed all the time”.

Now that’s not the reason I’m meditating, nor does it mean I’m a pro at meditation. But each day contributes to my wellbeing. And each day ripples into the next.

The crazy thing is it doesn’t take much effort or discipline as you think. You just need enough to practice today. Starting today gets you to tomorrow.

With each day’s practice, you are doing your daily allotment of work today. It’s just a little bit and it doesn’t look like much. But it’s deliberate. It’s progress towards something. And it adds up quicker that you might think.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #871

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Habit Breakers

“Character is simply habit long continued.”

Plutarch

Something will inevitably try to get in the way of a habit we are working on.

We catch the flu…
We have to go out of town for work…
Or even we don’t feel like doing it…

Something will inevitably come up. The key is planning on what you’re going to do when it does. Executing a habit is a tactic. Planning a habit is a strategy.

What will you do if things go wrong?
What will you do when you’re not getting the results you want?
What will you do when things go right?

A little bit of time and forethought could be the difference between a longstanding habit and a backsliding wish.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #803

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Hello 2020

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney

You ever see someone attempt to determine which way they are facing (north, south, etc.) by licking their finger and pointing to the sky to feel the direction of the wind?

That’s how I see New Years Resolution.

Our goal should be to check off a dozen things all in a year. Instead, we should see a new year as a way to sense whether or not the direction our life is pointing in the direction we want to go.

A lot can happen in a short amount of time. And so much of our lives are out of our hands. Our path in life is rarely a straight line, nor does our expectations parallel our experiences. But if we can at least know which way is north, we can get to our destination — and enjoy the journey that comes — eventually.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #795

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Daily Habits: Missing a Day

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”

Julie Andrews

Daily streaks are a powerful way to keep a habit going daily. When you have 7 days in a row on a habit, you’ll likely do it the 8th day. When you have 50 days in a row, you’re no doubt going to check off day #51. And when you’ve got 300 days under your habit belt, there’s no chance you’re going to skip day 301. But…. life?

But what do you do if you miss a day?

Simple: Start again the next day.

Streaks give motivation to not want to miss a day, but doing a daily habit isn’t about doing something daily. That’s right – a daily habits value isn’t because it’s daily. Just because you have to start your streak count over doesn’t mean all the hard work you put into cultivating your habit disappears.

The value is the accumulation of days and the consistency of time and effort put into something you love and want to get better at.

The goal is to master the skill, not to check off boxes. Mastery is the strategy. Daily action is the tactic. It’s not the only way to reach mastery, but it’s an excellent way to do it while continuing to go about your life where you are.

When you miss a day, start again immediately. Start before disappoint creeps in. Start before the day to day distractions of life derails you from your daily habit.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #754


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Habit Dregs

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”

Jules Renard

One of the hardest moments of any daily habit — besides missing a day after a long streak of consecutive days in a row — is when you would rather do anything, anything, else than your habit.

You know what I’m talking about. When it’s time to put on your shoes and head to the gym or go for a run and then a wave of dread creeps in. ‘Maybe I should just wait until tomorrow to go…’. Or when you are on vacation and the last thing you want to do is go to bed early and wake early. Or perhaps its when you are feeling tired or under the weather and would rather eat a Amazon cardboard box than pick up your guitar and practice, or pick up a pen and write.

And yet, doing our practice is exactly what we must do in moments like these.

Practicing your habit when you don’t want too is essential to habit longevity.

Anyone can practice a skill on inspiring days where ideas are flowing out of you like lightning. But it takes true commitment to do it on days you don’t want too. Moments of reluctance, doubt and laziness can derail anyone unprepared and untrained. That’s why when we feel tempted to skip our practice we committed ourselves too, we must do it anyway, ideally right away.

Wake up tired? Practice your habit.
Wake up super late? Habit.
Have the worst day of your life? Do thy habit.
Realize you haven’t done your daily habit yet and it’s 11:58pm? Get to work.

The ability to handle situations like these takes practice. But every time we do we are honing our habit muscles.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #723


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Don’t Defeat Yourself

“Your mindset matters. It affects everything – from the business and investment decisions you make, to the way you raise your children, to your stress levels and overall well-being.”

Peter Diamandis

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

How often do we lose in our minds before we even have tried? There’s many ways we can defeat ourselves, but the biggest one is our mind.

Our mind is the foundation to any challenge or problem we face. Face off any two equally skilled athletes yet opposing mindsets — one who believes they can win and one who doesn’t or who has uncertainty — and the stronger, more open mind will always win.

