2020-12-02 ~ 3 min read

Little things

How little things can have a life changing impact?

Yes, you've guessed it. It's all about habits. Habits are present in our lives on a day to day basis. You didn't think how to brush your teeth, tide your shoes or even make a 30 min drive from home to work (or 30s walk to the computer in pyjamas because of COVID). Our brains are surprisingly brilliant and love to find automated behaviours based on experience.

As our brains are so smart, why creating new habits isn't simple?

For most of us, an experience that our brain sees in action is far from our vision about ourselves and our dreams about the perfect life. Besides that, we're living in delayed gratification world. This means that most rewards that we dream about (muscular body, promotion, the success of personal business etc.) won't happen overnight. Our brain, in contrast, looks for as short and straightforward possible loop: clue -> behaviour -> reward. If the prize is delayed in time by weeks or even years it's hard to trick the brain to automate it as is simply didn't see the reward. Our society made enormous progress, but our minds biologically need to catch up with this word.

So what we can do now?

I would start by recognizing that change requires a lot of practice and patience. Then focus on correct trajectory instead of looking for immediate results. Going for a gym once won't change you into next Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as eating one pizza in Friday evening won't multiply your BMI score ;). When you chose your direction, you need to acknowledge that your current results won't be perfect. Only by keeping going in a few months or a few years, you will notice a significant improvement.

How turn repeating small behaviour into a habit?

You can do that by breaking down clue -> behaviour -> reward loop. Clues can be easily generated by us by managing our environment. For example, I'm trying to wake up early, but instead of going out of bed, I'm fighting with snooze button for a way to long.

To fix that I've made a few changes in my environment. Starting with placing my phone at the table far away from the bed. So to hit that sneaky snooze button I have to get out of bed and walk to it. This helps me grab some conscious before my brain craving for sleep click it automatically. Second I've placed notes right beside the phone, so when I walk to my phone, I see tasks and goals that I want to achieve Today. This helps me create a craving for pushing my dreams instead of sleeping more. The last thing is the reward. I genuinely love drinking coffee in bed. So I've placed a coffee machine close and set it up to start precisely at 5AM. This play two roles. One: if I wake up, I have an excellent reward. Warm fresh coffee ready to drink. If I failed, I'm left with a few hours old cold coffee that didn't taste anywhere close to the fresh one.

This way I've broken loop into pieces and use it to help me. Have to say that it works! I've started writing this post at 5:20AM drinking hot coffee 😉

Patryk Szymanski

Hi, I'm Patryk. I'm a technical team leader, software architecture enthusiast from Wroclaw, Poland.