The Incredible Progress of Daily Practice

By Leo Babauta

Lately in my life, I’ve been repeatedly reminded of the power of practicing something regularly.

Daily is best, I’ve learned, but several times a week works well too.

You’d be surprised how much progress you can make with even a small amount of practice, applied regularly.

Some examples in my life recently:

  • A daily yoga practice of just 10 minutes: I am not an experienced yogi, I’m very inflexible, and becuase I only practice yoga sporadically, I don’t really make any progress. But recently I committed to practicing yoga for just 10 minutes a day (a few sun salutations, mostly) … when I started, my shoulders would get exhausted in downward dog fairly quickly. But now, I’m able to hold the poses for longer without tiring as much! I’ve really seen some solid progress with just 10 minutes of daily practice. Of course, that’s not the point of yoga (it’s a mindfulness practice), but it’s still amazing to see that kind of progress.
  • Running 3-4 times a week with Eva: Eva and I started doing a half-marathon training plan by No Meat Athlete about 6 or 7 weeks ago. We do 3-4 runs a week (depending on our schedules), and when we started out, we were both pretty out of shape. Eva had to stop a couple times even on a 2-mile run, and I was far from my peak running shape. But six weeks into it — just doing short runs — we can see a huge difference. At no point did we push ourselves too hard, but just doing it regularly really made a solid amount of progress.
  • Studying go for just 10-20 minutes a day: I’ve been studying the ancient Chinese game of go this year, and I’m still very weak at it. Honestly, if I had more time to study, I might be much stronger. But instead, I’ve been just doing about 10-20 minutes of studying a day, and I’m still making noticeable progress with my calculating ability. Still not strong, but I’m getting stronger slowly, just putting in a minimal amount of study time.
  • Chinups with my son 3 times a week: In the last couple of weeks, my 13-year-old son and I decided to do a chinups challenge. Three times a week, we do five sets of chinups during the day. When I started out, I could only do 10-11 chinups per set, but now I can do 16-17 each set. In less than two weeks. That kind of progress is encouraging.
  • Daily focus sessions by a client: I have a coaching client who does daily focus sessions, training himself to focus on something longer. He just does 15-minute sessions every day, which isn’t a lot. But he’s seen his ability increase noticeably, even when he’s not doing a focus session.

Just a small amount of daily practice, or at least a few times a week. It’s powerful.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. If you’re studying something, you forget less. It’s great to study for a couple hours, but if you don’t study for a few days after that, you’ll start forgetting. Daily study sessions, even if they’re short, interrupt the forgetting process. Therefore it’s more efficient, as you don’t slip backwards but keep making forward progress.
  2. If you are weak, you get stronger without injury. It’s hard to get stronger when you’re weak (at yoga, running, chinups, whatever). But small regular doses will get you stronger, slowly. If you give yourself big doses, hoping for faster progress, you’re more likely to get injured, burn out, or get demotivated because of the difficulty level. Slow and small is better.
  3. Progress isn’t noticeable in the first week, but it is after a couple of weeks. If you’re just giving yourself small training or study doses, you won’t see any difference at first. That’s OK, keep doing it. After a couple of weeks, you’ll notice some solid progress, and a month into it, you’ll see major improvement. Keep at it.
  4. Small doses make it easy to do daily. If you want to train for an hour a day, that is only sustainable for awhile. Eventually you’ll run out of energy, or things will get busy and you won’t have the time for your hourlong session. Maybe you’ll miss 2-3 days in a row — now you’ve lost motivation, and you’re discouraged. It’s better to do it in small doses, because it’s easier to get started when you know you’re just doing 10-15 minutes, and it’s easier to find the time and motivation for small sessions.
  5. Make sure it’s fun. Doing a chore is boring and hard, and you’ll put it off, even if it’s just a 10-minute session. Instead, don’t make it a chore that you have to get through. Make it a game that you look forward to doing. Or a mini-meditation session that brings peace to your life, a time to relax. Or a moment of magic and loveliness. Create an activity that you’ll look forward to.

Bring the magic of small, regular practice to your life.

My Habit Mastery Course

If you’d like to get better at habits and daily practice, please join my new video course, Habit Mastery, which is designed to help you practice and level up your habit skills.

It’s a 12-week course with two video lessons a week, daily practice, and interviews with 11 other amazing habit experts.

This is one of the best things I’ve ever created, and I really hope you’ll join me.

The course includes weekly Q&A where I answer your habit obstacle questions, a Facebook group for support from fellow participants, and 7 bonus ebooks. All of this for $299. The course will start on Monday Oct. 23 (but you can start anytime) … and it will run for 12 weeks.