Mindset a squishy topic, to be sure. I wonder if its because we don’t necessarily have the vocabulary or cultural rituals or norms around talking about our conscious and subconscious? Or perhaps our thoughts and self-defeating chatter is not a usual dinner topic in our society because our mind and our thoughts are not something others can hear.

Whatever the case, unless you are blunt and tell it like it is (or have a therapist or really great friend), we keep 1/3rd of ourselves usually to ourselves. This isn’t always bad, per se. Telling everyone around you that they are fat or hot isn’t the best way to live. But if that’s true, then why do we allow our thoughts to bully ourselves around internally?

We are hostile to ourselves, especially when our outside world (be it work, family, finances, stress, etc) is baring down on us in times of failure and difficulty.

When we are feeling low, our negative self-defeating mind doesn’t pull any punches.

There’s a great Richard Feynman phrase worth remember that goes “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

We are the easiest person to defeat with our own mind if we are not careful. Replace ‘fool’ for ‘defeat: “You must not defeat yourself and you are the easiest person to defeat”.

One thing no one teaches us is that mindset is a skill to be practiced.

I think the problem is we aren’t taught how to hone our minds. Hanging up cute visualization posters of cats reminding us we can ‘do it’ doesn’t count. When we are growing up, we have to learn to crawl, then wobble, fall and then stand before we can walk. We have to learn how to talk by observe and listen to the word our parents and people around us use. We also have to learn our ABC’s and 123’s before we can write and read.

But no one teaches us how to think or visualize. Our minds are still crawling on the ground, lost to whatever squirrel peaks our interest. We can ride a bike, type 70 words per minute, drive, sing, dance, start a business, get married, have kids, without knowing a single thing about mindset.

It’s impressive we’ve made it this far…

So what can we do to cultivate our mind?

We can read. We can seek out clear and insightful thoughts written down by smarter people from today and throughout history.

We can listen and observe. It takes a lot of effort to give others your full and undivided attention. Work those listening muscles.

We can talk. We can find someone or a group of people willing to be honest with one another about what each person is struggling and going through and what each is doing to improve themselves.

We can mediate. Which really is just practicing breathing and observing. Mediation is a ritual we can cultivate to practice learning to notice our thoughts and not always be swept up by them.

We can visualize. We can practice mentally visualizing ourselves winning a game, owning a speech, doing the things we dream of doing.

Resolve yourself to hone your mind. Think better thoughts. Thoughts beget actions beget habits beget results.

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

Buddha

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

Henry Ford

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #712


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Expensive Tastes…

“Good taste is as tiring as good company.”

Francis Picabia

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Red Adair

It’s easier to require expenses tastes than to get rid of them.

Naturally, this is a first world problem. It’s usually the people in the world who have next to nothing who are the happiest. There’s likely many reasons why, but my guess is that their happiness is less about owning fewer things and more about not knowing that they are “missing out” on better things.

We naturally seek excitements and challenges. We crave new things and new experiences, while at the same time love habits and routines. And one thing lead to another and what was once exciting becomes our new normal.

Cars, for example. Your first car is usually a used piece of junk you were barely able to afford — but you loved it. It didn’t matter that it would barely start and had a scratchy speaker system. It gave you what you wanted — freedom.

It was only in comparison to your a friend’s nicer car, or a particularly great ad that made you want something shinier and better. Once we have enough of these moments and eventually we can rationalize our way up to becoming unable to own anything but new cars, or even sports cars.

This type of spectrum is happening in every area of our life we are interested in. Get used to certain ways of living and it’s difficult to go back.

Air Condition is another good example. My AC has been broken this past week and it’s been almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep because of the heat. I’ve had the privilege to live in AC the majority of my life. Even most cars have temperature control. But now I’m reliant on an external thing. One week in, and I’m a mess.

Reliance isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s usually not a bad thing at all. We like what we like. We lean on what we have to lean on. We find joy in quality. And the deeper we go into a hobby, interest, experience, the more quality we gain.

Start eating healthy with higher quality, unprocessed foods and you’ll gain more energy and health than you know what to do with. But try going back to a fast food life and you’ll feel terrible. You know too much now. You’re no longer a food muggle. Maybe you’ll crave a McFlurry from Mickey D’s every once in a while, but you’ll won’t want to give up the benefits you gain from eating healthy.

But it’s a trade off, because in order to rely on great food, or a new hobby like learning to play the guitar or experiences like travel, you have to use up some of your limited resources (time, money and energy).

What’s the lifetime cost of this habit? What’s the lifetime benefit of this habit?

Does the benefits outweigh the cost?

It’s always good to way the benefits and the long term costs of anything we decide to do or own.

