Humble Habits

Most of us aspire to lead a productive life.

We dream that we’d get up one day, do a workout, take a cold shower, eat a healthy breakfast and work on our goals. Then we’d go to sleep, get up and do it all again.

In reality we hit snooze and roll over in bed.

We often have streaks of consistency, followed by days and weeks of inactivity.

Most of us struggle with the same question:

“How can I become consistent for a long period of time?”

When Life Gets in the Way

For a long time I answered that question the same way: Discipline!

I imagined that if I were more disciplined and forced myself to do everything I wanted to do, I’d be consistent.

Yet, I didn’t take into account what life could throw at me.

Over the last four months many difficult things happened: serious family problems surfaced, the father of a close friend died, my thesis neared its deadline and a bunch of other stuff pilled up on top of that. A lot had to be done with little time and with decreasing energy – I became exhausted.

When exhausted, it’s not easy and might not be healthy to force oneself to do more – especially not for a long time. At the same time it’s much harder to rebuild your routines and habits from scratch after weeks of not doing them.

After reflecting on the past months I’ve asked myself how I could stay consistent even in difficult times.

Start Small

I realized that when I established certain habits or  a morning routine, I often tried to do too much. My ego was sabotaging my efforts. I wasn’t humble enough to set up small goals that I could accomplish in difficult times.

I asked myself if I could establish an incredibly basic baseline. Could I establish a routine that was easy to accomplish, no matter what life threw at me?

That’s what I do now.

My daily morning routine looks like this:

  • Meditate for 1 minute.
  • Do 10 push-ups.
  • Reflect on the previous day by writing one line about it in my journal.
  • Write for this project for 5 minutes.

Doing everything on this list takes me less than 10 minutes every day. The beauty of this system is that I can do more if I have the energy and time to do so. As I’m writing this, I’m in the 5-minute writing-segment of my routine and have already written for over 45 minutes.

Of course I had huge internal resistance just thinking about setting such incredibly small goals. “You want to meditate for only one minute? Really? You used to meditate 30 minutes every day and now you can’t sit still for 15 minutes?!” But I realized that it was just my Ego talking. I stayed humble and accepted that my plan was a great baseline for a new morning routine and that consistency is far more important than efficiency.

Where to go from Here

This week I will try out the morning routine above and will reflect on it at the end of August. On September 1, I will settle on a morning routine and turn it into habits.

I invite you to do the same!

I’ll publish another post later this week, where I’ll set up criteria for the next month’s experiment: Building a morning routine for tough times.

I’ll let you know when that post goes live and I’ll also track my progress on Instagram and Twitter.

If you tried to establish routines or habits and failed in the past, consider getting on board and ask yourself which habits you want to include in your morning routine right now.

I’ll be back with more details on the September-experiment soon!

Meanwhile…

Stay on the Meaningful Path!

A little update

So, I haven’t been posting much since I’ve announced the new monthly experiment at the start of May. My social media accounts have been mostly silent and most of you probably wonder what’s going on.

This post is here to clear a few things up and to tell you what’s next. A “project-update” if you will.

The Past

Back in April I posted regularly but I’ve missed a social media post here, and a blog post there. The reason for this was simple: my master’s thesis was going very well and I was tripling down on it until Eastern. When Eastern rolled around, some unexpected events happened in my family, that threw all of us for a loop and immediately afterwards unexpected problems popped up in my privat life. As a result the work for my thesis suffered as well and all the stress associated with these problems increased the frequency and severity of my back pain which hasn’t gotten better since. As a result many things had to take a backseat for a while and this project was among them.

The Present

Since then, I’ve been slowly crawling my way back on the meaningful path, so here’s a little update on what’s going on how things are at the moment.

First, my thesis is going a lot better now even though there is still a certain inconsistency . I should finish it by the end of June or a bit earlier.
I’ve updated my CV, applied for a full time job and will continue to apply for more jobs over the weeks and months to come.
I’m currently working on a blog post about Susan Wolf’s essay “Meaning and why it Matters”, which I will probably publish next week. This post covers one possible way of discovering meaning in life and is very practical.
Finally, I’ve started to organize all my notes, ideas, resources and … STUFF… for this project – and my life for that matter – in a program called “Notion”. The idea is to have easy access to all my ideas and resources so I spend more time writing and rewriting instead of thinking about what to do next or looking for resources. As this is something I wanted to do for a long time, I may share more of this as time passes.

