In order to manifest our potential as humans, we must discipline our minds, and this is done most efficiently through habits. The reason for this, is because without habits, humans are driven almost entirely by emotions, animalistic impulses, and immediately obvious fears and desires. As a result, without the foundation of habits and the stabilizing focus of long-term goals, our endeavors because drastically limited in scope by comparison to our true potential. To live a mundane, ordinary life, we can probably do just fine without any habits, discipline, or long-term goals; but to live an extraordinary life (as I wish to), discipline of every kind becomes a necessity.
Building mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual discipline permits continuous and never-ending improvement, and such discipline can only be accomplished effectively through strong and focused habits. Little things like waking up at the same time each day, exercising one’s body and mind regularly and predictably, and creatively expressing oneself a little each day— these are some of the ways you can become truly amazing over time. While much of the ways to improve yourself might seem insignificant, and not worth the trouble in the short run, incorporating every form of improvement possible into your daily routine, is the key to making the most of yourself in the long run.
The reason why Habits are such an effective foundation for self-improvement, lies in the way the mind works. As I explained in “Coping With Bipolar“,
Habits are the means by which we are able to live for the future, instead of merely living in the moment or building upon the past. Habits, an ability unique to humans, is (together with planning) is the foundation upon which self-improvement is built, and also the only means by which emotions can be reliably controlled
Trying to control emotions through sheer willpower, while effective in mild circumstances, will almost certainly fail in circumstances that cross your emotional threshold. Everyone has a different threshold, which is equivalent to one’s individual willpower, so you could say that one’s “breaking point” is equivalent to the limits of an individual’s willpower; if this mental limit is exceeded, there is nothing you can do to control anything you do, simply because you lack the willpower to. In addition, due to a phenomena known as “Ego Depletion“, excessive use of willpower will eventually drain your ability to control your emotions, even if the circumstances you encounter are mild in nature.
So if lack of self-control results in emotional instability, and controlling one’s emotions results in the depletion of one’s willpower, how can I, or anyone for that matter, successfully control my emotions over long periods of time? This is where habits come in: whereas willpower is conscious, habits are for the most part unconscious. This is the human mind’s most powerful ability: When you register in your mind that a particular activity, thought pattern, perspective, or routine as essential to life, you can consciously forget it (what is colloquially known as “taking for granted”), and automatically do and think these things without so much as thinking about it.
By taking conscious decisions “for granted” by converting them into second nature, Habits free our mind up from having exert willpower on things we do every day, so that we are able to apply that willpower towards new endeavors. Your mind doesn’t have to reprocess what it’s doing over and over again (because it’s already decided what do do), and your Ego doesn’t have to waste energy coaxing your Id (inner desire) or Super Ego (conscience) if it’s ok to keep doing what you’re doing, because Habits ensure that the very question of such things is taken for granted. As such, Habits minimize Ego depletion, and reinforce a far more efficient array of patterns for living life.
I hope that through my increased adherence to Habits outlined in my Ego Engineering project, and the continued development and optimization thereof, I will become a better person in the long run, thereby ensuring that I make the most of myself.