4 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Build Habits

4 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Build Habits


– Good habits are foundational
to achieving your goals. However, what they
aren’t, is easy to build, and getting them to stick
around, is even harder. Which is why so many people eagerly start trying to read more books, eat better, go to the gym, only to inevitably find themselves going back to the warm
familiarity of Netflix, Cheetos and the 68 calories per hour they burn while sitting, just days later. Of course, most of these people make things even harder on themselves, because they don’t go
about building their habits in a smart way. So what we’re gonna do today, is go over four common
habit-building mistakes that people often make and what you can do to avoid them. And we’re gonna start
with what is possibly the most common habit-building mistake, which is jumping into
the deep end, right away. This could involve taking
on too many habits at once, or attempting to build
a really difficult habit instead of starting small. A lot of people think,
that to be successful, they have to jump immediately
into very difficult habits. If they want to read more books, they have to start reading 50 pages a day. Or if they wanna get good at piano, they have to start
practicing for two hours, every single day. But all progress is made in small steps. Even Neil Armstrong’s
first step onto the moon was a small one. The giant step for
mankind that he referenced was a nod to the years
of incremental progress and small refinements, made not only by the
astronauts themselves, but by the thousands of
engineers, scientists and technicians that
supported them, as well. They knew that, to do something great, it would take years of
incremental progress. And that progress is only possible if the objective at each stage is something that is slightly out of reach but that’s still doable. Another group of people,
who know this very well, are game designers. They can throw all sorts of interesting elements into their games, but most people would get
overwhelmed and stop playing, if everything is in front
of them, all at once. And that’s why smart designers build in steady progressions. Take a game like Hollow
Knight, for example. Eventually, hours into the campaign, you’ll be dashing, and double jumping and using all sorts of powers to take on multiple enemies at once, but in the beginning, all
you can really do, is jump and swing your sword at a beetle. So take a queue from the
astronauts and game designers, start small and then build what the author Nick Winter
would call, a success spiral. Make your initial habits easy. Practice piano for just 15
minutes, read 10 pages of a book, get up a 1/2 an hour earlier,
than you normally do. And as you prove to yourself, over time, that you can handle your
habits, then slowly spiral up. Move that 15-minute
practice goal to 30 minutes or start getting up a little bit earlier than you were before. Or maybe even add new
habits to your plate. But in the beginning, you start small. Don’t jump into the deep end, right away. (swishing)
That brings us to mistake number two, which is assuming that there is no chimp. A few years ago, I ran across this really cool band,
called Chimp Spanner. And if you’re into really
technical, instrumental metal, I would definitely
recommend checking them out because I really like their music. Their name though, always confused me. I had absolutely no idea
what Chimp Spanner meant. That is, until a couple o’ years ago when my friend Simon, who is from the UK, used the word spanner
to refer to a wrench. And that’s when it hit me. Chimp Spanner equals monkey wrench. And that also helped me to
understand the old saying, throw a spanner in the works. Now this is a just an interesting tidbit about the differences between
UK and U.S. slang phrases but here’s the point. There is always a proverbial chimp waiting to throw a spanner
into your habit-building work. And the big mistake that people make when building new habits is assuming the chimp doesn’t exist. They assume that everything
will go well, all the time and that nothing unexpected
will pop up to derail them, which of course, means
that they’re not ready when something inevitably does. So, realize that the
chimp is always there, ready to throw a spanner into the works. Or to put it the way Charles Duhigg would, in his book, The Power of Habit, anticipate inflection points. Points at which you’re
likely to run into pain, or discomfort, or some inconvenience that’s likely to derail you, and then, plan for
those points in advance. Now for some of these points, the only real plan you can make, is to simply be ready for the
discomfort, before it comes. For example, in the book, Duhigg reports on the study that focused on
people who had gotten knee and hip replacement surgeries. Now to fully recover
from a surgery like this, patients have to start exercising and moving almost immediately afterwards. And a lot of people never do fully recover because they can’t bring themselves to accept the pain involved. So what the researchers
in the study had people do was very simple. They gave them a piece of paper and they had them write down goals and action steps for
what they were gonna do to get that exercise in. These were often very simple. Like one man’s plan to
simply walk to the bus and meet his wife after work. But in writing them down, these people were
anticipating moments of pain and planning on how to deal with them. And the results of the
study, speak for themselves. The people who did this,
started walking twice as fast as the average patient. Now it is worth noting, that
not all inflection points have to be faced head on, like this, because many of them can be
avoided through good planning. And I’ll give you one simple example. Every single morning, when I wake up, I make myself a smoothie. And I could easily be
derailed from this habit, if I ran out of crucial ingredients, like the milk that I use. So I make sure that that never happens by following the rule that I learned from CGP
Grey’s podcast, Cortex, two is one and one is none. I always have a backup. That way, running out of the first one, will not derail me. Mistake number three is choosing not to sit beneath the sword. In Ancient Greek history, there is the story of
the Sword of Damocles, in which a courtier, Damocles, is given all the power and
luxury of a king, for one day. But in addition to all of this, there was also a giant sword
placed above his throne, hanging from a single horse’s hair. And for Damocles, the threat
of this sword dropping was enough for him to give
up all those luxuries, all the riches, all the
power, back to the real king. In the story, the sword is a metaphor for the precariousness of having power. One false move could set
tragic events into action. And because of this, I
always think of the sword when I’m building new habits because I like to set up my
own sword, when doing so. In other words, I set up
consequences for failure. And most people choose not to do this. They choose not to sit beneath
that metaphorical sword. And with no consequences
looming above them, they often lack the
self-discipline required to stick with their chosen