The Future

As of right now, I’ll be really busy with my thesis, job applications, getting back into exercise and eating healthy (yep, that suffered as well ) and be on alert for any further issues that need my attention.
At the same time I’m re-implementing routines for this project and other important parts of my life and will expand them over time, so I create and share content soon again.
If there’s one thing that the last month has shown me is first, that I still have so much more to learn and grow, but most of all how important this project has been to me and how supportive many of the closest people around me have been. My friends and family have been a huge help and I’m really glad I can rely on their support in times of need.
At the same time I am surprised and amazed at the support that all of you have shown me. During the last month I’ve only lost 10 followers on Instagram and 2 on Twitter. This is beyond amazing and I truly appreciate your understanding and most importantly your patience while I bring all systems back online.

I’m deeply looking forward to spend more time on this project again and get back to regular content creation.

Your support and understanding means the world to me.

Now, more than usual:

Stay on the meaningful path my friends.

Read you soon!

From January to February

The self-development niche is full of advice about planing your life, having a five year plan, setting weekly goals, journaling daily and a lot more, similar tools you can use to your own benefit.

While it’s almost a cliche, it really helps me. That could be, because I’m a very conscious person – but there’s more to it.

“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”

Lord Kelvin, “Lecture on “Electrical Units of Measurement”

According to this blog post, this quote is the source of the simple quotation: “What get’s measured, get’s done.”

This has to do with the stories we tell ourselves about who we think we are. But all too often those stories don’t match with reality. We think we eat healthy every day, but once we start to track what we eat, we realize that we eat pretty unhealthily. Or we think we meditate for 10 minutes every day but in reality we only mediate for 8 minutes, which seems insignificant on its own, but adds up quickly over time. Thus we need a way to track our progress, which means we need to goals to measure against.

Specific goals help us direct or lives towards something meaningful. They can also be intimidating as they set up conditions for failure. That’s the reason why we like to keep goals as unspecific as often (and why deadlines often compel us into action). Think about the alternative: if you don’t have goals when do you fail? The answer is not never, the answer is all the time. Because without a goal you also can’t succeed, you don’t move word you don’t progress in life. You simply exist.

Once I realized that, I started to set goals and then to track them. Additionally, I used Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring-Suite to develop a vision for my future which serves as a reminder of my priorities, purpose and focus (this is by far the best purchase I’ve ever made in 2018. If you find yourself in search of meaning or direction, I can’t recommend it highly enough!). Thus I developed the routine of setting monthly goals and reviewing them at the end of the month to stay on the path.

Now, with the why out of the way, I want to walk you through my review process, in the hopes that you can find something useful!

January 2019

A bad cold roughly two weeks before new years eve and a subsequent fever with more malady at the beginning of January made for a rough start in 2019. Additionally my sleep schedule had been a mess, which lead to unfocused and unproductive days. I hadn’t worked out since October, wasn’t consistent with my ketogenic diet, wasn’t meditating regularly and my master’s thesis wasn’t progressing as I had planned.  Finally, I still hadn’t launched this blog and was posting irregularly on social media.

In short: the foundation of my life was off.

So, in January I focused on re-establishing a solid foundation to turn it up in the months ahead:
I made a more consistent sleeping-pattern a high priority, turned in the expose for my thesis and studied more consistently. I launched my blog, wrote weekly articles for it and posted daily on social media. I meditated more regularly, ate very cleanly for the majority of January and read The Gulag Archipelago as well as re-read half of 12 Rules for Life again. Finally, I consistently worked out again two days a week without fail.

I also improved my negative-self talk dramatically by applying a lesson from Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, which helped me become extraordinarily consistent in my studies, in my work on this project, as well as in my other daily routines and goals. It’s been a long while since I’ve been getting after it so consistently (more on that in another article).

February 2019

Going forward I want to turn it up in February.

My #1 goal is to get a full 8 hours of sleep at least 6/7 days a week for this month, while still waking up early. I want to finish a first draft of my master thesis with the notes I’ve compiled in the last few months. The plan is to have march to read more and back my thesis with additional arguments and have April to review and improve it, to turn it in in May. Thirdly, I want to stay consistent with this project which means to at least publishing one article per week and posting daily content on all three social media platforms.

