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Ask HN: Are there any systematic and scientific ways to develop a habit?
334 points by sammyjiang on Dec 3, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments
I want to develop many daily habits, such as running, reading, or exercise every day, but all difficult to stick to, I know someone, such as zurkburg, who can insist on what they want to do, so I wonder is there any systemic way i can develop a habit?

1. Build a routine. Set a specific, repeating time when you will do the thing in your calendar. Keep that slot clear, ALWAYS. Never let something interrupt this task.

2. Learn to say no. If someone wants you to do something else during this time slot, say no, and tell them why.

3. Never break the routine. Breaking it once makes it MUCH easier to break the next scheduled time. If you do break it, feel bad about it and get back on the horse IMMEDIATELY.

4. Use the power of accountability to reinforce the routine. If you can find someone who will hold you accountable, do it. Someone who does the routine with you, or a coach who will call you out if you make excuses.

5. One thing at a time. Don't build some huge routine of 15 tasks at once. Ease into it one task at a time.

6. Don't overload yourself. Leave time in your schedule for play. If it gets to be too much, decide CONSCIOUSLY which one you will drop permanently (and not right before the schedule to do it).

Edit: I'll also say this: Overcoming adversity builds discipline. A tough life that forces you to fight for what you want builds this naturally. An easy, carefree life doesn't make you tough. Seek out tough things to toughen yourself up.

Excellent list. I would like to add a couple of things that have worked for me:

1. Ensure sufficient sleep (varies for each individual)

2. Identify and manage sources of stress

3. Practice mindfulness meditation

Doing the above ensures that your willpower is stronger and you are able to stick with new habits.

Ironically, mindfulness meditation is exactly the habit that I'm struggling to build. :)

If this is really important to you, I'd suggest starting first thing in the morning to make meditation easier. Aside from the basic difficulty of turning any task into a habit, meditation itself will be more difficult should you start say, mid day. When the mind is already wide awake, the inner chatter can be overwhelming, whereas in the morning it's much more peaceful. Making a task more difficult will compound the difficulty of forming a habit of that task. Hope that helps!

can you start with just 10 minutes every morning? try to use a timer that has a subtle sound, not too jarring. I made for myself a few silent mp3s of 2, 5, 10 and 20 minutes in length (easy enough in Audacity), put those in a playlist with a subtle sound (a bell, some ambient track, mantra singing or whatever you like), just on my phone it's not a hi-fi thing that's important here. so if I feel like doing more than 10 minutes I can easily queue the 2 or the 5 in front of it, you get the idea.

what also helped me was joining a meditation group for a weekly session, if you like, check wkup.org see if there's one near you, they're good people :)

like most things, the amount of benefit (clarity, focus etc) you get stepping up from about once a week to 2 or 3 times, is pretty huge. maybe that helps with motivating?

last thing, I like to tell myself, the time you spend is basically free. as in you easily get it back in ways of rest, focus, ease for the rest of the day.

Perhaps you should start with something less subtle? Like "transcendental meditation", that will have the effect of "making it" and motivate you to dig further?

Here's one that I think is the most important key. Pick a very small sub-piece of the habit you want to build, and EASY sub-piece. If you want to work out, then this might mean getting your workout clothes on. This is the minimum thing you do every day. If, after getting your workout clothes on, you decide you don't want to work out, then don't. You still get 100% credit for doing the task that day.

Even if you go two weeks and never get to the gym, you have at least built a habit of getting started with working out! You're much better off than if you had done nothing. Every day, at least you get started. And getting started is usually the hardest part. If you get started, most of the time you'll actually do the thing you had in mind!

It's critical to make the minimum requirement easy and then DO IT EVERY DAY. If it's hard and painful, you'll simply quit the whole thing after a while.

I will add one thing, it takes between 1 to 2 months to have the routine be really part of your daily life, but it takes 1 week to lose it!

What is really important is that you never forget the hard work it was to build the routine to never let it go. It is hard for everybody to build again a routine after a break like when you broke your foot (like me right now) and need to go back to running every second day (I know it will be painful both physically and psychologically for me).

Point 5. is really important. One habit at a time, it takes a lot of willpower to build one action/activity into a routine, do not overload. Also, there are some habits which are easier to start building at given point in your life or of the year (running in winter may not be fun for you). So use the right time of the year, the right break in your life to start something and fight to not lose the ones you achieved.

1. Agree. Setting a time-slot aside means that you don't have to make that decision everyday. Not having to make a decision is very helpful in forming a habit.

2. Agree. Some discipline in sticking is very helpful in the beginning. Over time, people realize you aren't to be bothered at a certain time, or even that you don't spontaneously change your plans if you have certain specific activities planned that hour ( for me, it's biking).

3. Strongly Disagree. Being uncomfortable with a break in routine leads to guilt, sense of failure, and premature abandonment of your goal. It's really important to curtail falling off, but comfort with occasional breaks is really important.

4. This only works if you have a long term coach/partner. Friends are usually unlikely to be as determined as you to do this particular thing. And if you start together with a friend and they fall off, it legitimizes the failure a little and tempts you to fall off too. I'd say being accountable to yourself (marking lines on a whiteboard) might be more effective.

5. Strongly agree. ONLY one thing at a time.

6. Agree

This and other responses all have excellent advice. I'll just add a couple things that have worked for me.

- With exercise it's important to not overdo it. Start small, work up at a reasonable slow pace. You don't have to run 10 miles on day 1. Getting injured or sore or even just too tired makes it so much more likely you'll start skipping.

- Make doing the activity any given day more important that how much of it you do. It's okay to run a half mile instead of three, just make sure to run a little.

- When I was trying to lose weight & make a habit out of counting calories and stopping at my limit, I realized something that made it a thousand times easier. This might seem really stupid obvious, but it's about mental frame of mind. I realized that whatever hunger I thought I felt, I had been eating more than I needed. I was getting too much. If my calorie limit left me a little hungry, then that's how I was supposed to feel. When I focused on overcoming the hunger, it was a losing battle, it just made me think about the hunger and how I felt like I wanted to eat more. When I shifted to thinking about how I'd been eating too much, it was easy to adjust.

This helped me discover that building habits and goals are a very mental process that you can make easier by modifying your thinking. Figure out how to make your goals motivating, as opposed to brute-forcing your way over hurdles. When I learned to think the right way about certain things, they became so much easier. The harder you push against something you don't really want to do, the more energy it takes. If you can flip it into something you do want to do, it's effortless. Try reflecting on ways to make it mentally easier to make activities automatic, rather than thinking about how to battle and win new habits. Turn the goals mentally into givens- the things you're just going to do, and make the alternative the thing that's more difficult than not doing it.

