Have you ever wondered why by default we are inclined to be unproductive?
How come we’re drawn towards wasting time but not drawn towards working? How come it’s so easy to stay on the couch and so hard to go to the gym? How come it’s so hard to wake up early but so easy to stay up late? Why does our mind work against us?
Although it may seem so at first, our mind doesn’t actually work against us. Our mind is neither good or bad. It just makes us do what we’re used to doing.
We are conditioned in two ways:
We evolved into humans through millions of years of evolution. Although we developed an intellect, we still have many animal instincts. One of them is self preservation. That’s probably one reason why if we’re fed and we have shelter, we tend to be lazy.
But we’re also conditioned environmentally. Growing up, we picked up the habitual behavior of the people around us – our family. If you closely study the members of your family you’ll see that most of your habits came from them.
Unfortunately, when we were kids, we didn’t know what was good or bad for us. So we ended up accepting both the bad and the good habits of the people around us.
For example, if you grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, you most likely picked up their work ethic or tendency to take risks. On the other hand, if you grew up around people who drank too much alcohol, you most likely do that as well.
Our mind absorbs the information we are exposed to and directs our behavior based on that information. So it’s not that we are bad by default. We just behave the way we are conditioned to.
If you would have grown up in the same house with Elon Musk, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, believe me, you would have been a hard worker, scholar, and visionary by default. That’s because you would have picked up their habits and beliefs and behaved just like them. In that case, your mind would have been programmed to your advantage.
Our conscious mind has 6 mental faculties or mental muscles. They are called like that because they act indeed like a muscle. The more you use them, the stronger they become. And of course, the opposite is true as well. If you don’t use your mental muscles, they will get weaker.
Our 6 mental muscles are: Perception, Reason, Imagination, Willpower, Intuition, and Memory.
For developing discipline, and changing habits, we will focus on just two of them: Imagination and Willpower. Although all mental faculties are involved in the process.
Willpower is the raw power of the mind. It is the ability to hold a thought in your mind despite outside distraction. For example, when you resist playing a computer game to do your homework, you’re using your willpower.
Unfortunately, we have very little of it every day. In the book “The Willpower Instinct” willpower is described as a battery. We wake up with the battery charged in the morning and that’s the finite amount we get to use that day.
To resist a habit and act against it, we need a big amount of willpower. So we must do everything in our power to conserve it throughout the day. The big problem is that every action that is not habitual uses willpower. Every decision we make uses willpower.
For example, in the morning when you decide what to wear, you use a bit of willpower. When you’re at the supermarket and you’re trying to decide between two brands of a product you use a bit of willpower. When you’re in traffic and you have fight for space, you’re using your willpower. When you’re changing channels trying to decide what to watch, you’re using willpower.
If we consume use our willpower on these actions, when it comes down to resisting and changing a habit, we won’t have enough left.
The wisest and most productive people in history knew this. They did everything they could to automate their lives so that they don’t waste willpower on small things. Most of these great people dressed the same every day, had the same meals every day, walked the same streets every day, had the same schedule every day, all so that they conserved willpower for their work.
But most of us do exactly the opposite. We waste willpower on irrelevant things and then wonder why we can’t be disciplined.
For example one of the biggest consumers of willpower is social media. Did you know that?
Social media drains your willpower because our mind is forced to jump from thought to thought every second. When you scroll down your feed you may see a photo of a friend, news about a party, a car accident, a motivational quote, a picture of a cat, and so on. Your mind is being inundated with so many different things that it is messing up your ability to concentrate.
Also we’re presented with hundreds of choices every hour. On YouTube you see 30 videos on a single page and you have to decide which one you’ll watch. Each one of those small choices is draining your mental energy an d you don’t even realize it. When you get out of social media, you feel agitated and unable to concentrate.
So the key to preserving your willpower is to make as few irrelevant choices as possible in one day.
Always start your day with your work because that’s when your willpower battery is full. While you’re working, turn off notifications on your phone. Don’t go on social media. Don’t check your email. Don’t read the news headlines before working. Don’t go shopping before work. Limit your decision making as much as possible.
There’s a cool exercise you can use. Set a timer for 50 minutes. In that time, focus on your project and nothing else. After the timer goes off, take a 10 minute break in which all you do is walk around or look out the window. Do nothing that will consume your attention. Just pure relaxation. Then begin work again for 50 minutes. It’s an efficient way to preserve and use your willpower.
Now that you understand how willpower works, let’s talk about imagination. Imagination is the ability to form images in our mind. So while willpower is the ability to hold or change an image in our mind, imagination is what creates that image.
Regarding discipline and habit change, what you must understand is that imagination is more powerful than willpower. Why? Because our behavior is controlled by the pictures we see in our mind. If we want to act differently, we must first imagine how we will act. It’s not sufficient to say that we don’t want to act a certain way, we must see what we want.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to lose some weight and you want to stop eating hamburgers. When you say “I want to stop eating hamburgers.” what do you see in your mind? You see yourself eating hamburgers!
There may be a big red X on that image but you see yourself inside a burger place eating hamburgers. And guess what? That’s what you’ll feel like doing. Your willpower can’t do anything to change that image because you don’t even know what you want to change it with.
The key is to imagine yourself doing what you want to do NOT what you don’t want to do. For example, imagine yourself eating salad. Then use your willpower to hold that image in your mind. Now, because your behavior follows the images in your mind, you will by default not eat hamburgers and eat salad instead.
The key to change is not fighting an old habit. It’s replacing it with another habit.
If for example you say “I want to stop smoking during my breaks at work” you just see yourself smoking and you won’t be able to change. What you must say is “I want to take walks outside during my breaks at work.” This way by default you stop smoking and you put a new habit in it’s place.
So here’s a very important lesson: Forget the habit that you’re trying to change and focus on the habit that you’re trying to develop. The key to change is not in fighting the old, it’s in nourishing the new.
The Unstoppable Discipline Program has a clear purpose – to help you TAKE DAILY ACTION TOWARDS YOUR GOALS and FEEL PROUD OF YOURSELF instead of disappointed. The way our program helps you become more disciplined is by making you aware that your actions are the result of your habitual way of thinking. Each one of the 16 videos included in the program is designed to change your thinking into that of a productive person. The practical exercises will help you develop your willpower, set inspiring goals, and see yourself as the person you want to become.