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One of my favorite quotes on success comes from Gary Keller, author of The One Thing. He writes:
“Success is actually a short race—a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.”
I love this idea. Success is dependent on habits. And habits are dependent on discipline, but only initially. Once an action becomes a habit, the need for discipline goes away.
Yesterday I shared that it took about two weeks of daily cold showers for me to crank my shower handle from lukewarm to the coldest setting available. Once I was able to withstand the coldest temperature, jumping in the frigid water became a daily habit. The discipline that I needed to endure the freezing water went away after those two weeks.
That was back in 2015. Here I am, three years later, still consistently taking cold showers each morning. Two weeks of discipline led to years of payoff.
Something similar happened when I returned from my family vacation at the end of May last year. I made a commitment to write and publish one post per day in June. Although I missed a few days and only published 26 posts that month, something significant had happened: a daily writing habit had been established.
Fast forward to now. I still write every single morning out of habit. That one month of disciplined writing has led to a habit that has brought me personal growth, connections with an incredible network of readers and bloggers, and a new income stream.
Ever since reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, I have been convinced that habits are the building blocks of long-term success.
Olson shares a similar idea as Gary Keller:
“What’s uncomfortable early becomes comfortable later.”
You need discipline at first to overcome the discomfort. Then, as time goes on, habits take over and things become easy.
This idea can be applied to any domain, whether it’s flossing your teeth, taking cold showers, writing every morning, going to the gym, or cooking your meals more consistently.
You only need to endure discomfort and unfamiliarity for a short time. Eventually, habits will take over and your behavior will become automated.
Whatever positive habit you wish to develop, commit to doing it relentlessly for a short amount of time – a few weeks or a month – until it becomes habitual. Your future self will thank you for the habits you develop today. As F.M. Alexander once said:
“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”
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9 Replies to “Success is a Sprint. Here’s Why.”
That’s a great way of looking at it. I also believe in the value of habits. The whole of my adult life I’ve spent a couple of hours in the evening doing something- be it novel writing, further study or blogging, and this habit has enabled me to have a rich life beyond my 9-5.
That’s awesome to hear, Katie. I’ve found that working on my own blog for a couple hours each morning has given me something to look forward to each morning when I wake up and something that adds tremendous value outside of my own 9-5.
I fully agree that habits decide your future. Habits include the things that you choose to do and choose not to do. I.e. Exercise 3 times a week vs not exercising 3 times a week.
That is why my most recent post was about 13 habits of self-made millionaires. They have so many things in common that they do over and over until just becomes second nature to them. But it contributes significantly to their success.
Couldn’t agree more. Habits are everything. Thanks for the feedback!
Hi Zach, another great post. I was wondering if you had been writing inconsistently prior to your commitment to write daily, or if it was just something you had wanted to do but had been putting off? Thanks!
Thanks Samantha! Prior to daily writing I had been writing about 2-3 times per week at random times throughout the day, whenever I had time. The reason I didn’t write daily for a while was because I didn’t think I’d be able to think of enough ideas for posts. That has proved to not be a problem though, as I now have a backlog of over 100 posts ideas.
This definitely rings true for me but never really thought of it this way. The most difficult part will be in the beginning when making a new habit and after that it’s just going about our daily lives.
Interesting concept Zach which rings true. Using sprints to build the habits to run marathons 🙂
Thanks, Mr. Robot! Glad you found it useful 🙂