And it’s also good to regularly test what you think you need and must have to live a good and happy life. Sometimes setbacks and circumstances prevent us from having or living life like we were used to. It happens. The goal is to not let setbacks get in the way of our joy in life.

At the end of the day, a place to rest, clean air and water, good food and good company is all we really need.

…And maybe a book or ten. (Or maybe that’s one of my expensive tastes 🙂

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #709


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Related:

Schitt’$ Creek

Slow and Steady

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at
the end of the day whispering, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

Mary Anne Radmacher

Not every one of these blog posts will be great. Go peruse the archives (The Archives sounds like a great fantasy novel title) and I’m sure you’ll find a couple stinkers.

Was I trying to make something mediocre? No. I was doing the best I could with what I had to give. But some of them being bad ideas in retrospect less important. Sometimes things are so bad, they are good. But often our so-so works of creativity are steps towards greater ideas later.

When it comes to creativity, motion is what matters. Motion gets the gears turning and ideas flowing. The best way I’ve found to practice this is taking your art — what you feel called to do — and making it a daily habit.

Think of it like planting a tree each day. One tree might be well. One might not grow at all. Another might grow into a massive redwood. But each tree we plant teach us something for the next one we plant tomorrow. And as time passes, our weird daily tree habit turns into a forest of work and creativity. The single planted tree matters, but the forest is the goal. This is what a daily habit can do for us.

Picture yourself 20 years from now.

20 years is 7300 days. Can you imagine what 7300 days of working on our creativity would do for us? That’s 7300 paintings, 7300 songs, 7300 days of practicing woodwork, 7300 written pages or 7300 days of coding… Not only would that amount of time invested in our pursuits gives us a massive library of work, it would also hone us into masters of what we do.

Remember: we don’t have to always go big to improve and reach big. Going small and persisting long also gets us to big too.

Besides, unless we get hit by a bus tomorrow (knock on wood), we’ve got the days to do it, we just need to start and keep going.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #687


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Intentional Habits

Whether we think about it or not, we all have good and bad habits we run our lives by. A habit is an action or decision that we have integrated into our lives as a practice. What makes a habit good or bad really depends on the kind of outcome we are expecting (or neglecting) to see. To use a biological term, a habit creates ‘receptors’ to allow us to tune into certain aspects of life.

Inputs leading to outputs; Outputs leading to inputs. Sometimes this is physical. When you smoke cigarettes, for example, the brain develops additional nicotine receptors to deal with the larger doses of nicotine rushing in, opening you up to becoming addicted to it and wanting more. Putting aside the health concerns for smoking, I consider it a harmful habit because it takes the steering wheel out of our hands and eventually controls us, versus us controlling it.

A habit’s ‘receptors’ can also be philosophical and squishy. What does being optimistic instead of pessimistic do to (and for) us? It’s difficult to say with certainty. On the surface, pessimism, negativity, and worry doesn’t really do much to our lives. Or does it? When we have to make small decisions, we negate their potential with doubt and dismiss their validity, we think something like ‘this will never work’ or ‘this is a terrible idea’. When big decisions or possible problems crop up, we worry them to death, and if our fears never come true, we don’t notice because we are on to the next big thing to worry about. What does a habit of negativity do to our careers, our friendships, and community? I’m not sure. Does optimism create for us a better headspace and open us up to more opportunities that we wouldn’t have if we were pessimistic? In my personal experience, I’d say 100% yes. But again, this is all fuzzy logic.

Regardless, these are good things to consider.

How are all of your habits — good, bad and ugly — affecting your life? Which habits are enabling your dreams and which ones are making you sink?

Where things get really tricky is knowing that our habits don’t live in isolation. Each habit we have connects and stacks upon one another. Benefits of one habit might outweigh or cancel out the negative effects of another. An obvious example: You could exercise like a champion every day, but if you are pounding cookies, ice cream and whatever pastries you can get your hands on, the potential gain you would get from exercise is canceled out by your sweet tooth. And if all our habits are mingling and dancing the night away, how do we know which habits are good for us and which are bad?

This question requires so series thought and intentional alone time. It’s difficult to run towards your dreams in life with your hands and feet tied behind you. By finding which habits are holding us back and replacing them with better ones, we can finally start creating momentum in our lives.

Here are some questions to get ya think’n:

  • What habits do I know I have?
  • Which habits do I think are helpful and beneficial to me? Why are they beneficial?
  • Which steps (daily or consistent habits) are getting me towards accomplishing my goals? And why?
  • Are there any unhelpful or bad habits that I’m doing?
  • What habits do I have that I know I should stop doing?
  • What are the benefits and downsides for each of my habits?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #682

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