Besides improving my sleep schedule, I want to improve my health by sticking to two workouts per week, reintroducing daily cold showers and to adapt my diet to gain weight in order to bulk up.

This will be accompanied by keeping myself accountable through sharing my experience with you, on social media and in my own daily journaling.

As February is the shortest month of the year, this is quite a lot to do, but with the past weeks being extraordinary consistent and productive, I want to set my goals high and see how far I can get.

Finally, the purpose of this article is twofold: on the one hand it keeps me accountable, and on the other hand I can open up a little bit more about my process with you. If you want to track my process, my social media channels (especially Facebook and Instagram due to their story features) are a great place to look – and while you’re at it say hi after hitting the follow button!

That’s it! I’m excited about this month and will update you on how it went next month, of course!


I’m curious: What are your Goals for February?

My Journey I – Discipline

Introduction

Whenever you visit a blog like this, it’s easy to think that it has been a straightforward journey for me, to get to where I am now. The truth is, it wasn’t. What follows is a look at my discovery of personal development and what you can learn from it.

The Old Me

If you would have known me before I took this path, my passion for video games was the closest I got to the idea of personal development: I was drawn to the precision and reflexes of shooters, the complexity and speed of strategy games and the social aspects and coordination of games like World of Warcraft. As a result I spent a lot of time playing and streaming games to become a better gamer.

While this earned me some achievements in the virtual world, those didn’t transfer to the real world. I met my girlfriend at the time in 2014 and moved in with her in march 2017. She cheated on me one month later and unbeknownst to me, our breakup marked the beginning of my personal development journey.

How It All Began

On the day of the breakup I talked to a new friend of mine on Skype, and by pure chance, he mentioned a podcast by Jocko Willink. Having had nothing else to do that evening, I decided to check out his YouTube channel and after liking the first video and watching many more, something in my mind clicked. Previously I often wanted to change aspects of my life, but every time something prevented me from turning these wishes into actions. Through Jockos podcast I finally understood what held me back: Excuses!

I discovered that I was making excuses for many things I wanted to do, like exercising, eating healthy, losing weight and studying more. When I wanted to buy new running shoes, I found excuses about why I didn’t need to: I told myself that I was fit enough, that I didn’t need more endurance, that the shoes would cost too much money … the list was never ending. While I had bought into those excuses for years, I started to change. Buried under those excuses was the truth: I actually wanted to start running, exercising, eating healthy and more. I realized that even though I’ve told myself many times, that the way I had lived my life up until that moment was congruent with what I wanted – it wasn’t. I wanted more out of life, I expected more of myself, but was unable to live up to my own expectations.

The cause for this was simple: I believed most of my own excuses. Luckily shortly thereafter I watched another video from Jocko, carrying a message that connected with me: Whatever you want to do, there is one smallest step that you can take. So, take that step… and then… take another step… and another.. and another.

The Day I Took Action

A few days later, a thought crossed my mind: “Actually… what would be the first step to buy new running shoes?” Even though I recognized my old excuses to not even consider that thought, I had a simple answer: “To look up which shop sells running shoes.” After procrastinating for a bit I decided to look that up. This was the first step. One additional step led to another and through many more, each accompanied by several excuses, I bought running shoes and went running the very same day. I had stopped to believe my excuses.

Afterwards I thought to myself: “Damn! That was easier than I thought!” It was in that moment that I realized something important: “So, what held me back all this time? I bought all those excuses that I have told myself…” It made me curious about: “How many more excuses do I tell myself every day?” I thought about that and decided to challenge myself: I wanted to do a workout every single morning, go running every second day and pay close attention to my excuses. So, I downloaded a workout app and went to bed.

Waking up the next morning I recognized “them”. They tried to keep me in bed and tried to hold me back from doing what I wanted to do: Excuses trying to prevent me from working out. Even though it was a struggle, I didn’t let them. I got out of bed, opened the app and half asleep, not having exercised in over ten years, completed my first workout.

A New Realization

I had beaten my excuses and felt exhilarated. I had caught a glimpse of my potential and it began to reveal to me that maybe, just maybe, I could be able to do all the things I wanted to – One of which was to work out regularly. Behind all the excuses trying to prevent that like that I looked good enough, that I didn’t have the time and that I could injure myself, was a desire to actually work out. So I challenged myself to repeat working out the next morning.

