Habits of an Optimal Life
You have some (Please do not ask me how much.) control over your life. You can force yourself to embrace certain habits (Habits are those recurring behavior patterns we engage in automatically.)
I say “force” because there are many external factors shaping your habits. Your nationality, income class, personality, ethnicity, age, and above all else, how you did in the parent lottery, have implanted habits that define who you are and are not.
But we can (and fortunately models are available to convince us) grab ourselves by the nape of the neck and reassemble our habits.
A major impediment to changing our habits is our failure to realize that the positive payoffs we seek often can be achieved only far in the future.
So, we eat today in a manner that will eventually reduce how long and how healthfully we will live, but we say to ourselves: Now does it really matter that I eat sausage and French fries today?
Does it matter that I waste today? Does it really matter that I did nothing today to make me more interesting, insightful, or creative?
In the scheme of things, does it matter that I did not remind myself today of my ignorance?
OK, so today I did not listen carefully to other people, does that failure actually matter?
At one level those are good questions, but at a more substantive level, they reveal a misunderstanding of the relationship between daily behavior and eventual results. Results often do not show up until much later in life. If you exercise regularly, you will heal faster when later in life you have frightening surgeries. If you tackle a challenging book today, what you learn from that experience may seem useless until later in life when its insight becomes just what you need. If you save a dollar today and tomorrow, the “magic” of compound interest will grace you with a most pleasant surprise decades later. But if you checked the day after your initial saving, you might well think—“I don’t see the point.”
Consider the fate of the wheat farmer who ignored the length of the time sequence between planting and harvest. Each day during the traditional planting season, the farmer alternatively mused, “I don’t see the point of planting today. I am not ready to plant today. I am busy. I am relaxing.” Pity the bank who made the crop loan to this farmer!
Small actions often forecast immense consequences.
I confess. I misled you. I never intended to make a list of suggested habits here. I trust that you can generate several yourself. Some would be golden—You know full well you should not smoke, and you already know that reading can be transformative. Others might arguably contain valuable ore.
Maybe you simply did not need this reminder as much as I do.