Why It’s So Hard To Build Habits: The Law of Entropy and Regression To The Mean

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Each of us has an average.

We work an average amount of hours. We spend an average amount of time on an average amount of things. We think an average amount of thoughts.

On and on.

We are the result of what we typically do; they are a result of our average.

The reason for this is a principle known as regression to the mean or the idea that things tend to fall back into their typical homeostatic state.

This is why new habits are so hard to adopt, and old ones keep showing up despite our best intentions.

It's why people struggle in relationships hoping/wishing/praying their partner will change, and they never do. (Hint: change yourself rather than hoping someone else will. That is a better strategy.)

We all maintain a level of health, finances, and way of life-based on our average.

The law of entropy states that all things regress to disorder. All things break and fall apart, given enough time.

You can't do something one time and expect it to stay the same.

Works of art from the Renaissance are rigorously maintained to prevent decay. Your body must eat, sleep, and drink water, or it will break down. Astronauts must exercise 4+ hours a day to make sure their muscles don't atrophy.

On and on this goes.

Anything you want to create or maintain requires constant effort.

In some ways, this is quite depressing, and it feels hopeless. Think about it, are we destined to lives of struggle, continually juggling many balls in the air with no end in sight until we die?

In some ways, yes, we are doing precisely this.

Technology can make this a whole hell of a lot easier if we use it. So there's that.

But either way, the idea here today is one I want you to consider for the various areas of your life—your relationships, your health, your work.

Since every single thing in our life requires maintenance, you should become hyper-vigilant about what you take on in the first place.

This is where ideas like essentialism, minimalism, 80/20 Principles, and focus come into play. It's why they are all so profound for getting results and satisfaction out of life: because they are the only way you can go truly deep in the areas of your life that matter.

Each bit of your mind and body you give to something else is a bit less mind and body you can give to the things that matter to you.

Yet we do this all the time today without considering it.

We let people monopolize our time and drone on.

We let people mail us and call us and pop up things they want. We stay in toxic relationships and workplaces. We struggle to eke out a living and purpose in the myriad of muck we get pulled into on a daily basis.

On and on it goes, we are spread thin, and it saps our life away.

There is a better way. A simpler way. A deeper way.

It requires choosing a few select things you will focus on and building routines around these select few so that the doing becomes as effortless as possible.

That is the key to fighting back entropy and regression to the mean. And it's the only real way you can grow anything to get profound results.

Those that accomplish big things focus. Those that hover around their average year after year are those that do too much and too shallow.

If you want results in life, if you want happiness and fulfillment, you must go deep into as few things as possible. You must ruthlessly cull the nonessential.

Become ruthless with what you let into your life. Become ruthless with how you spend your time and who you engage with.

The best way to figure this is out is to define your values. Until you know who you are and what you value, you will never be able to do any of this.