100 days later I had never skipped a workout for a single day. Additionally, I had been running every second day for the same duration. No matter the time, the weather, the excuses or circumstances – sometimes working out as early as 4:30 AM and sometimes going for a run as late as 11:45 PM in the pouring rain. I had done what I considered myself incapable of doing. What had been a long time coming happened shortly thereafter: I got injured and was forced to take a break. But I had learned one important lesson: I had proof that I was able to push through my excuses, rationalizations and reasons for why I didn’t want to, couldn’t or didn’t need to pursue what I really wanted. This realization changed how I responded to challenges and slowly opened another door…

Read on and discover, how a book changed my life and helped me find purpose.

My Journey II – Tools of Titans

The Book That Changed My Life

“You know, there’s a good book I’ve read recently; it’s called Tools of Titans.”, my friend told me in the summer of 2017. Having experienced the profound effects of Jocko Willink’s podcasts and becoming disciplined, checking out this book was a no-brainer. Author Tim Ferriss compiled insightful answers to the fascinating question of how people became successful. Through reading it I learned many lessons, two of which had profound impact on my life:

First, I developed an understanding for how many people become successful without going down the traditional path of high school into college into 9-to-5 into retirement. A concept that I hadn’t questioned before. Second, I’ve learned a lot about new strategies and tools to live the life I wanted. I didn’t need to go down the traditional path that I followed unwittingly for the past 26 years. Tools of Titans opened the door to previously unknown possibilities – for the first time in my life, I realized that the choice of what I wanted to do with my life was truly mine.

Life-Changing Insight

For the first time I asked myself open-mindedly where my life was going: Was it in tune with my goals and desires? Surprisingly, I didn’t have an answer. Upon further thinking I realized: I had no clear vision for my future at all. Instead I had simply been going along with what seemed safe and reasonable, without ever asking myself if that was what I really wanted.

Feeling lost, I decided to pursue the one thing that I had developed a passion for after reading Tools of Titans: To work on myself, to grow, and learn. Without being aware of it myself, this passion was something I always had in me: I played competitive video games with the goal to improve. I strove for excellent grades when I didn’t have to, and when 90% of students didn’t even read assigned texts, I not only read, summarized and highlighted them but also took pages of notes. The missing link: I never applied this mindset to the way I lived my life as a whole. That changed.

As I started to apply this mindset to my life, I began meditating, read daily, signed up for a gym, ran regularly, ate healthy and doubled down on my efforts for university. My goal was to improve – and that, I did. Slowly but surely, I began to tread on the path of improvement.

Signs of Doubt

As I learned, read and tried myself out, I felt like my life had suddenly become great: In reality this feeling came from doing all the things I always wanted to do: I ate healthy, exercised, trippled down on studying and read a ton of books. I didn’t do all these things before because I had convinced myself to be a person that didn’t need to eat healthy, wasn’t in need of exercise and content with my sleep schedule (getting up as late as 12 AM sometimes). Any time I felt that this was not true with my what I really felt, I quickly buried these true feelings under a vast amount of excuses and rationalizations which kept me in my status quo. After I started doing them, progress quickly became visible and the amount of discipline needed to maintain this process steadily decreased. I was becoming more and more productive by the day and felt a lot better about my direction in life.

After some time I realized that my deep passion for self-development started to outshine my passion for my studies. I became deeply conflicted. “Should I quit university after all those years to follow my newly found passion?” Of course, that was a stupid idea … right?! Without a clear answer, my motivation for studying took a nosedive. For two months I wrestled with the question of where I wanted to take my life. As I thought and wrote about this, I concluded that self-development was my real passion and that I wanted to share it with others. University didn’t fit that plan.

Finding Purpose

So, around new years eve 2017 I sat down with my friend for a beer, pondering the question of where to go and what to do with my life. During our conversation he asked me a simple question: “What do you want to do in life?” Without hesitation I replied: “Help others!” He smiled. “You know you can do that without quitting uni, right?”

I went silent for a moment, dumbstruck by this simple observation. I realized that I had needlessly backed myself into a corner: I had thought about this problem as an either-or decision. I completely disregarded that I could go down both paths simultaneously. My plan was to put in the work for uni, while continuously working on myself. I also started to think about how could I share what I had learned with others.

