Discipline and Habits

I love this article from Tony Schwartz in Harvard Business Review, “The Only Way to Get Important Things Done”:

The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy.

It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation. In other words, if you spend energy trying to resist a fragrant chocolate chip cookie, you’ll have less energy left over to solve a difficult problem. Will and discipline decline inexorably as the day wears on.

So, I want to be have a great marriage, be fit, be a good dentist. If I make sure each day at breakfast to read primary literature, and follow each day at work with a work-out, then those things become habits. When I make sure to take time to listen and support my wife, that becomes a habit. Suddenly, these things don’t require self-control, because I am automatically doing them.

As Gruber says “Eye-rollingly obvious, perhaps, but so is much of the best but most-ignored advice in life.”

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