Do what you like.
It’s that simple.
Each year, a new book comes out with some proprietary self improvement or habit formation method. These books will talk about things like “reward schedules” or “habit loops”, and will often lay out 5, 6, or 7 step processes for increasing your productivity or building lasting habits.
While these books are often good reading, they often overcomplicate what is, in essence, very simple: we’re built to do more of what we like and less of what we don’t like.
The academic term for this is operant conditioning. It was first studied in the early 20th century by Edward Thorndike. In the 1930s, BF Skinner took this concept and used it to build an entire school of psychology called Behaviorism.
I don’t want to get too technical or go into the history too much. The point is that what seems like a simple, common sensical idea actually has a rich and deep academic history.
We do more of what we enjoy and less of what causes us disappointment or pain.
In that simple observation is the world’s most effective personal transformation method, which I’ll elaborate below:
If you ever want to change an area of your life, write out what you want instead. What’s your goal?
Find a behavior that will help you reach that goal that you also enjoy.
Do that behavior.
Achieve your goal.
The great thing is that if you actually enjoy the behavior, it will be self-reinforcing. The pleasure of the activity will get you to want to do it more often, and it will seamlessly become a habit.
You can take this process and use it to accomplish anything you desire.
Want to make more money? Write out all the different things you like doing. Really stretch your brain. Write out 50 or 100 things. Watching basketball? Tweeting? Writing? Playing video games? Be honest. Choose things you really, really like. In that list will be 10 or 15 different things you can do to make more income or start a new career. Let’s say you like video games, writing, and biohacking. You can start experimenting with different nootropics and supplements, seeing how they impact your gameplay. You can write about this on a website or blog you create. Fast forward 6 months or a year and you might be surprised by how well things are going.
Want to lose weight? Write out all the somewhat healthy foods that you also enjoy eating. Pick a few and just eat them for the next few weeks. This is basically how every diet program works. Some people really like eating bacon and meat. For them, keto works like a charm. Other people are disgusted by high fat foods and meats. For them, a mediterranean or vegetarian/pescatarian diet is great. As long as people are eating foods they like, they’ll be able to maintain that diet indefinitely.
For every single desire in your life, you can apply this approach. If you genuinely like the activities you choose, you won’t mind doing them. They’ll quickly become habits and you’ll be on your way to painlessly accomplishing your goals.
The next time you see a new habit formation or self-help book on Amazon, remember this. There’s no reason to read 300 pages when it all boils down to: do what you enjoy, the rest will follow.