The key to bringing lasting change in your life is by way of great habits. And the best way to build great habits is by starting small and building up.
I hope you would agree with me that life isn’t all about stock market investing or for that matter just about money. Making money is only a means to a greater end i.e., living a happy life.
It’s true that for many people stock market investing is a passion and they don’t do it just for money. However, it circles back to the logic that the activity of investing in stock market makes them happy. So investing is just a tool to achieve something more important – personal happiness.
The age old wisdom suggests that happiness is brought about by the right balance of financial, mental, physical and spiritual health. What financial abundance does is that it gives you an option to stop worrying about money all the time and focus your energy towards other happiness factors.
But you don’t have to wait till you are financially free to start your work on other areas of life. You can start today. Let’s pick up one area, say health and see how you can bring a change in this part of your life.
Everybody knows that to be more healthy and fit, you need to exercise and eat well. It is a common knowledge and part of everybody’s new year resolution. Problem is that these resolutions are short lived and motivation to carry on the new activity dies down rapidly after few days.
Why do these resolutions and personal goals fail? It’s because of over reliance on willpower and motivation.
Every time you try to do something new or something unpleasant (even if it is good for you in long run) your brain requires willpower to execute the task. And the research in psychology suggests that daily quota of will power is limited for everybody.
So when you force yourself to get up at 6 am and go for a jog, it consumes some amount from your daily quota of willpower. And then later in the day with lesser willpower available, you find it difficult to say no to junk food.
However, there are certain tasks (even unpleasant ones) which don’t require any willpower and we still do them every day. Like brushing your teeth every morning or taking bath. We also call them habits.
These are the activities which happen mostly on autopilot mode. They don’t require any conscious attention or willpower.
People who are experienced drivers would agree that most of the act of driving is controlled by your subconscious mind. You don’t have to consciously think before you shift the gear or apply the brakes, it just happens.
Another characteristic of a habitual activity is that there is no goal attached to it. You don’t brush your teeth with a specific goal of getting 30% more whiteness in next 10 days. However, you know that with regular brushing over a longer term, you are going to end up with a good oral health.
So habitual activities are not associated with a goal but they are more like a system. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.
Drawing an analogy in investing – buying undervalued companies and holding them for long term is a system. Whereas buying a stock and expecting it to go up by 20% next year is a goal.
So the key to bringing a lasting change is to forget the goal and build a system. A system which focuses on the activity rather than the goal.
Walking everyday for 2 km is a goal, however putting on your walking shoes and just stepping outside the house is a system. Some days you may hit the goal of 2 km, some days you may just stroll for 5 minutes and come back.
Following your system is easier and doesn’t require much will power. Very soon the system installs the new habit and you find yourself following the healthy routine effortlessly.
Warren Buffett says, Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” It’s good news as well bad news.
Good news because to build a heavy chain of habit, you just need to follow a simple system for taking small steps. But if you don’t consciously follow a system, life will create a different chain of (usually a bad one) habit for you.
I would like to leave you with this powerful thought from Aristotle –
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit