“Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.”―Susan Statham
I’m going to ask you to do something at the end of this piece. It’s going to be simple to do, cost you nothing other than a second of your time, and still most of you won’t do it.
Each one of us carries a set of cognitive biases that shape the way we view the world. They are the reason we seek the things that confirm what we think about ourselves, and they make us ignore the things that challenge these beliefs.
I’m a big believer in personal introspection and seeking out the “hard” in life. This isn’t for masochistic reasons or anything like that. It’s the very opposite in fact: It’s so I can become better at life, and to grant myself the power to limit the negative experiences in my life through choice instead of being a victim to happenstance.
Whenever I use the “average person” as an example, I’m saying something about all of us, even those of you that wouldn’t consider yourself “average.” We are all the “average person” to one degree or another. We each have the same tendencies that the average person has. Some of us are more average than others, but we all share similar beliefs, habits and ideas.
So, back to what I said earlier: I’m going to ask you to do something simple that the “average person” probably won’t do.
In saying that, I hope to motivate you to not let your “average person” come out and rule your day in this instance.
This is what I want you to do..
- Grab a small piece of paper or index card
- Write on it: “Be above average NOW
- Put this piece of paper in your pocket or wallet.
- Look at it throughout the upcoming day, at least 3 times. The more the better.
Now, as you go about your day, pull that little sucker out and remind yourself to be better than the average person, whatever that means to you. During the situations in your day, find ways to be “above average.” Go above and beyond what you might normally have done. Be better.
This might mean you do a bit more work than you normally do. It might mean smiling extra wide to the barista. It could mean striking up a conversation while in line for your coffee instead of putting your face in your phone. It might mean saying “I love you” to your partner or children or brother or sister when you may not have. And so on.
What will you write on this powerful tool?[/caption]
This simple technique is profoundly powerful and it doesn't have to stop there. Each day, you can write something new on a small piece of paper and use it as reminder as you go about your day. It could be a quote, something/someone you are grateful for, a reminder to not eat sugar or that bag of chips, whatever.
What you are doing is programming your behavior. You are changing your habits with the aid of a simple piece of paper with ink on it.
As far as habits go, techniques like this are the best way to mold or change them. Habits die hard and slowly, and for some people, never.
Human beings are routine-based creatures of habit. It’s how we can get through the day with some kind of order. It reduces our decisions and makes us more productive in getting things done.
Habits are good, necessary even. But they can also have a dark side. The dark side of habits dictate how much you eat, exercise, sleep, socialize, work, study, and so on. They control things in your life that you do more than once. And if they go unchecked, they lead to compulsion and obsession.
From what I’ve learned in life, habits have to be controlled or they naturally lead to compulsion and obsession. Motivated or not, we all have the tendency to go to the polar extremes. This might be you being too lazy, or maybe it is you working too hard. In each case, when you reach the far end of the spectrum, you get problems.
Habits are best suited when they have you seeking moderation. You are better in the middle than you are at either end of the spectrum (in most cases). Sure, there are times you should be lazy and do nothing, and there are times you should work your ass off and forgo sleep. In each case, these should be only a part of a larger, balanced whole. Make sense?
So, back to that piece of paper. What you are doing by reminding yourself with a little piece of paper is you are training yourself to raise your baseline level of habit. For most of us, our habits are about average.
We have what we have because our habits dictate our daily lives that give us what we have. That’s why I’m always interested in improving the baseline. By raising the baseline, you raise the ceiling (positive/extreme end) as well as the floor (negative/lowest end). Like I said, both the floor and the ceiling are necessary, so if you can raise your midpoint, your ceiling and floor both raise. You get better.
If none of this makes sense, try the paper experiment and see how it works for you. (Hint: You will get better in all kinds of ways.)
Change your behavior--and life--with a piece of paper.