Yep start small... not quite a year ago I started with just a Saturday class. About three months later I added another, and a month later, one more. Attend consistently except for the week I am on call. During call week I workout at home to YouTube videos and follow the similar HIIT/cardio-weight mix classes that I do in the gym on the SAME schedule. Strong results (belly smaller but seems to have reached steady state), fat loss else where, but not much weight loss. Resting pulse down by 6 beats/min.

Getting injured... nothing breaks routine and depresses you like this one. I got one earlier on doing jumping jacks - it was the achilles. Fortunately it preceded my call week and I recovered in a quick 3 weeks - which was surprising. So I missed at most 1 week. Never did jumping jacks again and always use the alternatives... in fact I take all the starter options I am given.

To add to your second point. I have more 'bad days' than good... shouldn't this stuff get easier? Some days I cannot finish some routines; just don't have the energy. But I always feel good leaving the gym. Getting to the gym is more than 80% of the battle - there are usually competent people at gym to take you the last 20%. Don't compare yourself with others - concern yourself with your factors.

I did not set out to change my eating habits. However seeing decent gains, I started asking myself if I need that extra item I crave. I often give in to the ask, but it is not without questioning myself. I am not the best when it comes to dietary self control, so, for now, this is my approach. Hopefully down the road I will question myself more, and eventually, give in less.

I doubt this is scientifically verified, but this is probably the best thing we can do in the absence of research.

Last time I check out research concerning producitivty, it's an unresearched black hole.

That's not factoring in the reproducability crisis.

What I like in the absence of research is doing one's own measurements and then building what you learn into your own framework. Over time you can then make the framework more elegant and find the best leverage points.

This is far better IMO than googling somebody else's list. It is personalized to you and is more fun that way, too.

I agree this method is more powerful in the long run.

It is difficult though. It requires serious patience, and very disciplined self-awareness and self-skepticism. It is incredibly easy to craft a false narrative for our experiences.

Keeping in mind that different approaches work for different people, I do think supplementing with ideas from others, especially those who possess similar self-awareness and skepticism, can be helpful.

I've become to believe strongly that relentless skepticism and questioning is one of the most powerful forces in humanity. So I try hard to apply it to myself -- while also giving myself a break now and then :)

Of course, the sciences are the clearest example of this. But I think it also applies to areas where rigorous measurements are hard to come by.

On 4: there are applications that you can get that will impose a painful measure on you should you stray from routine. Things like donating to the political party opposite yours should you fail.

As someone who got into a regular exercise habit a year ago that has progressively gotten more intense, I disagree with a few of your points.

Actually, I guess it's mostly the first 3:

> 1. Build a routine. Set a specific, repeating time when you will do the thing in your calendar. Keep that slot clear, ALWAYS. Never let something interrupt this task.

> 2. Learn to say no. If someone wants you to do something else during this time slot, say no, and tell them why.

> 3. Never break the routine. Breaking it once makes it MUCH easier to break the next scheduled time. If you do break it, feel bad about it and get back on the horse IMMEDIATELY.

It's this "do it now or feel guilty" stuff that keeps most people procrastinating or avoiding doing the task. I remember initially I would have it set in my mind that I needed to go to the gym at 10 a.m. the next day. If I woke up a bit late or was wasting time on reddit and 10 a.m. looked unrealistic, I started feeling really guilty. "Oh no, if I don't go now, I'll never go!" It put a lot of stupid, unnecessary pressure on the situation. And it didn't really have the desired effect -- I'd usually not go, since I had already blown it by missing my 10 a.m. deadline, after all!

Now, I might wake up and plan on going at 10, but I know that I 1) absolutely do plan on going and 2) can go at 11, or 12, or 1, or 2, etc. There's no need to make the task worse by associating a lot of negative pressure and guilt with it.

> One thing at a time. [...] Leave time in your schedule for play.

Totally. Especially if it's an area where the amount of information out there can be overwhelming (a la fitness / weightlifting). I started out going with a few exercises I enjoyed in mind and simply did them until I felt tired. I didn't worry about making a program, writing down my workouts, obsessing about nutrition, or obsessing about how many days or which days I did what.

Over time, things started getting easier and I began incorporating more of this stuff as I started feeling comfortable. But the initial phase where I made the habit something I actually enjoyed was crucial. Even now, when I occasionally find myself feeling like I've slipped too much back into treating it like a job, I take a day to not keep track of anything and try some new exercises that I think might feel good.

Edit: Also super useful:

> If you can find someone who will hold you accountable, do it. Someone who does the routine with you, or a coach who will call you out if you make excuses.

For me it was my roommate. I'd go with him the first couple of months. After a while I felt comfortable enough to go by myself and do my own thing, but that initial time where I would use the slight social pressure of him going and asking me if I wanted to go to keep myself in check.

> It's this "do it now or feel guilty" stuff that keeps most people procrastinating or avoiding doing the task

Couldn't agree more with this.

I've tried many times to build habits into my routine, only to abandon them and feel bad about it because I couldn't maintain them for a few days.

No more. Now I have them in my list, I keep them consciously present, but I won't punish myself if I don't get them done one day. Allow some leeway. If you really want it, build it paciently into your routine and if it doesn't feel right, try another way.

One example: I've been trying to stick to a healthy diet to lose some weight. I don't enjoy cooking, and much less enjoy preparing or eating salads. Tried lots of apps, lots of ways of grocery shopping, and hated it all the way. Now I switched to calorie counting and drinking lots of water. Walking away from the desk to fill a bottle 3 or 4 times a day feels like I'm moving forward without any hassle, and I just try to eat slowly when I sit down for lunch or dinner. Water diminishes my appetite and cravings for eating out of just feeling anxiety. And if I feel like chomping down on a pizza with beer, it's ok, no big deal.

Just take it easy. Hakuna matata.

> Now I switched to calorie counting and drinking lots of water.

Nice! Calorie counting was huge for me. I started using an app for tracking it, and suddenly the weight just started coming off. The quantification and gamification aspect was hugely addicting for me. For the first time I actually felt in control over my body.

Yes, habit is about cues. Time is one cue, but it can be a weak one if your ordinary routine varies. If you set your exercise time as 6pm, but your activity at 5:30 is not routine, then the time cue may not be enough to trigger the habit. You'll lose track of time and suddenly realize it's 6:15, at which point (like this comments says), you'll feel like you failed and you'll rationalize not doing it at all.

The key is to entrain a new habit with an old one---exercise when you get up, or on your way home from work, or at some other point in the day where you're reliably doing the same thing every day.

I finally built up the will to exercise by forcing myself to do only something every day. Even if it was walk out the door the walk back in, as long as it was something.