habits, for the long term. So, how do you sit under the sword? Well, for me, the best way of doing this is to use what are called
commitment devices. External systems that are
set up to track my progress but also to ensure that there’ll be some kind of consequences if
I fail to stick to my habits. The simplest example of this, which doesn’t require any
kind of app or special tool, is to make a bet with a
friend who cares about you. For example, a few years ago, I made a bet with my friend, Martin, that I would read 25 pages of non-fiction, every single day, for three months. If I skipped even one
day, I would pay him $100. And to keep myself accountable, I gave him a link to a spreadsheet, where I tracked my progress, which showed that I,
indeed, never skipped a day. If you do wanna use a
special tool for this though, there are sites like Beeminder and stickK both of which, essentially
act like that friend and will charge you money if you to fail to stick to your goals. And there are also habit
trackers, like Strides, Habithub and Habitica. All these let you track
your habit-building progress and build streaks over time. And the main consequence
that they bring to the table is the threat that those
streaks will be broken. Though Habitica, in particular, uses game design elements, as well, so you’ve got experience, and health and multi-players quests, and your character can lose health, or even die, if you slack off. Whatever you choose to
use, I highly recommend that you find at least some way to hang that metaphorical Sword
of Damocles over your head. At least until you know the
habit you’re trying to build, is fully ingrained. That brings us to mistake number four, which is trying to build a habit without a strong, personally meaningful, reason for doing so. As the author Simon Sinek would put it, you need to start with, why. Don’t try to adopt a habit just because someone
you’re following does it or because you saw it on your favorite YouTuber’s morning routine video. Now that doesn’t mean the
smoothie from that video isn’t something you should put into your own morning routine, but before doing so,
you should ask yourself if it’s actually gonna
move you towards things that matter to you. As the author James
Clear, rightly points out in his excellent book, Atomic Habits, “Good habits can make rational sense, “but if they conflict with your identity, “you will fail to put them into action.” And you have to keep this in mind because it could be so
easy to get up in emulation for the wrong reasons. Take reading, for example. You see all these successful
people on the internet, reading tons of books every single week, so you think that you have to, as well. But what if the thing that
you wanna learn right now would be better learned in another way? Reading a book isn’t the
only way to learn something. Sometimes you learn better
by just messing around and tinkering, or by going to a class, or taking a course or by going down a long, messy, Google rabbit hole. Now you can’t really track
your messy Google rabbit holes on Goodreads, you can’t really
put ’em up on your shelf in your garage, next to your Lamborghini. You know what I like more
than Lamborghini’s, Anime. It’s hard to brag about them, but that doesn’t make them useless. And depending on what you’re trying to do, that method of learning
might be more useful than reading a book. And if that’s the case, you should probably dial
back your reading goal, to make room for it. For example, one of my
biggest interests right now is learning to produce music. Now there are a ton of music
production books out there, but right now, I’m just trying to figure out how to use
Logic on my computer. And I found that the most
effective way to do that, is to simply try to do things in Logic and then to go find a tutorial, or a video or a forum post, when I get stuck. At the moment, doing
that is far more useful than simply going through a book. So, to briefly summarize first, start small and
build success spirals. Don’t try to take on too much at once. Two, acknowledge the
existence of the chimp and anticipate those inflection points. Figure out if you can
avoid them, if possible, and if not, mentally
prepare for the discomfort that they will bring. Three, sit beneath the sword. Integrate accountability and consequences into your habit-building efforts. And finally, number four, start with why.
– Why? – Make sure that you have a strong, personally meaningful, reason for each habit that you choose to build. One thing that is
incredibly meaningful to me, is music.
(peppy guitar music) Which is why, earlier in the video, I talked about how I’m
learning music production. And in fact, the background
music you’re hearing right now, is actually something that I
produced and played myself. And to touch on that playing
aspect, for a second, one thing that has become
abundantly clear to me in the past couple of years is that your ability to play an instrument is determined less by how many
years you’ve been playing, than on how consistent you are with putting in hours
of deliberate practice. I mean, I got my first
guitar at 13 years old, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve gotten really serious about practicing it on a regular basis. So if you wanna learn how to
play an instrument, as well, then use the habit-building
techniques from this video to make practicing into a strong habit. And while you’re at it,
you should also seek out the best learning resources
that you can find, one of which is Fender Play. If you wanna learn how to play the guitar, Fender Play is a great place to start. Not only can you use it
to learn tons of songs for a guitar, bass and even a ukulele, but the app also includes
thousands of video lessons, tabs and something that I
really appreciate myself, a comprehensive chord
database, complete with videos of how to play them properly. Additionally, there’s a
section called My Path, you can use to go through
a logical progression of skills and songs, which means that you’ll never sit down and not know what to play. And that playing can happen anywhere as you’ll find Fender Play in your browser as well as in the iPhone,
iPad and Android devices. So if you wanna start
learning and playing, then head to the link in
the description down below to get started with a 14-day free trial. And if you decide to go
with their annual plan, you’re also gonna get 10% off of Fender guitars, amps and gear. I wanna give a huge thanks to Fender for sponsoring this video
and working with me. Seriously, I have been
playing Fender guitars since my dad let me borrow
is 40-year-old acoustic, back when I was a teenager. So to say I’m excited
about this sponsorship is a bit of an understatement. So seriously, thanks to Fender for that. And as always, thank you
guys for watching, as well. If you got something
useful out of this video, definitely consider
hitting that like button and you can also subscribe right there, to get new videos when they come out and also click right there, to get a free copy of my book
on how to earn better grades. Lastly, you can check out one
more video on this channel, right around here, or you
can look right over here, to hear some of my other guitar work. Thanks again for watching and I will see you guys, as
always, in the next video. (mellow guitar music)

