Fake It Until . . .
Behavior that is incongruent with the self will not last.
James Clear, Atomic Habits
You can fake it only so long.
If your job requires you to do something that is inconsistent with your values, one of two things will happen.
You will quit, or you will stay while your physical and mental health decline.
If there is a change you want to make in your behavior, you can try to make it happen with willpower.
And that will work — for a while.
If willpower is not replaced with new habits or with a strong desire for the benefits of the new behavior, you will revert to the old ways.
The best move is to pair a powerful desire with new habits.
But here’s the paradox:
· If you don’t change what you value, you will not change what you do.
· If you don’t change what you do, you will not change what you value.
No wonder you often feel stuck.
How can you possibly free yourself from this reinforcement loop?
Humans often have competing values and desires.
You want to be healthy. But you also want to eat donuts and pizza for every meal.
The problem is that becoming healthy requires time and effort.
Comfort food is quick and easy. The payoff is immediate.
While you genuinely want to get healthy, that desire is easily overwhelmed by your appetite.
The only way to get unstuck is to employ two tactics at the same time:
· Use willpower to begin new habits that move you in the direction of the new behavior.
· Become more focused on the long-term desire in the present.
One of these tactics alone will not get you where you want to go.
You need the one to reinforce the other.
With a little persistence, you can establish a new reinforcement loop before your willpower starts to run out.
Don’t expect to make radical changes in your behavior in a short time.
We overestimate what we can accomplish in a week and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year.
The best time to start new behaviors is a year ago. The second-best time is today.
At the same time you are building new habits, build into your routine reminders of your long-term desires.
Don’t imagine yourself having already achieved the long-term goal.
Instead, imagine the obstacles you are likely to encounter on the way to that destination and what you can do to overcome them.
A year from now you will look back in amazement at what you’ve been able to accomplish.
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