Small Steps Make All the Difference: 5 Simple Steps to Build a New Habit

stone stairsHave you ever tried to change something in your life? Like, start waking up earlier and dedicate one hour or two for reading; fit 30 minutes of exercise into your busy schedule; begin yoga lessons that helps you to relax and be more mindful of the present; learning a foreign language; or just start writing nonsense in the hope of producing a book one day.

If you have, it is likely that you discovered old habits die hard. It doesn’t help when research shows that newer generations are more used to instant gratification, meaning they see the rewards they can get instantly or with little effort being more attractive compared to better rewards that requires time or effort. When an obstacle presents itself, the effort required increased, therefore the rewards now seem less attractive, and we are more likely to revert back to our old habit.

So, how do we overcome it? Simple really, we start small. Cut down your goal to something so easy you can almost do it in your sleep, almost. This turns instant gratification to our favour, really: when we made it so easy that there is little to no obstacle in our way, we could achieve it before the thought of not doing it even shows up. It’ll be like “what about n-OH IT’S DONE!”. The best part is the rush of excitement we feel over our little achievement, that one thing we’ve been meaning to do but keep slipping out of our grasps. Sure, it’s a small achievement, but that may be just what we need to motivate us breaking through our old habit and start sticking to a new one.

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Of Addiction and Fixation: The Power of Mindfulness

addictionI have wanted to talk about addiction, fixation, and their relation with disengagement for a while, but my first attempt turned into a post taking about how to multitask more efficiently instead. I guess the saying about the words forming its own course is true. Nevertheless, here’s my second attempt, and I have broaden the scope of the topic from disengagement to mindfulness. Let’s hope this time it stayed true to its intended course – not that I don’t enjoy a detour every now and then 😉

As an avid gamer, I am no stranger towards getting addicted to a certain game and would play on for hours until I have wrapped up loose ends (read: sub-quests) or progressed through a major plotline (read: checkpoint). Fortunately for me, it’s no physical addiction, so I won’t have to deal with relapses, and could choose to simply not to game if something urgent and important is seen on the horizon. Nonetheless, getting addicted is disruptive to my life. My schedule would be messed up, and I have to find extra time and effort to keep everything up to schedule. That is not healthy. It could and would cut into my precious time that I could spend with my family and friends, on recreational activities, my other hobbies, or even worse, on my sleep time.

What Eats You? The Quantified Diet Project

Mediterranean DietYou may have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. Well that is true – except, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Too many people have turned to dieting in their quest to lose weight, only to found out what they lost was patience; but, that is not to say that diet doesn’t help. I mentioned in this post that what worked for others, might not work for you, and the same applies to diet. For example, Tony Stubblebine, founder and CEO of Lift, has tried six different diets as of the 2nd of January, and found out only one diet provided him with significant and lasting weight loss: less sugar.

Still, trying out all the different diets out there all by yourself might be a stretch. Fortunately, you are not alone in this quest. Lift, in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley, has started a massive, app-based study aiming to collect data on the effectiveness of 10 popular diets in weight loss and health improvement, and these diets include Paleo, gluten-free, and Slow-Carb. This research differs from other survey-based study in that it has a more robust and rigorous design, where you get a group going through randomized trials and a control group, so that you can compare the data between the 10 diets AND the two groups. This should lead to a more scientifically valid result, and more likely to let people find out which diet is working for them without having to go through the hassle of trying out each and every diets out there.

4 Steps to Self-Empowerment: Learning through 守、破、離 (Shyu, Ha, Ri)

ShyuHaRiA few months back I went book hunting and came across a book with an interesting title. I recognized the three words from the title straight away: Shyu, Ha, Ri, of which they represents a system, a way of thinking that have roots deeply ingrained in the Japanese culture, and are prominent among the practitioners of tea ceremony, Go, martial arts, and even Zenism. As an avid fan of Japanese culture, it piqued my interest as to how the author was going to apply it to building success in life.

Turns out, the book ingrained the system into education as well as life-long learning as a means to achieve self-empowerment and through it, success in life. To put it simply, Shyu is to obey the teachings completely; Ha is to reevaluate the teachings, then alter, optimize, and even create new methods based on the teachings that best suit your own style; Ri is where you integrate the teachings into your system, and became a master of your own right. The book gives many genuine examples that are easily related to, and its ideas resonate with Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, that success is not found, but rather, it ensue after you no longer focus on success and dedicated yourself to the pursuit of greatness. Based on my understanding of the system as well as the book, I have rearranged them into 4 steps:

A few words on Responsibility

responsibilityRecently I decided to pay a rare visit to the cinema to watch “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, based on the work of one of my favourite writers of all time, J. R. R. Tolkien. I left the cinema with mixed feelings about the movie, but today’s post is not about the movie; rather it is about a small incidence that happened after the movie ended. As the credits started to roll, most of the audience started to get up and leave; not me. I decided to stay back for a little while longer trying to see if there were any surprises left after the credits. After my curiosity have been satisfied, I got up and went straight to the bathroom: you know how close-to-3-hours-long movies tend to do these things to you.

On my way there, i saw a group of youngsters just ahead of me. One of them remarked to another: “Why do you even bring it out, just leave it”, the other guy obeyed and left a cup of soft drink (presumably empty) on the floor. Now, I wasn’t about to lecture them just because that guy littered, for all I care they can do whatever they want as long as no one’s brought to harm’s way; but I didn’t feel like leaving the cup there either: they were like five steps away from the bathroom, and a few more steps to the garbage can. I walked up, determined to pick up that cup and leave it at where it’s supposed to be – until someone beat me to it. A guy walked out of the bathroom, saw the cup, picked it up, and went back into the bathroom to throw it inside the garbage can. Having no other distractions to detract me, I happily heeded the nature’s call.

3 Ways to Multiltask More Efficiently: Divide, Focus, and Conquer

multitasking-mind_1According to this research, our minds are not well suited to multitask; rather, we switch our attention from one task to another so well that we think we are paying attention to multiple things at once. That in itself is good for us, as the things we wanted to do are seemingly never ending and there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to pull them all off. So, being able to handle and complete multiple tasks are better than just focusing on a single task, right? Well, to a certain extent that is true – until we bit off more than we can chew, then things could get nasty.

Fortunately, there are ways to increase your capability to ‘multitask’ while still maintaining efficiency in each individual task. But, a word of caution before we move on further: despite the fluency we can switch our attention from one task to another, trying to multitasks means your attention will get spread out, your task effectiveness will likely be reduced, and you are more prone to mistakes. So, when you’re faced with multiple tasks at hand, dealing with them one at a time is going to save you a lot of trouble, and at the end of the day, probably more efficient too. Nevertheless, for those of you who would like to try, here’s three ways to multitasks more efficiently.