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The Need For Instant Gratification & Creating Good Habits With Storytelling
Bad habits are easily formed whereas good habits can take ages. With the mind being capable of so many beautiful things, why is it averse to good practices?
Hey there Zedites,
We call ourselves creatures of habit but we come with our own sets of terms and conditions which, like on any other product, are invisible to the naked eye. A closer look at the humankind manual and you’ll find the statement, 'we might be creatures of habit but we’re quick to latch on to the wrong ones,’ written with a tone of mockery.
Our brain is capable of so many beautiful things. It has the ability to be eloquent in numerous languages, control thought, memory, emotion, motor skills, vision, breathing, hunger and every process that regulates our body, store almost 2.5 petabytes (or 2.5 million gigabytes) of information and even decode the secrets of the universe. But when it comes to refusing a smoke, or a drink (even coffee), not snoozing alarms, not clicking Next Episode on Netflix or not scrolling endlessly on social media, the brain conveniently yields. Our brain is powerful but gullible all the same.
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The complex, and remarkably only organ which has named itself, is aware of the fact that bad habits are easier to adopt, primarily because they provide immediate reinforcements.
Spending money triggers a rush of endorphins while saving it triggers zilch.
Even though reading a book mentally stimulates your mind, binge-watching your favorite series requires minimal effort.
Unhealthy food is delectable and spikes dopamine but healthy food is less tasty and doesn’t give you the same feeling…
…productivity versus procrastination, sleeping early versus partying, similarly waking up in the wee hours versus wasting half the day asleep, lazing around versus sweating it out at the gym and the list goes on. Each negative activity is rewarded with dopamine, endorphins, buzzes, hits almost immediately.
Breaking bad habits and replacing them with virtuous ones is a challenge, fundamentally because the latter is a slower process. When you smoke a cigarette, you’re likely to experience an immediate buzz, which reinforces the effect a cigarette has on you. Unfortunately, when you hit the gym, you’re not going to see results on the very first day, or the second day, may be not even for a week, sometimes for a month. That doesn’t mean your body isn’t undergoing change—it’s just taking its time. But we’ve lost our patience. We need instant gratification; we put in the effort and we’re waiting for the result right there and then. And that’s where we all falter.
The irony is that we all want a life that embodies the perfect routine, similar to the ones we see on Instagram reels or on TikTok. Waking up on time, grinding some coffee, going for a run, taking a shower, reading a self-development book, spreading a throw blanket on the couch, aligning the books on the wooden table, making the perfect breakfast, washing it down with smoothie, all before 9 AM. It’s a good dream to have, there’s no doubt about that, but execution’s where a majority of us give up.
It takes time and effort; more importantly, it takes repetition and a strong will to do the same thing every single day. And it’s a given that you’re going to fail on some days, but what’s going to separate you from the lot is the ability to move from one failure to the other without losing enthusiasm.
That was Winston Churchill, by the way.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”—Churchill, not Zed Letter Day.
It takes a great deal of tenacity to show up every day and put in efforts that aren’t leading up to immediate results. There will be moments of anger, of frustration, of feeling tired, exhausted and drained and it’s all part of the process. Good habits may be easy on the eye, but they’re the most difficult to maintain; and it is their maintenance that propel you to what you’re looking for.
That’s why not everyone can do it. How many people do you know that follow their routine to the T? It’s likely you’re going to miss a few things from your list but the overall goal is to do as much from your daily routine as possible. Your efforts might be met with a reward after a long time but if you stick to the process, they surely will be rewarded. And sticking to the process is universally applicable to anything—it doesn’t only relate to habits. Let’s share a story with you to tell you what we mean.
A Story For You
This one’s relatively known but goes a long way to demonstrate what we mean when we say, “Good things need not give you instant gratification but in the long term, they’re far better than puny spikes in hormones.”
“Once, there was an older man, who was broke, living in a tiny house and owned a beat up car. He was living off of $99 social security checks. At 65 years of age, he decide things had to change. So he thought about what he had to offer. His friends raved about his chicken recipe. He decided that this was his best shot at making a change.
He left Kentucky and traveled to different states to try to sell his recipe. He told restaurant owners that he had a mouthwatering chicken recipe. He offered the recipe to them for free, just asking for a small percentage on the items sold. Sounds like a good deal, right?
Unfortunately, not to most of the restaurants. He heard NO over 1000 times. Even after all of those rejections, he didn’t give up. He believed his chicken recipe was something special. He got rejected 1009 times before he heard his first yes.
With that one success Colonel Hartland Sanders changed the way Americans eat chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken, popularly known as KFC, was born.
Remember, never give up and always believe in yourself in spite of rejection.”
(Credits: Thought Catalog)
And to end today’s newsletter, here is a tip to create good habits—just tell yourself a good story.
If you want to create a new exercise habit (for example), you might tell yourself something like this:
“This is going to be amazing, I’m going to get fit and look incredible and be super healthy!”
This is a story you’re telling yourself. It’s not real, but it has tremendous power to affect your feelings about your habit, and to change your action. You have a positive story about the habit, and it motivates you to take action.
But perhaps the exercise you did one day was really tough, and you didn’t enjoy it. Your story might change, to something like, “Wow, that was super hard. It sucked!”
Now your story about the habit is not so good, and you’ll be less enthusiastic about doing the habit from now on.
Maybe you also missed a couple of days of exercise because you got busy. Your story changes to, “Damn, I screwed up, I’m not as good at this habit as I thought, why am I not disciplined?”
The story isn’t so good. Now you might actually try not think about the habit, and you are much more likely to skip the habit from now on.
The story you tell yourself about your habit matters more than most people realize.
So the key is to shape the story, become your own habit storyteller, and create a story that will make you more likely to stick to the habit.
(Credits: Zen Habits)
So what habits do you want to adopt?
Until next time,