Have a read, great book on the topic: https://www.amazon.com/Power-Habit-What-Life-Business/dp/081...

Systematic, definitely. Scientific? Not really sure, but I find it extremely effective. If I could boil it down to "what works" for me, it'd be:

- Pick a task or thing that you want to accomplish. Let's say running (mine is running/lifting).

- Pick a "cue," or something that signals when you perform said task. The more apparent the cue the better. Mine is waking up. Working out is the first thing I do.

- Follow this routine religiously for about 21 days. That's the magic number according to people who are into this kind of thing, and I agree. At this point you kind of forget what your old habit was when you woke up, and you naturally go to perform your new task.

And lastly, there will be some days when you don't want to perform the task. Do it anyway. A streak of not performing that task is really just the (re)formation of a bad habit.

I second "The Power of Habit", Duhigg is the kind of writer you're looking for - aggregating scientific sources and multiple studies, but presenting them in very easy-to-consume popular-science format.

Worth noting that the 21 day recommendation is "average", the actual "stick time" has a huge variation between a few days spent on "brush my teeth as soon as I wake up" habit to (likely) months that it would take to pick up the "run 5 miles before breakfast" habit.

Running five miles before breakfast is more than just a habit; it is also a skill. Many people simply can't run 5 miles right now, they need to first train up to acquire the ability to do it.

I agree with you, but I think the parent was saying that even controlling for one's ability to successfully do a thing, some things (i.e. those that are more strenuous or otherwise require more commitment) take longer to solidify as habits, which makes sense if we think of habit-forming as environmental adaptation. One doesn't adapt to massive environmental changes after just a couple of weeks.

Ironically, long distance running (10+ miles) is easier to do before breakfast, as an empty stomach is useful--digestion stops anyway as soon as your body is in need of some extra red cells to carry more oxygen. A trained person has enough ATP reserves for about 90 minutes at threshold intensity, and anyway the whole process of ingesting, digesting, and metabolising a regular meal takes many hours (around twelve in my case), so having breakfast before a run is purely a psychological boost--bar quickly metabolising food, such as banana or sport gels, which you do ingest during the run anyway.

All this of course depends on the individual's physiology and psychology.

For me, I tend to run either before breakfast or in the wee hours of the morning (one/two o'clock) before going to bed.

Mind, I'm an ultra runner, where being hungry and sleep deprived for days is the name of the game, so I've overcome that particular psychological barrier.

I should note that the book goes much deeper, offering insight into how habit-forming is used by marketers, how it impacts addiction, personal success, etc.

I second the recommendation for "The Power of Habit". I read it years ago and it has completely changed the way I think about human behavior and interpret the actions of the people in my life. Among the self-help books I've read it's probably the one book that has had the greatest impact on my life.

In addition, I haven't seen the third step in the "Cue -> Habit -> Reward" cycle mentioned yet. While the Reward may be the lingering endorphin rush from a hard workout or the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a chore, the author also suggests a simple, pleasurable behavior after the task that you're trying to make a habit of (like a small piece of chocolate immediately after a run or allowing yourself a few shameless minutes of cat videos after a focused study session). The idea is to allow your mind to associate the pleasure response with the habit each time it encounters the cue.

> I haven't seen the third step in the "Cue -> Habit -> Reward" cycle mentioned yet.

Good point! I allow myself an Irn-Bru only on run days (and less than 10 miles doesn't count). I don't live in Scotland and Irn-Bru is particularly hard to find, which is part of the incentive. Gives me a sense of accomplishment anyway!

The author talks of a variable reward. The variability is importance because of monotony associated with a repeated reward.

I'd also recommend reading the power of habit (I posted my own comment but then deleted when I saw this).

It talks through studies where people have broken bad habits through creating new ones.

+1 to reading The Power of Habit

Meditate. There are many different ways. Find one that works for you. It is the best way to become more conscious of your habits and less reactive.

I was the same and now, after reading a lot about these things, I believe I am able to actually develop habits I want. What worked for me:

- I stopped trying to develop all the habits at once and sticked to a single habit. Preferably the easiest one.

- I discovered I get used to doing something by repeating it a lot. For e.g. at the beginning, I was targeting doing yoga once a week because I was thinking that the more often I target, the more difficult it would be and I would fail. It did not work out because doing something once a week did not turn into a habit. Instead, I switched to doing 3 minutes of yoga, but every single day. And I did not target increasing it at all. After a period, I was automatically increasing it without noticing it.

- I cannot develop habits when my life is busy and unstable. For e.g. if I am not coming home at the same hour everyday, and targeting to read at the same time but missing it because I was not at home at that hour, it did not turn in to a habit. When I could do it at the same time everyday for a period, then it started to stick.

- I started giving a habit at least 3 months to develop. I reserve the next three months for a single habit, if I can do it, say 60 times in 90 days, I tend to stick to it after that period and am now able to add a new one, because the feeling of "I am now trying to develop a habit" disappears for the old one.

- Also I discovered that once I make something a habit, I can decrease the frequency and still able to stick with it. E.g. I developed a habit of running 3-4 times a week, now I want to do it once a week and I can easily stick to it.

Couple of life-hacks to help you along:

- Pay for things. I'm been paying $400/month for fitness classes and rest assured I never missed one. Haven't even been late.

- Develop a single meta-habit: check your checklist. I have a morning checklist of things that I need to check off before I feel my morning is complete and my day is off to a good start. I don't forget my vitamins anymore.

- Talk things through with someone who listens. As you're talking out loud you will get a better perspective and ideas on how to make new habits stick will pop out of nowhere.

> Pay for things

Counterpoint: lots of people hold $50-$100/month gym memberships but never go to the gym. In fact, this is the most important part of the business model of most gyms.

In my case the program will end. So I'm paying $400 and if I slack off I will have to start over and that's another $400.

I don't know of any "how to" type material, but the scientific topic here is operant conditioning. The basic idea is that you reward behaviors that are desired and/or punish behaviors that aren't desired. There's an interesting dichotomy, though: the fastest way to learn a behavior is to have a reinforcement (a reward or foregoing something unpleasant) that is consistently provided with/after the behavior and not at other times. However, the most effective way to maintain a behavior is for the reward to be provided at a random ratio to the behavior (but still only in conjunction with the desired behavior) [1].

A lot of people want to believe that humans are somehow "above" operant conditioning, but there's a lot of evidence that we aren't.

Language nitpick: the word you want is systematic [2].

[1] http://open.lib.umn.edu/intropsyc/chapter/7-2-changing-behav...

[2] http://www.public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/systemic.html

I wanted a particular job; I wanted to get it and succeed at it once I had it. I wanted it more than any job I'd ever wanted. The commute was 44 miles, work started at 7 AM. I quickly realized I could eat breakfast, read the paper at home, then fight rush hour traffic, or reverse that and avoid rush hour. I searched and found a nice deli/diner 1.1 miles from work. That meant getting up at 4:30 AM, which meant going to bed at 8:30 PM. My (now ex) girlfriend picked a pointless fight with me at 8:20 twice the first week. But at 8:30 I went to bed.

All of this might sound crazy, but I wanted it badly, made it paramount, so all the rest flowed from that. If you really want your life to be different, decide what you want and accept the decisions that flow from the goal. People will get in your way, including yourself. I've had the weirdest effects myself of suddenly unable to focus on getting out the door, forgetting where my keys or such are, etc. But keep at it. Make the goal paramount, break through whatever bizzareness appears, and you'll have what you want.

I think the lesson here is: be prepared to make sacrifices for the thing you really want.

Not sure if there's advice or a definitive way to develop a habit here, but it's helpful nonetheless.

The biggest challenges I found are distractions. It's easy to get going with running, reading or exercise but as long as TV is there, Netflix or the Internet, we are easily tempted to follow the easy path.

Once you get distracted by something, it's very easy to continue to be distracted. I'm thinking of binge-watching Netflix, or checking out the reddit front-page etc. After, we forget what is the work and what are the todos. Even if we have to go back to a productive state, then we are not in the zone, and it is still very easy to go back in distraction mode.

Based on all this, what worked for me was being productive right from the beginning. Waking up, I do something productive, often creative writing. When I begin to work, I do not check news or email. I start with a to-dos that are quick to do. You do a streak and then continue on the bigger todos. News, emails, blogs, social media are much later in the day, if at all.

In this framework, if I want to develop a new habit, I would wake up early and put 30mn of time into it. I won't open up my phone or have any social interaction before finishing it.

BJ Fog is a Stanford researcher who is studying exactly that. Check out his "tiny habits" program, which is a one week course in which you will learn 3 new tiny habits. It is free and enlightening: tinyhabits.com

I highly recommend this as well. It involves all the principles discussed in this thread, but makes you actually do them rather than just reading about it

Get a dog. Our dog needs to go out first thing in the morning. It sounds silly, but she succeeded in injecting an element of schedule into my days that I hadn't had before. I feel like I've found it easier to develop other daily habits as a result.

I can second that. On one hand you have a little less of the free time, but on the other hand you learn to stick to a routine. Which is a useful skill for habit formation. And you can couple the walks with something else, like running or listening to audio books.

There is an excellent app for android called 'Loop - Habit Tracker' (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.isoron.uha...) which has a really great interface for keeping track of habits. It's very well designed. The interface is simple and snappy. Best app I've found anywhere for keeping track of even small daily habits (like flossing). It takes about 3 seconds to check off a habit, it can remind you every day, and you can consult graphs to see how you've been doing. It's also free and has no ads.

I didn't make this project. But it's great. I've picked up quite a few habits using it.

I really admire people who make stuff like this. It's completely ad free and open source too.

Also about the pain vs. pleasure response.

Ultimately, we as humans, are always trying to either obtain more pleasure or avoid some level of pain. This is true for every task and decision we make in life.

If we take the task of going to the gym for instance, some people associate going to the gym with "pain". I.e. I don't want to run because I"m tired. Whereas others associate going to the gym with "I want to feel good and have more energy".

The trick is being able to combine the power of habit (cue) with pain and pleasure.

All of this can be read in Awaken the Giant Within by T. Robbins. Oldie but a goodie classic on this stuff.

Quickly trying to bootstrap my knowledge of the field I have a few things for you.

First of all as such the examples you have given aren't quite habits. A habit is generally defined in the research as a sort of automatic response to contextual cues. So running just "every day" can never be habitual, however running as a specific part of your morning routine can become habitual.

Secondly the cue is the essential part in making the habitual behaviour override your conscious intentions. It is however both necessary and sufficient, so you don't necessarily need to worry too much about rewards or accountability to make things stick. Just developing the association between cue and behaviour is enough.

And that is basically all we know for certain so far. At least as far as I can learn skimming the first related literature review that popped up (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17437199.2013.87...) and some of the associated papers.

If you are not the kind of person who can through willpower alone get yourself to set up the cue and do the action it may benefit you to get help from someone who is better at that kind of thing until the habit is automatic.

I think you need a complete change in mindset, because you're just setting yourself up for failure.

You shouldn't need to develop a habit like reading or exercise. If you don't truly want to do these things then you'll stick to your systematic habit for a few days and it'll fizzle out, then it's back to the drawing board.

I've been walking/jogging a few miles a day for the last 5 years or so. Now it's part of my life because I straight up enjoy it. I also quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey after smoking a pack a day for a long time.

Both were honestly really easy to do because deep down I wanted to do them. I woke up one day and the room was spinning which is something I never encountered before. It scared the shit out of me, so I immediately changed my life style.

You should be asking yourself why you want to read and exercise more. Is it because of a long term goal? Good, write that goal down and stick to doing things that point you towards it. That's all there is to it.

If you find that too difficult, then your goal is not really something you care about, so think harder. Keep repeating that until you find what you really want.

> If you find that too difficult, then your goal is not really something you care about, so think harder.

From personal experience, agreed that you shouldn’t have to make yourself, and instead realizing that you want it.

Disagreed with ‘think harder’, though. When mind is foggy, thinking harder doesn’t seem to help; and when mind is clear, things tend to be obvious without thinking.

When you woke up to a spinning room, you probably didn’t have to think too hard about goals or whether you’d want to experience that again. It was a moment of clarity. However, when everything is going mostly well and there are no incoming existential warnings—just normal ups and downs of life—such moments can be elusive to some of us.

I’d say regularly practicing different ways of inducing bouts of mindfulness (how? I wish I knew) might be the only habit worth development per se.

Right, when the room was spinning, I didn't think "I better read a Tim Ferris book!" or "what type of application should I use to schedule my time to monitor habits".

It was more like sitting down and having a conversation with myself that went something like this:

"You're not in that bad shape, but something is messed up. Cigarettes are terrible and while you're not overweight, you're inactive and that needs to change or you're going to die".

Then I basically evaluated my life up until that point and made sweeping changes based on a bunch of goals that I wrote out.

The really funny thing is, death wasn't enough to keep me motivated with walking. Not because I hated it that much, but it was really easy to get trolled by my own brain with thoughts such as "you just walked 4 miles in 4 days after sitting at a computer desk for years... you're fine man".