What will we cover in this course? Basically, the goal is to get you from one level of mastery to the next:

  1. Beginner to Intermediate: You struggle to create habits, and feel a bit lost in sticking to anything over the long term. We’ll have you practice the basics and some key skills to overcome the most common beginner problems.
  2. Intermediate to Advanced: You have successfully created some habits, but often have them fall apart when things get disrupted, and struggle with more difficult habits. We’ll have you practice advanced skills, and your habits will get more solid overall.
  3. Advanced to Habit Master: You are pretty good at creating habits, but are in a place where you’re trying to optimize your day, and are dealing with the more dynamic aspects of habit creation. Also, you’d like to tackle some of the hardest habits — mental habits. You’ll practice these and be amazing at everything.

Of course, it will all depend on how much work you put into it, but with the video lessons, daily practice, Facebook support group and ability to ask questions … we believe you’ll be in the optimal conditions for getting good at habits.

Read more here, and please consider joining me.

from zen habits

The Incredible Progress of Daily Practice

Habit Mastery: My New Course to Help You Level Up Your Skills

By Leo Babauta

I’m excited to tell you about my new video course, Habit Mastery, which is designed to help you practice and level up your habit skills.

It’s a 12-week course with two video lessons a week, daily practice, and interviews with 11 other amazing habit experts.

Guys, this is one of the best things I’ve ever created, and I really hope you’ll join me.

The course includes weekly Q&A where I answer your habit obstacle questions, a Facebook group for support from fellow participants, and 7 bonus ebooks. All of this for $299. The course will start on October 23, 2017 (but you can start anytime) … and it will run for 12 weeks.

Level Up Your Habit Skills

What will we cover in this course? Basically, the goal is to get you from one level of mastery to the next:

  1. Beginner to Intermediate: You struggle to create habits, and feel a bit lost in sticking to anything over the long term. We’ll have you practice the basics and some key skills to overcome the most common beginner problems.
  2. Intermediate to Advanced: You have successfully created some habits, but often have them fall apart when things get disrupted, and struggle with more difficult habits. We’ll have you practice advanced skills, and your habits will get more solid overall.
  3. Advanced to Habit Master: You are pretty good at creating habits, but are in a place where you’re trying to optimize your day, and are dealing with the more dynamic aspects of habit creation. Also, you’d like to tackle some of the hardest habits — mental habits. You’ll practice these and be amazing at everything.

Of course, it will all depend on how much work you put into it, but with the video lessons, daily practice, Facebook support group and ability to ask questions … we believe you’ll be in the optimal conditions for getting good at habits.

Topics We’ll Cover

Some of the topics we’ll cover during this course:

  • How habits work, and how to get started getting good at them
  • The most common obstacles, like disruptions, other people, your tendency to give up, starting again after stopping, and more
  • How to structure your environment to make yourself more likely to stick to habits
  • The common obstacles for common habits such as exercise, diet, meditation, waking early, decluttering, finances, procrastination, and more
  • How to quit a bad habit
  • How to change your mental habits
  • How to get good at keeping your word to yourself
  • And much more (seriously, we’ll cover a ton of amazing stuff)

Habit Expert Interviews

I have had the honor of interviewing the most incredible lineup of habit experts I could imagine, and their interviews will be a part of the course:

  1. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body
  2. Charles Duhigg, author of the Power of Habit
  3. BJ Fogg, director of Stanford University’s Persuasive Tech Lab and the Tiny Habits program
  4. Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits
  5. Chelsea Dinsmore, co-founder of the awesome Live Your Legend blog, and one of the most grounded people I know
  6. Dr. Sean Young, author of Stick with It
  7. James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits
  8. Courtney Carver, author of Be More with Less blog and Soulful Simplicity
  9. Tynan, author of Superhuman by Habit
  10. Scott Young, author of How to Change a Habit

Honestly, I am so psyched to bring the incredible wisdom of these experts to you, they are all quite amazing!

Bonus Ebooks

In addition to the course, which I believe is already very valuable … I’m offering seven bonus ebooks that I’ve written:

  1. The Habit Guide
  2. Discipline, Solved
  3. Essential Zen Habits
  4. The Do Guide
  5. Un-Procrastinate
  6. Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness
  7. Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction

This is about a $50 value (some of these books aren’t for sale anymore), but honestly I think if you put them to use, they could help you change your life.

Ask Questions, Leo Will Answer Them

In addition to the video lessons and exercises, I’m creating a Facebook group for discussion among participants, as well as the ability to submit questions about your particular struggle.

I’m going to do my best to answer most or all questions in articles and videos that I’ll publish during the course.

In answering these questions, I’ll be customizing the course for you. And I think we can all benefit from a discussion of whatever habit obstacles you face.

Please Support Zen Habits

If you sign up for this course, you’ll be helping to support my business and my family, and I would greatly appreciate it. I don’t run ads, do affiliate promotions, or sell products on Amazon. My entire business model is to create great content (books, courses, Sea Change Program) that will help you guys live a better life.

