When it comes to productivity and self-improvement, so many people focus on short-cuts and the little “hacks”. But there are three FUNDAMENTAL things that you need to do first in order to truly gain more success in your life. First off…
#1. Realize that it is possible.
It truly is. Whether your end goal is going around the world in 80 days (or less!), changing the world for the better, or even just getting that one dream job you always yearned for…
The very FIRST thing you need to do, is realise that none of these goals of yours are a distant dream; each one is a very real possibility.
Just hear me out.
In his book The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman speaks of something called “the reference level”.
Think of a thermostat. It has a set point, and it heats up the room until it reaches that point. Once there, it stops working until the room goes below the set temperature, or someone raises the actual knob. This “raising” is what you can apply to your own life as well.
Let’s say you make £20,000 a year. Your close friends are all making somewhat similar numbers.
Suddenly, one day you get invited by a colleague to a dinner with some of his acquaintances, none of whom you have met.
You didn’t know this before the dinner, but those people are all making 5–6 figures A MONTH. After they mention it during the meal, you become highly interested, ask them all sorts of questions, and it suddenly feels like a huge door of opportunity has opened for you.
In other words, your reference level has now shifted.
You no longer compare your earnings with those of your old friends, because now you have these new high-earning people in your circle.
When you discover that other people in your immediate circle are actually doing something you previous thought was unrealistic or impossible, that changes your reference level.
Stuff like this happens to me all the time.
At the start of this year, it was unfathomable to me that someone could go 16+ hours a day not eating, let alone multiple days. Then, after randomly learning of intermittent fasting and just how many people do it, I decided to give it a small try myself. Now, I can’t even imagine myself eating dinner!
My reference level for how long I can go without food has shifted, and thus, I improved my health drastically.
Now, there are 3 ways to improve this reference level (and consequently, improve your life):
The first is to raise the set point. We mentioned this in the blunt example of the thermostat; you crank the temperature up, bam, now the thermostat has to work more in order to achieve this higher goal.
Another personal example: Last year I had no idea that it was even possible for me to travel abroad, let alone to do it on my own. Guess what! I travelled abroad FOUR times this year, and one of those times was completely by myself.
In more cliché terms, YOU CAN DO IT. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.
Now, the second way to improve your life is to…
#2. Remove internal conflicts.
In Kaufman’s words, conflicts occur when two control systems try to change the same perception.
To go back to the thermostat example, imagine that both your heater and your air conditioning are running at the same time. One tries to heat up the room, and the other wants to cool it down. This conflict ends up wasting the energy of both machines.
In a similar way, when you‘re procrastinating, it wastes your own energy/willpower.
This happens because one of your brain’s subsystems is trying to control “get things done”, while the other is controlling “get enough rest”. The end result is that you get neither.
The way to solve any conflict is to change the reference levels— how “success” is defined by both systems involved.
In the procrastination example, conflict can be ended by allocating times in your day where you only rest, and times where you only work.
This ensures that you get enough of both, and your internal subsystems will both be satisfied.
And the final, perhaps the most important way to improve your life is to…
#3. Change your environment.
No, I don’t mean in ecological terms (though that would be a noble cause too). I mean your every day environment: the living room, the office, heck, even your car! (if you have one)
I learned this bit from Thomas Frank on his YouTube channel. In one video, he talks about forming good habits and losing bad ones. The way you do this is by reducing or increasing the “friction” needed to take a specific action.
Say you want to start eating fruit on a daily basis, but your fridge is full of artificial sweets. Not an ideal environment for your new habit, you’d agree.
What to do then? It’s easy.
Take out the sweets, buy some fruit, and put it in the exact place where the sweets once stood. Next time you look in the fridge, you’re way more likely to take a piece of fruit and now that all the sweets are gone!
Or maybe you’re addicted to social media, but the deadline is nearing and you can’t afford to waste time checking what your friends are up to.
This is where you increase the “friction”. Because you’ll most likely still need internet to finish the work, you can’t just shut off the connection.
But what you can do, is install a plugin that stops you from going to certain websites for a certain amount of time. Just go to Chrome’s Web Store, search for “StayFocusd”, install it, punch in the distracting websites and set the timer.
These were just examples, but this train of thought can be applied to any habit you want to implement or reduce. If you want to implement a good habit, reduce the time it takes to perform the action. If you want to reduce a bad one, increase the time.
Another environment change I personally implemented for productivity reasons is keeping my SuperMind bottle near the work desk instead of tucked away in the corner.
Whenever there’s a super busy day, I just go get a glass of water, take a dose, and I’m off to conquer anything the clients throw at me.
SuperMind contains the DHA fatty acid, a bit of guarana extracts, blackberries, and some black pepper amongst other things.
If you’d like to learn even more about this awesome supplement, click the image above or go here!