Now I have long term goals and walking meshes well with my life style. I've grown to like it because of what it allows me to do, not because of the mechanical motion of walking.

> regularly practicing different ways of inducing bouts of mindfulness (how? I wish I knew)

Talk to a shrink. Having paid for it does wonders for your ability to focus the conversation on your goals.

While I agree with the part that you need to really enjoy an activity for it to sustain long term, the claim that you need to enjoy it when you're starting out doesn't sound right.

I love running. Yet, I struggle massively when I try getting back to it after a break. I love math. But it can be really painful to learn (most) of the math stuff the first time. I have to make a genuine effort and enforce discipline and trick/game my mindset to pick the initial momentum.

When people start a routine, they usually do have a desire of where they want to be. But that's not enough to create momentum. On the other hand, once you get some momentum, that itself creates further motivation and additional momentum from the sense of accomplishment.

Why do you love math?

I don't walk only because of enjoyment. I want to do serious long term travel, and I know being able to walk long periods of time is going to be part of that life style.

If I REALLY want to spend years traveling the world (which I do), then I need to do things that help move the meter towards that goal. It should be exciting to do these things every day because it's one step closer to where you want to be. It's measurable progress and at the end of the day, that's a big win.

Love for X (math/running/anything else) is hard to explain. It intrinsically appeals to me and I enjoy it once I have mastered it a bit.

I think this fundamentally misses an important part of human nature -- we can want things in the abstract (be more healthy, be more well-read, etc.) but not actually "straight up enjoy" them.

There are techniques for training yourself to think differently about tasks though; Tony Robbins talks a lot about how to train yourself to have the positive associations that you choose, instead of the ones that your environment and upbringing bestowed on you[1]. Some of that reads a bit cultish but I think there's some good stuff in there.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Unlimited-Power-Science-Personal-Achi...

On Reddit there are several groups that try to do this. It's called the X-Effect. It works by creating a habit by doing a small task daily. One of the most important things is to start small.

You have to start so small that is seems stupid, but as it's all about positive reinforcement, you better start small (five minute tasks like clean your desk) and succeed, than a little bigger and fail. You may think that you could do 30 minutes and do more, but the goal here is to do this each and every day. If you do more one day, that's great. But this is the minimum. You have to set yourself to do this every day for five minutes.

You repeat this for 50 days, and the idea is that by then you have created a habit. Then you can start a new goal.

It sounds stupid, but it's not. It's really easy to let this go for one day, and think tomorrow I'll do 15 minutes to compensate. Or maybe you had a good day yesterday, and you worked 30 minutes on your goal. This is not a good idea. It's a trigger to let go, and stop the routine. Soon you're doing this 5 minute task only every other day, and then suddenly you stop alltogether.

And of course I take a stupid example here. You may choose another task that takes more time, and maybe you don't set a time limit, but something like walk the dog three times a day, or read one chapter of a book each day.



BJ Fogg has a few insights regarding good habit retention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g56aKi-z05w

Basically if you look at it as a process, making sure not to overwhelm yourself before the habit becomes second nature, you have a better chance of succeeding at it.

BJ Fogg's tiny habits is a good way. You might know him as author of the book "persuasive technologies". But his habit tools are well studied and tested (according to him ;) http://tinyhabits.com/

See Tim Ferriss and his various podcasts/books. This is basically what he's spent 10-15 years studying, does a good job distilling information into the most impactful and substantive bits.

A good starting point: this podcast with Naval Ravikant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7J-Gwc9pVg

Naval is a deep thinker, talks about happiness, habits, learnings, etc.

Then, check out Derek Sivers (also w/ Tim) http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/11/21/tools-of-titans-derek...

After trying to build a healthy habit app for several years, we have found that the most effective way to do it is to turn what you're trying to do into a game. It doesn't need to use technology - you could just be doing it on a piece of paper.

There's an important psychological reason behind this. When we usually try to build a habit(or 'change a behavior'), we're going against our default nature. If that weren't the case, you'd already have acquired that habit.

Now going against your nature takes willpower. And research has established [1] that we have a limited amount (budget) of willpower everyday. Expend the budget on one thing, and you have no more of it for another. In experiments, people are more easily tempted by an unhealthy snack after a hard day, because they've already used up their willpower for the day. Bottomline: willpower based behavior change is very hard to sustain.

Also, we usually interpret our failings to keep up with our behavior change effort as guilt and failure, rather than the budget of willpower drying up, which is what it actually is. That starts a negative connotation with the very thing that was supposed to bring a positive change to our lives.

I don't want to sound promotional, but we're seeing incredible change in people's walking behavior by turning it into a fun engaging game/app [2]. It just seems to work where an 'endless willpower' driven approach fails.

The interesting insight into this process is that the healthy habit needs to be a side effect of this game. It cannot be the main focus of the game. In other words, there must be a strong gaming core loop that's just fun and sticky by itself, and which is what people think of when they think of the game. The core loop is basically going to be fed by (among other things) elements of your healthy habit.

[1] http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/willpower-facts

[2] http://battlesteps.com

The willpower research has been debunked, example: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/cover_story...

The game advice seems legit though.


"Challenged" (not debunked) would more precisely describe what the linked article says. I'm not saying the claims were set in stone, but even intuitively, it seems to make sense that people might be tempted to 'throw in the towel' after a hard day.

As for me, I've found I'm usually actively seeking out a guilty pleasure after a hard day. A cookie (or a beer) looks pretty appealing at that point.

The book "Superhuman by habit" is the best book I've read on the subject. It's well researched and comes with lots of practical advice for developing habits, not just the research and theory.

I'll second this recommendation. "Cliff Notes": https://sivers.org/book/SuperhumanByHabit

If there were a short answer to this, we'd all be amazing. There are strategies for building good habits, such as adding a small amount to your daily load at a time (to avoid overextending your will power, and build it up slowly), and logging your actions in a journal everyday, which causes you to recognize your accomplishments and confirm your goals. Also, there are methods of setting very specific, measurable goals that can be achieved in relatively short spans (days and weeks, not months and years) so that you continue to push forward at a visible pace.

I doubt there is any 100% reliable way, or any way that works for everyone (cause people are different), so it's partly a case of finding out what works for you.

A useful discovery for me was that emotion is a greater driving force that rationality. Rather than making a list of all the reasons that exercise will be good for you, spend time visualising exactly how wonderful you will feel (in as much detail as possible) when you are fit, and spend time visualising how bad you will feel if you don't get fit.

It might not work for you, but if it does it can be very powerful.

Yes and it's explained in awesome book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

You need a cue/craving -> response -> reward cycle

The reward should be slightly unpredictable to make the habit really addicting.

