I’ve written 18 books. I’ve started 20 businesses. I’ve failed at about 17 of them but some have done OK.
I’ve helped raise two beautiful kids. I have a podcast that I love doing.
Sometimes I’m really lazy. Sometimes I do nothing. I go play arcade games or watch TV or sit in a store and drink coffee and play on my iPad.
But to do all of the above I had to work a lot.
Everyone is into habit porn these days. “Do these habits for success.”
I’m guilty of this also. I am a habit pornographer. BUT…be very careful. Don’t blindly do habits. Habits kill. Here’s why:
A) LIFE GOES BY TOO QUICK.
I like this salmon dish across the street. So a month ago I said, I’m going to just eat this every day and make decision-making easier.
Within a week I was sick of it. I thought I was going to die if I ate another bite of salmon.
If you do the same thing every day, your brain gets used to it. Then the tenth time you do it (the hundredth time) your brain doesn’t even realize it’s doing it.
That’s why people who work the same 9–5 job for 40 years feel like “the years went by so quick!”
Because if you do the same thing every day, the brain shuts down during those activities and it feels like just seconds have gone by when you think about it later.
People write: do these 100 habits every day. Do them at the same time (a morning ritual, an evening ritual, etc).
If you do that, and you blink, you’re going to be 90 years old.
B) YOU EITHER GROW OR GET WORSE.
You can’t step in the same river twice. It’s always changing.
One time I said, “I’m going to do 20 pushups a day.” That works for about a week. Then you have to do 21 pushups. Then 25, then 50.
Then pushups are no good. You’ve only worked one set of muscles. You have to change your exercise. You have to change your habits. So then it’s no longer a habit.
You can say, “Exercise every day.” Fine. But don’t do it at the same time each day (see “A”).
C) PLAY VERSUS HABITS
I like to play. But if I play the same game every day, I’ll get bored.
In the past week: air hockey, ping pong, pool, golf, mini-golf, some kind of small car race, skeet bowl, chess, etc.
Every game uses different parts of my brain and body. And I don’t do it at the same time. I do it when I’m not busy with other things. But I do try to spend time every day playing.
We’re not so different from when we were kids. If anything we’re more stupid.
I certainly didn’t call playing baseball a habit when I was a kid.
It was fun and it made me a better person and I play every day.
D) HABITS MAKE YOU STUPID.
I used to live in the beautiful country. I would drive and notice the trees and the architecture and the leaves changing.
But then on the 50th time on the same route, I stopped noticing everything. In fact, I’d get to my destination and not even remember anything. “How did I get here?”
If you take a different route each day, you keep noticing things. You keep learning about your surroundings.
The more new things that hit your brain (the less habits), the smarter you get.
Being present in every new moment forces the universe to deliver up a new experience on your plate of life. Devour it, digest it, and you’ll get more.
E) HABITS ARE FOR INSECTS.
Bees have habits. They do stuff with honey and flowers. They do the same thing each time.
Ants have habits. They build ant farms.
Humans don’t have habits. We have the exact same genes as 40,000 years ago. And, if you take out violent death and infant mortality, humans probably lived longer then.
Because they had a wider variety of things to eat. They had healthier exercise to get their food.
And they didn’t eat at the same time each day. They ate when they could find food.
Nor did they exercise at the same time. “Exercise” was “let’s get food” which only occurred when they were hungry.
Habits started when we were domesticated by wheat and turned from nomads into farmers to grow the wheat.
Prior to that, variety was the spice of life.
And now, to live long, to be smart, to live healthy, to have fun – variety also should be the spice of life.
So what do we do with all of the habits?
I try to contribute every day. To have impact. To learn and then share.
But that’s not a habit. That’s called being a decent citizen. I’m trying.
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Jeswin Thomas.