The Sun Tzu Guide to Vanquishing Bad Habits (and My 30-Day No TV Challenge)

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“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu

Do you dream of defeating your bad habits for good?

Routing the bad, and sparing only the salvageable, usable elite (any useful parts of a bad habit)? Replacing it with something more productive?

Trying to deal with bad habits can be a terrible struggle.

There’s you, the ruler, the general, pitting limited willpower against well-established neural pathways and outside influences that compel you towards a certain behavior. The enemy.

It would hardly be an overstatement to call it an internal war.

When creating and sticking to good, and changing/eradicating bad habits, you are at once your own general, and your own worst enemy.

Rushing in head, no, will-power first, without a second thought, throwing yourself against temptation, outside influence, and established neural-pathways is a recipe for disaster. Thousands, if not millions, experience this after they make their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ every year.

Success requires planning. Preparation.

Strategy.

That’s why you should use some of Sun Tzu’s timeless, strategic advice in our own personal battles against bad habits.
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Be The Turtle (And The Turtle Habit Challenge)

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Have you ever started out on a new project, brimming with motivation and dying to get started?

So instead of taking it easy, and starting out slow, you hit the gym for 4 hours, only to wake up next morning barely able to move. You were supposed to go to the gym again next day. Or maybe you decide to take up writing, and you aim for 1000 words a day. The first day is easy. The second day it gets a little harder. Third day, harder again. And before the week is over you’re making excuses and the experiment is all but over.

It’s not your fault.. and there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s quite normal. The turtle and the hare is an incredibly apt analogy for how we mostly tackle new projects, or goals. Like the hare, we’re overconfident in our ability, start out fast, then feel almost entitled to take a break… then we give up/just forget about it. In the game of life slow and steady really does win the race.

Or as Bruce Lee put it: “Long term consistency trumps short term intensity”.

We are only able to experience one moment at a time. It can sometimes be hard to imagine the long-term. But before you brazenly start something “with a bang”, think a few weeks ahead. “Is it realistic to expect that I will be able to do this every day/week at this rate?” If the answer is no, dial down a little bit. (Be realistic when evaluating yourself. Think of things that might happen, how much free time you actually have, weekly/monthly commitments that might interfere.)

The bigger, the more optimistic your daily/weekly goals are, the more overwhelming it will be to get started. The easier it is to find excuses to skip a day. The more disappointment you feel when you do skip one. Conversely, the smaller your daily/weekly goals are, the less threatening they seem. The easier it is to get them done (and keep feeling like you’re on a roll) even when you’re super busy.

The reality of setting tiny weekly goals is that you’re going to outperform your expectations on many days, if not most, and feel like a true boss. And even when you get the bare minimum in, you still get to check that box and say “yep I did my daily/weekly quota”.

The Turtle Habit Challenge

So I’m challenging you. If there’s something you’ve been thinking about starting to do, or do more of. Like going on daily walks, or reading more… instead of starting with 30 minutes a day, or 1 book a week, start smaller. Simpler. A 2 minute walk, or 1 page.

It can be anything. Everything. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it (you will probably make a better decision if you just wing it anyway.)

Of course I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something I wasn’t going to do myself, so I’m participating. I will be restarting my meditation habit. The last time I decided to take up meditation, I started at 5 minutes. It didn’t stick. The only time I could meditate for that long consistently was when I was waiting for my tea to cool down, and now that I don’t have an easy way to cook tea/the desire to drink it because it’s a lot warmer where I live now, it completely disappeared.

This time around I’m starting with 1 minute, every morning after I wake up. Back to complete basics.

What habit will you start? When will you do it? Why are you doing it?

Let me know below!