So best way to build (or deprogram) a habit: keep a log of how you feel before you do (or don't do) something you want to change. Become aware of your "cue" or craving. Begin to introduce a different response that comes with a reward.

For instance, if you don't feel great after leaving the gym you'll never make it an unconscious habit.

Following up on katzgrau's recommendation for "The Power of Habit", I think it's important to stress that you should prioritize and choose the most important habit first and focus on that 100%. In the book, Charles Duhigg mentions "key habits" that, if changed, will lead you to change other habits as well.

I've been down the road of changing habits multiple times and I think the most important habit you can adopt is actually to continuously watch your progress, adjust your routines if necessary and, more generally, give you time to think about where you're moving with your life on a grand scheme of things.

Whenever I tried to get into a new habit, I found that the hardest thing was actually to come up with and take counter-measures if the routine wasn't sticking as expected. I would often try a new routine and if it failed to stick, I would automatically fall back into my old (bad) routine.

So my advice is this: Set aside time to reflect upon your routines (and your life in general). Make this your very first habit to get into. Personally, I've found that doing it once a week is by far not enough for me (and it's also a difficult habit to maintain), so I decided to do it once a day and, since I rarely find the time at night, I decided to get up a bit earlier in the morning and go for a 30min walk. This has the added benefit that you get a bit of exercise and lots of fresh air. I also use that time to decide on my most important task for the day that I will work on right after the walk.

I've read the book The Power of Habit and found it enlightening, but the bits I'm having most trouble with are choosing rewards and getting started. The part about choosing rewards is, by far, the most difficult for me. Everybody keeps saying "make sure to reward yourself after doing the thing you want to make habitual" but nobody provides actual examples of rewards that work and are not harmful (no, I don't want to eat a cookie each time I do the habit).

From personal experience, starting with a cookie (I used a piece of chocolate, because small individually wrapped units) is really the most effective way.

However, I always congratulated myself (outloud, by name) when giving myself the treat, and pretty soon, the congratulating myself was conditioned as a reward for the activity, letting me drop (most of) the usage of actual treats.

Just treat yourself like a particularly stubborn and clever dog/cat/animal you're trying to train -- if marketing has taught us anything, it's that cheap psychology tricks work.

How did you choose your initial rewards? Did you just start experimenting with things that popped in your mint or did you find a list of suggested rewards? I'm trying to limit my sugar intake otherwise I would've gladly used the sweet treat reward.

I just went for the first thing that popped in to my mind that is a primary reward -- something biology has conditioned me to want, and will activate reward pathways (quickly!) when ingested/experienced.

Honestly, you could probably just start with the secondary reward of congratulating yourself -- it's just important that you do it out loud and call yourself by name (eg, "John, you did a good job of running today"), so you hear it happening, instead of it being part of your mental dialog.

Generally though, I find that speaking to myself is psychologically different than talking to myself internally, so YMMV if that's not true for you.

My app helps people build better eating habits through these sort of positive reinforcement techniques (although virtual rewards in this case). So far the results are quite promising.


What's worked for me for running (2x/week), pushups (2x/week), pullups (2x/week), stretching (daily), going to bed by a certain time (daily), and other things:

* focusing on consistency: if you do any tiny amount of the thing (even if it's just one pushup), that totally counts. once you have the habit, you can build intensity as you please.

* specific deadlines: (e.g. run Tues/Fri by 1pm), since then I don't have a series of "I'm in the middle of something, I'll do it in a bit"'s that are kind of unpleasant and attention-consuming.

* It's kind of stupid, but I wrote a little app where I can press a button after I've done a habit -- if I don't press the button before the deadline, it sends a text to my brother. I don't wanna bug him, so for me, this helps make the deadline more "real". If I'm super busy or really don't feel like it, it's totally fine if I just do a tiny bit of the habit and then press the button-- but that rarely happens.

It's kinda nice to have all this running on autopilot; it's been working well for about a year, and it doesn't take any sort of willpower at this point. I find it especially useful for keeping my routine after something that would normally disrupt it, like travel.

I'm very sorry that I don't have citations handy [0]. But there are studies that explored affecting one's propensity to do what they rationally believe to be right. The common theme of these studies has been that feeling observed by others greatly improved it. The most memorable result has show that merely placing someone in front of a mirror improved it too (a testament to how salient the effect is)! My point being that if all else fails, it's worth trying to structure your social environment in a way that motivates you. It's easy to slack off when nobody's watching. It's easy to not deliver your side project on Friday if nobody's gonna care anyways!

[0] that's the playlist where I heard about it, I'm not sure if it's the right video, though. Sorry just don't have the time to dig through it. I greatly suggest everyone watching the whole playlist. The subject matter explores a lot of concepts tangential to procrastination from a philosophical angle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reZA81S0zfI&list=PL3F6BC200B...

Yes! In addition to some of the awesome answers already posted here I wanted to mention how important the schedule of reinforcement is habit formation.

If you're building a product, optimizing when and how it rewards users can double your retention and engagement. I make a tool to help with this: http://useDopamine.com

For reading there's this product: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-My-Time-Digital-Bookmark-Neon-Bl... . It's a bookmark that allows you to set any target reading time, and it displays a countdown... You can do the same with your phone eventually, and it might be unpractical to have one per book... I use playing cards as bookmarks. You can read before going to sleep, and make it a habit to read while catching some sleep...

Running/exercising... there are many apps such as Runkeeper and such that allow you to set weekly goals. Running might better in the morning.

Another one is to get a wall calendar in a visible place at home and mark the days where you have been active in whatever habit. If you see no marks it means you have dropped your habit. You can also use a calendar app and set reminders... but those are easy to ignore.

Look into CBT in terms of efficacy.

A bit of a PSA... For anyone who relates to this very strongly, some people with extreme difficulty in forming positive habits have executive function disorders such as ADHD. This is a primary symptom and is often viewed as lack of willpower or laziness vs. a treatable condition. Forming habits under treatment is much more effective.

Want to introduce an app / website I created for this - http://www.keepresolve.com

Based on my own experiments and also watching how other users are following through, I noticed few things: (1) If an user starts with huge list of habits to develop, more likely or not s/he would quit fast -- so starting slow is recommended (2) I think having long term goal followed by daily steps / habits is a good idea. (3) Sharing the goal with your friends / family helps a lot - so currently we are working on a functionality to share the goals with others (not strangers but 'friends'). (4) Also, when habits are set by someone like parents / teachers, they are followed up better than self imposed habits (ex doing daily music practice or homework as opposed to doing course work for free online courses)

I was going to be a jerk and just say 'heroin' but then thinking about it, addictive properties does indicate one of the signatures of successful habits. The times that I have developed exercise habits is because I managed to get over the first week hump and then wanted the adrenaline rush that came with it.

