Day 3 of 7: The Power of Streaks
Yaaay! We're happy to see you staying strong! So... a 3-day streak is starting to look beautiful eh?! :)
It starts feeling like you have something to protect and build on top of! So, let's keep this one strong! The feeling you are experiencing is a symptom of you approaching the threshold: the point where the feeling of breaking the streak is more costly than actually performing the little action. We trick our brain into believing the path of least resistance is to just execute the action and be done with it. Once you reach the threshold, the snowball effect takes place!
As you already know, the more days you manage to chain in a row, the less likely you are to quit.
In fact, the longer the streak the more absurd things you do to keep it alive. Remember my eat-an-apple habit? So, once I was at a KFC and ordered an apple. The girl at the counter looked at me weirdly to say the least. On another occasion, I was already sleeping when I woke up: "the apple!". Thankfully my kitchen isn't a KFC.
The good thing about the threshold is that it is much easier to reach than the formed habit. Like with habits, the number of days to reach it varies depending on the habit and the individual. That's why it is so important to start small to build momentum.
The quantity doesn't matter, starting to do it does. That's the impulse we want our brain to automate. From a habit formation point of view, getting to do 1 push-up every day is way better than doing 50 push-ups once a week. Think of spaced repetition.
Still, we tend to be hard on ourselves, and once we know we have achieved a certain quantity before, we think that's the minimum we can be happy with. This is wrong, progress isn't linear. Free yourself from performance anxiety and mark habits even when they are half done. Streaks are not about feeling bad about breaking them, they are about feeling good about our progress, that's why we only interact with Everyday when we succeed! To get our little dopamine shot as a reward while we see the colour of the streak strengthening with our habit. The more we do, the better our board looks!
However, we are human and will miss days, especially at the beginning. Skips are a good way to be flexible and allow us for some room to maintain our streaks. When using tools, it always ends up about being honest with ourselves. Your brain knows nothing about days, it's not like it's gonna forget about a habit you've been trying to build just because you missed to go for a run on a rainy day.
The real problem is to not let those new hard earned brain connections atrophy. Do not skip twice! Josh Waitzkin talks about "the biggest problem of making a mistake being that it frequently leads to another bigger mistake", unless we stop the bleeding soon enough. Missed a day? No big deal. Show up next day.
It's important that we manage to minimize the lows while keep upgrading the highs. Mark even if you haven't reached the daily goal. There's always time to compensate. We overestimate what we can do in one day but underestimate what we can do in one year.
I have a habit of doing 50 push-ups before I go to sleep. You might expect the pattern to have been something like this: 5-5-5-5-10-10-10-10-15-15-15-15-20-20-20-20....50-50-50-50 but it's been more like this: 5-0-6-5-5-8-4-10-6-12-10-10-15-8-20-20....50-40-60-50 The days I feel stronger I do more, and the days I'm tired and have had a shitty day I do less, but I always start doing them!
1% change in the span of a lifetime determines the difference between who you are and who you could be.
Note a very important aspect of this graphic: Progress isn't linear but exponential. This means that for a while, our expectations regarding the benefitial outcomes of our habits and effort are not fulfilled. We have to endure the valley of disappointment. The real challenge of forming habits is, thus, surviving this phase until we reach the plateau of latent potential, the moment where we start noticing the positive outcomes of our effort.
Any tricks or tools that can help us cross this desert is very welcome! The journey is always worth it!
Habits are the Compound Interest of Self Improvement
4 days to go!
See you tomorrow! ;)