Weaving through all my reading, I’ve pulled out this thread:
Why? For starters, will (pushing) is tied more to conscious thought. Paraphrasing from Your Brain at Work , conscious thought happens in your prefrontal cortex, which is the newest and most energy-hungry part of the brain. So it’s real work to use that section—much easier to fall back into other parts of the brain, especially if there are lots of distractions.
“As soon as you repeat an activity even just a few times, the basal ganglia start to take over. The basal ganglia, and many other brain regions, function beneath conscious awareness[…].”[YBaW 9]
So part of habit-forming is to move from conscious thought—from intention, from remembering, from choosing—into just-below-conscious thought, where it isn’t so hard.
More bricks in this foundation:
- Abstractions—like “Being thinner would make me healthier,” or “Studying daily would connect me more closely to God,” don’t cut it. They’re not compelling; they don’t pull. They’re still a push.
Reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I realized that Miller’s project of getting ready for the hike read like a push (“I will be ready for this hike!”) but actually had more deep pull (“What if I show up and I’m not ready? I will feel humiliated… and in front of That Girl, too!”). If you can click into an emotion, you’re on your way to finding the pull.
- In The The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, chapter 3 is all about building habits. The writers encourage framing habits to pull one where one wants to be because habits land on the other side of willpower. Less energy, more likely to get it done each and every time.
- WnotW points out that research supports being specific: a behavior + either a time and date or a specific circumstance (depending on what the behavior is). And it works much better if the behavior is a ‘do’ (“I will eat one or more helpings of vegetables at every meal.”) rather than a ‘don’t’ (“I’ll quit eating junk food.)
Pressfield writes about Resistance, the personification of an estranged spirit in Satan’s employ. And he urges his readers to fight Resistance, to deny Resistance. I’m not buying. Resistance may indeed be one of Satan’s minions, but do you say:
“Little one, DON’T TOUCH THAT.”
“Sweetheart, let’s go play with cars.”
Let’s go play with cars now.