One pertinent aspect of developing any sort of exercise habit is that the routine needs to vary enough - not just to help you grow - but also to keep giving you that adrenaline feedback. This is why a martial art of some sort is a good exercise routine, because of the variation that tends to naturally occur ( I prefer capoeira )

But I guess the most systematic and scientific way to develop a habit is operant conditioning http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

A book that I have found very useful for both developing new habits and breaking existing unproductive habits is "Self-Directed Behavior" by Watson & Tharp. It's based on scientific research, but the ideas are presented clearly and in a practically useful way. It's also about more than just the introduction or changing of habits - it also helps you analyze them, understand them, measure them, reinforce them, etc.

It appears to be sold as a college textbook so the latest edition is horrendously expensive, but this also means you can easily find used copies of older editions. Mine is at least 15 years old and still very useful.


Don't break the chain - http://dontbreakthechain.com

In the same vein, I made an app called 100% for doing something similar: https://www.imralsoftware.com/100


tl;dr; Draw Xs and don't break the chain

I don't know if there is a scientific way, but I can say what works for me. To start, I essentially resign myself to doing whatever habit I want to build, making it in my mind so I have no choice so there's no getting out of it. Then I just do it, rain or shine, no matter what, which can be super difficult. After a while, it becomes easier.

One example is running. I just told myself that I needed to run for one hour every weekday at 6am. Extremely difficult as I normally sleep in until 7, but I just told myself I have no choice. So I started getting out of bed at 6 and running until 7. After a couple weeks it got easier, after a month I did it without much thought. After about two months, I feel weird if I don't do it and miss it.

I am also interested in whether there's more to building a habit than this.

There is a whole industry focused on portraying developing habits as being complicated.

It's not.

Just take things one day at a time and make sure you have your habits scheduled in the times where you are least liable to get interrupted. I prefer early mornings.

Then just do what you've committed to do. There is no magic trick.

They touch on this in the "Learning how to learn" online course. One of the point is to learn to recognise patterns:


To develop a habit, you simply need to repeat the specific action, by forcing yourself (apply discipline).

If you do that, your brain will benefit from its (life-long!) property of plasticity and will create new neural connections (with each repetition) which favor the action you're about to execute:

First, you're about to create a new path (like through a thick a forest), which is a bit harder, but then you use that path again and again, and the path will become a street and then a highway (which is increasingly easier to use). In the end, you can execute your action without any effort because your neurological pathways are now really solid and the electrical signals travel much easier.


I think, the word is used inflationary, but maybe I just don't understand because I lack disciplin. I suppose disciplina (“instruction”) implies some form of encouragement.

"I want to develop many daily habits, such as running, reading, or exercise every day"

Done that. Do the hardest thing first.

The simple hack I've found useful is to repeat the activity ^no matter^ how you feel. I found the biggest point of failure is ^just before^ you start and if you get over that hump of avoidance you'll succeed.

You have to repeat this every day. Every day you start is another point of failure. ~ http://seldomlogical.com/2009/OCT/29/do-the-hardest-thing-fi... (on 2770/3000km for this year, 10km at a time.)

Piggyback on your dopaminergic system. Start by rewarding yourself with something you already enjoy every time you display the habit you want to acquire, and in the fullness of time your brain will react to the new activity without the need for the separate reward.

This is more or less how smoking functions, modulo some neurochemical details - the idea is to effectively addict yourself to the new behaviour.

Bear in mind this still needs some discipline. Your brain will try really hard to make you go "I control the reward thus I don't need to do the work".

For the those with a flabby self-discipline muscle, start small. You won't feel like short circuiting to the reward as much if you make the goal about building a small habit and extending your self-control.

Not sure if this helps, but in order to break a (bad) habit, I have found the single best method to be a trip to the ER.

I had a nasty case of dehydration from a combination of beer and Mexican food that resulted in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. It really got me to reevaluate my perspective on alcohol. I stopped drinking immediately and haven't looked back.

If, your habit involves your computer. I use SlimerJS to automatically remind me to fill in a time sheet I use at work. After a month or so this resulted in me remembering before it popped up to remind me. Sort of habit forming. I think what was key was that it popped up with an actual window that I could perform an action on, plus the visual aspect.

You can check out http://www.spring.org.uk/making-habits-breaking-habits A good book on habits. The book covers on habits are formed, how they can affect you and how you can change them.

Seinfeld has his 'don't break the chain' method, worth a look:


I've been focusing on building new habits for the past couple of years and have written about it a lot. Here are some of the things that have made the biggest difference for me:

- Start small. Focus on making the behaviour automatic (the definition of a habit) in its smallest form. It's easier to increase the time and effort spent once doing the behaviour is automatic. - Schedule the habit. My habits almost always fail if I don't figure out in advance when and where I'll do them. - Stack your habits. Using an existing habit (it can be something you didn't build on purpose like brushing your teeth, putting on your pyjamas, putting on your shoes before leaving the house, etc.) as a trigger to remind you to do another habit. This makes it easier to remember and build into a routine you already have. - Make it easy to do the habit and hard not to. If you need equipment, get it ready before you'll need it. Set up your environment to encourage you to do the habit. Keep things out of sight if they encourage you not to do the habit. Context makes a big difference in the early stages. - Build one habit at a time. Only when a habit is truly habitual (you do it without thinking) start focusing on a new one. I've failed at building habits every time I've tried to do more than one new habit at a time.

I've written a lot about habits. I'll link to some articles below that might be helpful. Many of them expand on the suggestions I mentioned above.

I also wrote a four-week email course and a book to help people build habits—specifically habits that will help you be more productive by saving you time and helping you work more efficiently. But the course can be applied to any kind of habits. You can find the course and book here: http://habits.bellebethcooper.com/

http://blog.bellebethcooper.com/pushups.html http://blog.bellebethcooper.com/french-habit.html https://open.buffer.com/building-habits/ https://exist.io/blog/simple-habit-process/ https://exist.io/blog/keeping-up-habits/

How do you design a fast car? You avoid designing a slow one.

Make room for good habits by stopping bad ones.

I wouldn't take outliers as examples unless you are also such an outlier. At which point any advice based on averages is moot.

I'm not sure why someone downvoted you but I read a book, on psychology I think, and the author argued that one mistake people make is trying to stop a bad habit by shear force of will. Just applying "don't do X" never works. You have to consciously and intentionally replace bad habits with good ones (e.g. "don't do X, do Y instead") or the mind will just fall back into its old programming. With repetition it soon becomes "do Y" and X is gone.

as a react practice protect I made habity.io (open source at my github, sry phone) I am currently rewriting a new version of it with some machine learning scheduling stuff e.g. predict what is the most efficient time of day to do stuff based on previous days..(neural net practice idea of mine)

disclaimer: it was coded in many spare minutes so code is not well structured

There is an excellent book "the power of habit" that delves into this very topic. Its a quick read.