In January of 2018 I put my thoughts on paper and outlined how I wanted to achieve my goals, and more importantly, why I wanted to achieve those goals. Armed with a purpose, a plan, discipline and knowledge from countless self-development resources, I started to set up a blog to share what I’ve learned with the world. From January until the end of April this vision became more defined with the help of Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring Suite.

As a result, those months turned into some of the most productive months ever: I woke up early, worked hard for university and my blog, read more, learned more, exercised regularly and tried new things. The days flew by. The amount of knowledge I had gathered that I wanted to share with the world increased every day. It seemed like everything was coming together, when I had a really stupid idea.

PART III: How a stupid idea almost prevented this blog from happening…

My Journey III – Mistakes

A Stupid Idea

I had a long time problem: I felt uncomfortable in clubs. For years I haven’t been an outgoing person at all, often felt awkwardly out of place and didn’t enjoy my time at parties. I always wanted to change this and as all other parts of my life where progressing nicely, I decided it was finally time to become more social – becoming more comfortable in clubs seemed like a good first step.

So, over the course of some weeks I went out at least three nights a week, woke up late and tired and did it all over again. After a couple of months I even felt at home in clubs… so, success! Right?

Another Stupid Idea…

Nope! One morning I woke up and thought: “FUCK! I have uni deadlines!” Indeed, I had to turn in some paperwork and partying certainly hadn’t helped that. I canceled all events and sat down for 12-hour days for two weeks. After turning in those papers I felt exhausted and came up with another great idea: “Let’s take a break from uni for a week! What’s the worst that can happen?” Who would have guessed? One week turned into 4 weeks and soon I was far behind.

Not only that – partying often and staying up late messed up my sleep schedule and derailed my routines and habits. Suddenly I gave in to excuses to skip going to the gym “today” (or tomorrow… ah, who am I kidding: the whole week!) and fell off my path completely. Additionally, my father being brought into a hospital, an hour before my heart had been broken by a girl I loved left me in a really bad spot.

At this point, I didn’t care about sharing what I had learned anymore. I stopped working out, stopped my meditation, cold showers, and journaling routines and found no motivation to work on my blog or anything else for that matter. I lost my purpose.

The Feeling of Purpose

To top it all off, I had to work on the weekend, which, instead of making the situation worse, turned out to be the best thing that could have happened – I made myself a promise. No matter how heartbroken I was or how miserable my situation seemed: I would make everyone’s day. So I did. Even though I felt sad and exhausted, I made everyone enjoy their time at work. People came to me with an expression that left one wondering why they hadn’t written “FUCK MY LIFE – I HAVE TO WORK ON WEEKENDS” on their forehead – they left with a high five and a big smile. Through those interaction I reignited my purpose, I felt the impact that simple day to day actions had on others and why I had decided to go down this path in the first place.

Over the weekend I wrote down what was going wrong, why it was going wrong and what I needed to do to fix it. It was a long list, but I felt confident to tackle it one by one, one day at a time. So that’s what I did: I started incredibly small and worked myself up from there. My time studying increased from five minutes each day, to four hours a day one month later. I reintroduced my morning and evening routines, set up a regular workout schedule and fought my way back on my path. In the span of a few weeks I was back at it. My routines were going strong, I made great progress in all important areas of my life. I even wrote 1/3 of my 9 month master thesis in one month!

Back on the Path

That was when I decided to take up blogging again to further my mission of helping others to reach their potential, but when I read the articles I had written in January, I realized they lacked structure and direction, so I scraped what I had and started over. I read books about how to write (who would have guessed I had to learn that, after writing uni papers for my whole adult life) and devised a plan to get my blog online. Countless failed drafts, hours upon hours of reading and research, writing and rewriting, planning and communicating lead to what you are reading now.

Of course these blogs posts are only a small glimpse at my journey and what I’ve learned along the way. I didn’t get to where I am alone. I had great mentors like Tim Ferriss, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Gary Vaynerchuck and others, who taught me most of what I know.

On my journey I’ve learned a lot, and while I am still learning, I want to share which tools, mindsets, ideas and strategies helped me so far, so they can help you, too. Whether you read an article about how to become disciplined which helps you go to the gym regularly, or how gratitude helps you appreciate more of life, or why a purpose helps you prioritize and many more: My mission is that you’ll eventually be able to visit this blog whenever you feel stuck,  have a problem or want to improve and find something of value.

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