100 thoughts on “4 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Build Habits”

  1. Throughout the video, I was actually thinking to myself about how good the background music was. Turns out, you produced it! Good job 😀 hope to see more music from you too! Great video as always. 🙂

  2. I got a Tai Lopez ad before your video… and then you made a hilarious impersonation of him at the end of the video. That was perfect 🙂

  3. Thanks for the well timed video. I am putting myself on a no eating out ban for a week to start starting 4/18/19. I made some rules but no consequences if I break the ban. That wasn't something that I thought of. I'm going to have to rethink this for the next dining out ban (which will hopefully be the week after this first week).

  4. Hey Thomas, Did you ever speak on the podcast about what happened to all of the ninja warrior training? I don't remember hearing anything about why you shifted for focus away from that onto other things for the moment. To anyone else: if he did mention it on a podcast could someone let me know which one?

  5. This is so important and what I needed to hear! I started the year motivated for many things and I lost most of the habits I was building because of the mistakes you've pointed out (and other personal factors). I wanted to be so productive by reading and jogging everyday. but the moment I hurt my foot – and read a boring book – this just got me desmotivated, especially because I had to take a break on exercise… it's hard to get back – but I'm trying. I was able to be consistent in other activities because I could explain myself why I was doing it. Also, setting up goals and writing them down has been really effective to me – it's like I'm signing a contract that now I cannot break haha! I just want to say thank you for your videos, they help me a lot to find my motivations when I lose them and to understand myself better, sometimes even scientifically lol. Right now I decided to do what you suggested. Starting small: just meditation everyday. I also would like to compliment your work on your songs and video editing! It's soothing and consistent and beautiful. Congratulations on your channel, we see how much you love doing what you do, helping all of us, and it's incredible how you apply and show what you say and study, inspiring us all. 🙂

  6. How do you have time to do everything that you do?? I mean, I get that your an entrepreneur and don't have a 8-5 office job, BUT STILL.