Did you tried «Fabulous» app ? It's using a scientific method, besides being very successful app.

Did you tried «Fabulous» app ? It's using a scientific method, besides being very successful app.


Drill sergeants. Much of military training is about habit implantation.

Meditate for greater self awareness.

Learn about the trigger-action-reward cycle.


You'll do whatever if the right buttons are pushed.

probably BA and CBT are the most studied and scientifically proven ways to develop new habits and rid yourself of self-damaging habits.

no there isn't. All the pop 'habit methods' methods like repeating same thing to death over and over 'to form a habit' are bogus.

we need motivation, not habit. There are no shortcuts or hacks for motivation, we have to put in the effort to understand our own brain and what drives it to do things.

Do you have any evidence that all habit methods are bogus? It's quite a big claim to make, so would imagine you'd have something strong to back it up.

Also, do you have any evidence that there are "no shortcuts or hacks for motivation"? I'd be quite surprised if that were true, because motivational speakers seem to be get people motivated in a very short space of time, so I would expect there to be some shortcuts.

>do you have any evidence that there are "no shortcuts or hacks for motivation"?

Is there any evidence to the contrary that motivation speakers have any long term impact. Burden of proof is on that side.

Was it habit or motivation that made you brush your teeth this morning?

having an indoor bicycle ready next to my chair help me a lot to build the habit.

Willpower is not about forcing yourself to do something, but to deliberately put yourself into a situation that forces you to do it.

For example: You want to run, but you are too lazy. Ask a friend to run with you at a certain time. Now you can't lazily back out, unless you want to call your friend again and mess with their schedule, as they were expecting to run with you.

As you become better at something, like running, it starts to become more fun and satisfying. You gain momentum. That allows you to adhere to your schedule much more easily, to the point where you miss it when you don't/can't do it.


We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13096767.

I agree with most of your list, but also strongly disagree with this point. Or rather, while I agree that you should try your hardest to keep your routine, I detest the part about making yourself feel bad. There are lots of reasons you might have to break a routine, it's not like every habit one might try to build is going to be the single most important thing in your life. And some people just don't respond well to guilt and self-flagellation. I know I don't. If that approach works for you, fine, but it really doesn't have to be a binary choice between considering yourself to be a self-pitying "pussy" and a self-actualizing achiever of your goals.

It only makes a difference when you finally face real adversity. I'm a serial entrepreneur. I've had 8 companies, 6 of which have failed. Twice I've been literally reduced to the clothes on my back (actually the second time was even worse: 30 grand in debt, to the government).

When shit goes REALLY bad, your ability to deal with the nastiness of reality is put to the test. I fought for a month and a half with a broken rib, because I refused to give in. I've climbed out of some very nasty holes and endured the most humiliating circumstances holding my head high, because I will not concede defeat. If I have to die, I'll kill my enemies first. If I fail, that's MY fault, not other people, not circumstance. I have sole responsibility over myself, EVEN if I'm not the one who got me into the mess originally. It's MY responsibility to get out, and no one else's, because let's face it: no one else gives anywhere near as much of a shit about you as you do.

That's all well and good, just saying the topic is about systematically building habits, not dealing with life adversity generally. I agree that one shouldn't blame others and take self responsibility, but again, crossing the line into self-guilting and blame can be very harmful, and I wouldn't recommend it to most anyone.

Not everyone approaches life with that individualistic intensity and absolutism, but I'm glad it works for you.

It's your responsibility, but nothing says you should punish yourself. Say you're on a diet and you go off of it, just get back on without hand wringing over it. If you've ever tried to lose weight and succeeded long term, you'll know that breaks from the diet are in fact part of the diet. No need to make yourself feel bad. Speaking from experience here.

I worked in agriculture with a guy who broke his rib when he got hit by a car door. He didn't go to a doctor for two weks, and the problem was only diagnosed when he had to be rushed to the hospital dying - the rib had punctured his lung (he made it).

Please don't overdo it, everyone, and take care of yourselves.

  Being uncomfortable leads to guilt and a sense of failure for good reason: You DID fail. Be honest.
  How you handle failure tells a LOT about your character. Either you're a pussy who sits in a corner feeling sorry for yourself, or you take your lumps, then get up and go again.
  Feeling warm and fuzzy all the time doesn't give you grit.
This formulation of grit is overrated / should be considered harmful. Your macho attitude and glorifying of "toughness" is a very stereotypical[ly western male] characterization of strength. You mention being willing to take your enemies down with you, fighting with a broken rib, and call not accepting feelings of guilt / failure being a "pussy" (which btw is also demeaning to women).

Yeah, starting companies and going into debt incurs stress. Having social conflict incurs stress. But dealing with that stress does not ever have to entail blaming yourself or white knuckling to get out of it. Telling an alcoholic (chemical addiction) to just "STOP DRINKING" doesn't work because people just don't work that way -- similarly, stress is chemicals in your body and there are procedures known to reduce it, and healthy thought patterns to move systematically toward a better situation rather than unhealthy "STOP SUCKING" / "WORK HARDER" signals. Those are not actionable.

This post is not actionable. Cool humblebrag, but it elicits no respect from me -- real grit is having the patience and perseverance to discover functional processes to better your standing. It requires no anger, killing of enemies, or broken ribs.

TL;DR Learn to problem solve better and maybe without calling people pussies. Maybe you'll be happier for it and live more empathetically toward others.

Please don't use spaces to quote text. It's broken for mobile users.


I mean no offense, but a 75% failure rate isn't exactly a great endorsement of your methodology.

If 90% of startups fail, 25% success is 2.5x above average. I'll listen to someone who's advice improves my odds. I'll also listen to someone who's tried and failed and admits it honestly and takes responsibility for their failure and knows how to avoid the same mistake next time. Someone who hasn't failed probably hasn't tried. Someone who hasn't failed may have nothing of value to teach me. If you do have or know of better methodologies though, please share, I'd love to get more pointers!

Exactly. Comfort with an occasional fail is really important and helps you stay on track. Being really extreme usually leads to the extreme outcome - falling off - just on one fail.

Uh, it's really sinple, though not easy.

1. Do the same thing at the same time over and over again, intentionally. 2. Watch yourself keep on doing it unintentionally.

Ok "same time" is the more complex part. Your trying to wire your brain to do something deterministically in response to some stimulum. It can be external, or internal (feedback).

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