Your brain is wired to rewire.
The saying in neuroscience is that brain cells that “fire together, wire together.”
The science-y name for it is neuroplasticity.
It means that you’re constantly creating circuits of neurons, and when you do something over and over, that task or habit gets easier. It also means that we’re not the same person today that we were last year, yesterday, or 5 minutes ago.
Whether you’re practicing the piano, reading a blog post, or hitting the snooze button, your brain is working 24/7.
But here’s the catch:
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between productive and preoccupied.
It only knows how to get better at thinking or doing whatever it is you’re thinking or doing right this instant.
You can probably guess what this means for healthy habit building.
What are some of the things we do that kill our time, resources, or mindset?
- Complaining, ranting, or raving.
- Binge watching Game of Thrones.
The only way to stop them is to start doing something else instead.
How will you replace them?
You’re the only one who can be responsible for the circuits in your brain. It’s your responsibility to catch yourself when you’re judging others or judging yourself. It’s your responsibility to call yourself out when you miss too many days of exercise, avoid the hard stuff, or beat yourself up over something.
You don’t need all the answers right now, but it helps to start thinking about them.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
What will you do today?
My first job was making sandwiches at Quiznos.
It didn’t take long to figure out that I was one of the only people who was ready to work hard to make things happen. One of my biggest strengths (and flaws) is that I pour my entire self into what I’m working on at the moment.
No distractions. Just me and the task. Nothing else exists.
I was toasting bread, restocking the tomatoes, and pacifying impatient customers; all at the same time. I felt like a machine.
But it came at a consequence.
I burned a lot of bread. I dropped a lot of tomatoes. Customers felt like I wasn’t really empathizing with them.
Fast forward to today.
I work on multiple projects, but never at the same time.
The biggest secret to working on multiple projects successfully is to never work on them simultaneously.
Your mind can only focus deeply on one thing at a time. When you give it too much to do, your cognitive resources are spread thinly across tasks, making the quality of your work decrease.
It’s okay to have a lot going on. It’s okay to have a lot to do.
It’s not okay to do it all at once.
Ever see the movie 300? The one about the Spartans?
How did they defeat their opponents when they were so immensely outnumbered? They used a narrow gap in the mountains to line their opponents up, so they could face them 1-to-1. King Leonidas barked: “Their numbers will count for nothing!”
Take 5 minutes at the beginning of your day to prioritize and line up your tasks.
Then unleash yourself.
If I could only ___ then I could ____.
I just need to ___, then I can get started with ____.
I’m having trouble with ____, so I can’t ____ enough.
These might sound familiar. Some people call them excuses.
Some excuses are more valid than others, and some of us are better at making them than others.
So, really, not the excuses themselves that hold us back. It’s calibrating our “excuse radar” that gets us. How good are you at detecting your own excuses?
What will you do today to start being honest with yourself?
Being honest with yourself about this is the only way to open yourself to the possibility of success.
Only after we do this can we apply the hard work required to be highly productive.
The only way to get better at being honest with ourselves is by practicing again, and again, and again.
What’s an excuse you’ve made recently that’s total bullshit?
Don’t leave this post until you think of something. NO EXCUSES. You have the 15 seconds it’s going to take. Be real about this.
Once you do this, you’ll have built momentum. Notice the positive feeling you get from it. It’s accomplishment. It’s pride. It’s confidence that you can do it again.
You’ll have made it just a little easier for your brain to do it again. You’ll have started the process of rewiring your neurons to arrange themselves for high productivity.
Go get ’em.