Habits of Least Resistance

So I’m at the dentist a few years ago and he’s doing his thing — shoving his fingers in my mouth, probing, using that sucking thing which always catches on my cheek and he tells me the usual:

“You need to floss more.”

And of course I know this, he tells me every time. And I try. Really I do. But after a few weeks I just lose motivation and stop until 2 weeks before my next appointment in a desperate attempt to not be a disaster when I show up.

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But what he said next was an absolute game changer:

“Buy a second floss to put in the shower. Nobody wants to floss late at night when they’re tired, But an extra minute in the nice, warm, shower to floss? Why not?”

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If you’re like me, you start a new habit — flossing, working out, eating healthy, and quit just a few weeks later. You lose motivation almost quicker than you gained it.

But what the dentist just suggested shattered this cycle. He had removed motivation from the equation. He had turned flossing from a chore into a treat. An extra glorious minute in the shower.

So I started wondering, was there a way to hack other good habits? Was there a way to no longer need motivation to stick to my resolutions?

Creating Unbreakable Habits

All you need to do is analyze your current habit loops and find ways to remove motivation from the equation. Can you automate, systemize, or streamline your habits so you become more consistent?

I experimented with all of my habits in 2014 and happy to report, it works. I’m now ready to share this system with you.

I call this system: Habits Of Least Resistance.

Let’s go through a couple of examples.

Get Rich In 2 Minutes

I used to be terrible with money. I treated it as a reward for hard work rather than a tool for a better life. When I got paid, my reward was shopping. This was a fun habit loop to have. Work hard, get paid, buy things.

Baller

Baller

Life was good. But I knew I needed to save more if I ever wanted to achieve my goal of financial independence. So what did I do? I removed myself from the equation. I automated it. I did two things:

  • Using Ramit’s automation advice, changed my direct deposit to add a 5% deduction from every paycheck into a separate savings account.
  • Went to a cash only diet and dumped my loose coins into a piggy bank.

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Because it was automatically deducted, I never saw that money and wouldn’t spend it.

The piggy bank made it easy to get rid of unwanted coins at the end of the day. Both were “set it and forget it” habits that benefited me every day with little to no motivation.

Within one year I had saved over $4,000. A lot of money for a broke college student. Five years later, those automatic deductions are much higher and the balance continues to grow.

Boom.

Next goal:

How To Wake Up Early. Every day.

Remember that opening montage of SWAT? When Colin Farrel’s character wakes up early and is training on the beach with his dog?

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I wanted to be that guy.

“Rich people have nothing in common. They seem totally random. But powerful people — one thing is absolute: they wake up early. every. day.”

So the next morning I set my alarm for 5am and when it went off proceeded to snooze until 7:30. Major fail.

Nowadays I’m up at 5am and in the gym at 5:30 on the regular. I don’t even use an alarm anymore. How is that possible? Simple.

I no longer set an alarm for when I need to get out of bed. I set one for when I need to be in bed.

How often do we attack symptoms rather than problems? We set an alarm to pry ourselves out of bed but anyone with less than herculean motivation is going to simply ignore it and go back to sleep. Why even bother?

Instead, I simply go to bed earlier, whether I’m tired or not. Eventually your body adjusts and you’re knocking out early and waking up naturally at 5am.

This morning I was at the gym at 5:15, eating a healthy breakfast at 6, meeting with my employees at 6:30, putting the final polishes on this article by 7, and in the office by 7:30.

You do this starting tomorrow by next week you will be doing more before 8am than most people do in their whole day.

To get started add one more alarm to the six you already have. And tonight — everything will change.

How I Got Jacked

When you wake up so early, it’s easy to find time and energy to go to the gym. Before I would wait until after work to hit the gym — and I skipped workouts constantly. The last thing you want to do is workout after a long day.

But if it’s 6am and you have 3 hours to kill — why wouldn’t you hit the gym? It’s a no brainer. I get it out of the way early and feel energized and rejuvenated the whole rest of the day.

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Realistic demonstration

After a few weeks of doing this, you’ll wonder how you ever skipped a workout. Motivation is no longer a necessity to get a workout in.

Eliminating excuses

One last tip is that you have to be hyper sensitive to the excuses you tell yourself and eliminate them aggressively. Excuses are the poisons of habits of least resistance.

If you have an excuse, it is no longer the path of least resistance.

Some of my excuses were so dumb but I addressed them quickly because I knew how dangerous they could be to my plan. Here are some examples:

Excuse: I hate looking for matching socks in the morning to go to the gym.

Answer: 5 organized outfits — shirts, shorts, and socks laid out for the week on Sunday. Running shoes sitting by the door as a reminder.

Excuse: My floss is painful and I hate sticking my hands in my mouth.

Answer: Get Glide floss picks (painless floss on a disposable handle).

Excuse: I hate carrying around cash and a card is easier.

Answer: Get a super sweet wallet that makes carrying cash easier. Give yourself a daily swipe allowance (e.g. $30/day) if you don’t have cash on you.

Securing Success

When you put this plan to action your habits are on auto-pilot. You no longer have to stay dedicated or motivated to become the person you want to be. Like compound interest, your good habits build on top of each other making you stronger, faster, and smarter. The person you know you’re capable of becoming.

Even better, you will be more consistent in your approach and you will no longer lapse back into your old ways. Like we all learned in kindergarten, consistency is key  — the tortoise will always beat the hare.

So put this plan into practice and stop chasing motivation.

Start building a life of least resistance.