  7. 1. Jumping into the deep end and taking on too many habits at once. 0:38
    2. Not everything goes according to plan. Expect the unexpected. 2:26
    3. Hold yourself accountable to your habits with fun rewards or bets with friends. 4:55
    4. You need a strong personal reason to stick to your habits or you will lose motivation. 7:05
    Quick Summary 8:50

  8. Wow.
    I really like your videos, but with this one, you even have outdone even your previous works. 
    Happy to see that your video-skills are on progress as well 🙂
    Keep up deliberate practice (Y)

  9. This reminded me that I have not yet finished Hollow Knight, which made me feel like a total noob in the end of the Colosseum. Great video!

  10. Just like this video, do summarize all the points at the end which you talked about in your video, and preferably showing them all up on the same screen if possible.

  11. This methaphorical sword is regret and not feeling good when I don't do something I truly know I need and want to do.

  12. “Kuya” Thomas I noticed you gained weight. Hehehe. But that’s fine just don’t be obese.

    God Bless I follow your videos all the way here in the PHILIPPINES.

    *“Kuya” denotes courtesy or respect to an elder brother or elder male.

  13. Makes me want to make a game that throws you into fricken level 100.
    This is probably why most people don't like playing those open world games cause they somehow end up in a server with the people who have everything and will kill you on sight.

  14. Thanks for recommending Chimp Spanner. Haven't listened to this kind of music in years, but I'm absolutely loving it!

  15. Thank you so much for this, actually yeah I started walking and I didn't plan for the pain and discomfort, now I will have to adjust and anticipate that. ❤️❤️Love your video, so helpful

  16. Hey I really did not need the video but this an idea for a future one how to stop being lazy I got this idea because I alleyways thought that I could do a lot but what is stopping me is that lemations and my laziness but I know that i could get though the lemations but the laziness i need help

  17. bro you put that logo thing (your face actually, … you know what I mean) in the middle of the screen
    this is so genius and funny

  18. Hey man I just want to let you know that I've just finished my first year of university, and your videos helped a lot along the way. I started watching at the beginning of grade 12 to prepare. My first year is over, I've got mostly A's or A+ in my classes with a few B's.

    Thanks for your work, you've made my university experience much more enjoyable and less stressful.

    Cheers,
    Nick

  19. Great video. I think its so helpful how frequently you repeat similar advice with different framing and concept. It really helps internalize the concepts! Great videos past few months!

  20. I bought myself a copy of Atomic Habits per your recommendation, and I'm so glad I did! I hadn't read a book for pleasure in about 4 years (thanks college and small children, I'm looking at you!), and this is the first one I've been able to squeeze time in to read. I love it!

  21. Ricardo Comercial

    I am a great (44 years old dude) fan from Brazil. If you allow me to make a suggestion, once I am also a heavy metal fan and you mention the importance of music in this video, in my humble oppinion the background msic of all your videos, are pretty loud for a background music and "pretty robotic" distracting the audience, specially when you use headphone to listen your videos. I believe you should chance the background music concept, for something more "agreable" and with a bigger compass. Most of time the background music "steal" your attention. This is a constructive critic.

  22. Martín Pérez Comisso

    Loving the anime scene inclusion, in particular, the resolution is the same as any good anime <3

  23. Hey Thomas! Would you make a Logic Pro X tutorial for us? Could be awesome to hear it from the beginner to beginner! 🙂

  24. #1 is So me…. thanks for sharing the spiral metaphor, very helpful typing that as i'm sitting beneath the sword & talking to a chimp

  25. I am blessed that I subscribed to your channel 6 months ago. See, I started watching your channel when I had problems studying in my first year at college. Your videos were very useful and helpful for me. And then, for some reason, I stopped watching. For the whole year I didn't do anything productive, I never stopped my bad habbits (in fact, they got much worst), and my mental health has been going down hill without even noticing it. The last couple of weeks specifically were really hard and diffecult to handle. And watching your videos today just gave me this extra burst to be back on track and stop just sitting around watching myself getting worst and worst every day. Thank you so much, Thomas. Really hopeing the best for you always.

  26. The Thomas Frank Simon Clark collab is what dreams are made of, both great you tubers and inspirations .Please do a collab video.

  27. Me and my friend got the best commitment device going on. He's currently programming a game and I'm writing a novel. If i finish my first draft before he does finish his first version of the game I'll get 50 bucks. If he manages to be quicker I'll give him 50.

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