Progress is something we must do on a consistent basis. Otherwise, nothing will ever change.
Everything we do on a consistent basis is called a habit, meaning something we do automatically without questioning it.
In order to build a habit, it must contain three important components according to The Power of Habit. A trigger, an action and a reward. The trigger reminds us of the specific action (e.g. brushing your teeth when you feel sleepy). The action is what we do (e.g. brushing our teeth). The reward is what keeps us going (e.g. our teeth feel clean afterward and it gets all foamy while brushing – a completely unnecessary feature in terms of cleanliness but important in respect to habit formation). That’s how you build a habit.
Making progress is always action related and never a theoretical endeavor. In order to take action, it must become a habit. Your intuition will tell you what it is that you must do. No one has to tell you.
The difficult thing about taking consistent action is that when you grow, you change. And when you change, what worked yesterday will not work today. This is why you must develop a process that you can trust. Something that will always work because it does not require you to reach an external outcome. It must be entirely internal.
I’ve already given the teeth brushing example so let’s take a more elaborate one. Learning a physically demanding art, e.g. Kung Fu. When I started learning it, I focussed all of my attention on the physical side and on my stamina. Why? Then I would have told you that it’s because I wanted to tackle the hardest component first. Now I’d tell you that I needed to get into a flow state in order to be as consistent as I was. Flow feels good. I wanted to be there as much as possible. That’s the first lesson. You do it because you want to be there, not because of what you want to get out of it.
Before I said that according to the science every habit has 3 components but I believe it has 4. Preparation, Trigger, Action and Reward. Let me explain them using the Kung Fu example:
Preparation: I would be very conscious about my diet on a workout day. I would make sure that I ate healthily and that my stomach was empty before I began. I would get very calm before almost every regular exercise – but just on the outside. On the inside, I was very alive – even nervous. This made sure that I was awake and that my bowels were empty so that I could give it all I’d got. I did it unconsciously. I couldn’t help it but I saw the immense benefit. I did not know it then but it was preparation. The only purpose of the Preparation is to set you up for maximum performance.
Trigger: As soon as our teacher began the class and the warm-up started, I began to sweat immensely. It was my trigger. My body reacted automatically because it knew where to go. There was no thought, no expectation, just following my instincts. The only purpose of the Trigger is to make you surrender to the process.
Action: Whatever we were supposed to do, I wanted to do it right. I would always look inside of my body and develop what felt best for me. Shadowboxing: Do I repeat the motions or do I do what feels most fluid? Stretching: Do I just copy my teacher or do I maximize the pain I feel during the stretching? The only purpose of Action is to get you into flow. You look inside.
Reward: After my exercise, I would relax and stretch. I’d then take a hot shower, go home and eat a big dinner. My reward was connecting to my own body. Getting this calm feeling of muscle relaxation. Giving it all the resources it needs to recover. Allowing it to rest. The only purpose of the reward is to let you connect to yourself.
As a guy, I am attracted to beautiful girls. When I see them walking around me, I want to talk to them. It is a habit just like anything else. Here’s the process:
Preparation: Bring out the emotions you feel right now. They lie behind your solar plexus. Concentrate on what you feel. Don’t give it a name. Most emotions have no name. Feel it. When you have locked in on it, intensify it. Make it bigger. Surrender before it. Allow it to move through your body. You cannot change what you feel. You can only intensify it and allow it to move where it wants to move. There are no bad emotions, there are only emotions you try to suppress. Bring them out. They are yours. Don’t seek someone else to change them. Keep them. They are not to be changed. Intensify them as big as you can and enjoy them. The only purpose of the Preparation is to set you up for maximum performance. It’s the basis for connection.
Trigger: Beauty, attraction, sex appeal. However you want to call it. It’s what draws your attention. The only purpose of this feeling is to make you surrender to the process. Let it move through you. You bow before the higher purpose.
Action: Talk to her. She’s a human being just like you. Whatever you feel today, you do not try to make her change it. It’s yours to keep. Nobody changes it. The only purpose of talking to her is intensifying your own emotions and enter into flow. She will sense that you have no agenda, no matter how direct and dirty you are. She will have a pleasant experience if you have a pleasant experience. You don’t want anything from her, no number, date or sex. You want flow.
Reward: Connecting to yourself. That’s always it. When you have connected to yourself, you will connect to her effortlessly. Maybe you’ll connect deeply with her, maybe not. That’s how it works. It will give you fulfillment nonetheless. The only purpose of the reward is to let you connect to yourself.
Life’s battles are internal. That’s how it’s always been. Yes, we are attracted by external things like clean teeth, beauty or a strong body but these things never last. They are fleeting. This is why we need a way of making progress no matter what. The process is very general and does not give you specific behaviors or actions. That is because the specifics will always change. Allow them to change. Keep only the most general process to rely on.
In this process, we trust because we have to do it every day.