Again, this is probably the best thing I’ve ever created. I would love it if you supported the site by taking part in the course, and in the process, get good at a key set of life skills.

I hope you’ll join me.

from zen habits

Habit Mastery: My New Course to Help You Level Up Your Skills

The Ultimate Productivity, Simplicity, Finance, Happiness & Weight Loss Hack

By Leo Babauta

I’ll share the ultimate hack in just two words: letting go.

These two words, if practiced and lived, can be the key to all the self-improvement in your life:

  • Productivity: By letting go of trying to do everything, or be updated about everything, you can focus on just what’s important. This simple focus can make you incredibly effective, and you’ll accomplish more.
  • Simplicity: Our lives get filled with clutter and complexity when we constantly want to add things. By letting go of what we want to have, and some of what we already, we can simplify, declutter, create space, let go of complexity.
  • Finances: Our finances would be much better if we didn’t spend so much. Of course, you could argue that we could just earn more, which is true. But spending less and earning more is actually better than all of that! Anyway. Letting go of things we want to spend on is the key to better finances. More on that below.
  • Happiness: When we are frustrated with someone, disappointed with ourselves, unhappy with our situation, angry at something in the past … what is standing in the way of our happiness? We could blame the other person, or ourselves, or our situation, or the thing in the past … but actually, the thing preventing our happiness is being stuck on an ideal or expectation. We could let go of how we want others to be, how we want our lives to be, how we want ourselves to be … and find contentment in the way things are. This is hard for people to accept — because they aren’t good at letting go yet. Again, more below.
  • Weight loss: Eat less, by slowly reducing portion sizes and eating more vegetables and beans (low in calories, high in bulk). This is a simple recipe for weight loss (I would add strength training and other exercise, but let’s keep things simple), but what stands in our way of eating less? Wanting to eat pleasurable foods, junk foods, comfort foods, bigger portions. If we let go of these wants, we could eat less. Yes, it’s possible (I’ve done it many times).

More on all of this in the sections below. But first, let’s look at what letting go actually means.

The Process of Letting Go

What does it mean when I suggest that we let go? It means that we are attached to something (we all are, most of the time), and to let it go means to loosen that attachment.

It’s opening up of our grip, and letting the cherry blossoms blow in the wind as they will, out of our grasp.

When you are angry at someone, you are unhappy with how they acted. You believe they should have acted some other way. The should have acted is what you’re holding onto. If you didn’t have the should so firmly attached in your mind, you wouldn’t be angry.

So the answer is letting go of the should.

The answer is to loosen the tight grip on the way you think things should be. And let the should blow away in the wind. Because in reality, we have no control over the should of reality. We can’t make other people act the way we’d like them to, because they’re not puppets. We can’t even make ourselves act the way we want, much of the time.

We don’t control the should, and so letting go of our tight grasp of them, loosening up and learning to accept the uncontrollable nature of life, leads to many benefits. Let’s look at some of them below.

Productivity & Letting Go

I’ve already given an example of how letting go of all that we want to do allows us to be more focused and effective, and accomplish more.

Let’s look at a few more examples of how letting go improves productivity:

  • If we pick just three things on our to-do list that are important, and let go of the rest (for now), we can focus on the important things.
  • If we let go of needing to stay current on everything, that will allow us to be less distracted by news and social media and messages and emails. We can then just focus on what’s important.
  • If we let go of needing to say yes to every request, we will free up a lot of our time, and instead focus on what’s most important.
  • If we let go of our urges to be entertained and distracted, we’ll free up time to focus on the important.

Attachments are getting in the way of our meaningful contributions to the world. Letting go is the answer.

Simplicity & Letting Go

This past week, I started decluttering different areas of my life. I had to let go of a lot of hopes and dreams, because the reality is, I am not going to have time to do everything. That means I can let go of books, hobby equipment, and all kinds of other clutter that represented my aspirations.

Holding on to how we think our lives should be … stands in the way of simplicity. This attachment clutters our lives, both with physical clutter and with days filled with complexity.

Instead, we can let go of some of these aspirations, and focus on the ones that are truly meaningful.

The clutter is flowing out my door, as I practice letting go.

Finances & Letting Go

Recently Eva and I took a close look at our finances, and identified areas where we could trim down. It was a long-overdue look at our spending, after years of letting things creep higher and higher. I’m so happy we did it, but it meant letting go of things we have gotten used to. Ordering something as soon as we wanted it. Getting things for the house or the kids as soon as we decided we “needed” it.

Now, we’re putting things on wishlists. And for my personal wishlist, I’m practicing changing the heading of that list from “wishlist” to “letting go of list”. I visualize all of these fantasies I had of buying the “perfect” anything, and letting them go into the breeze. It’s both frustrating and freeing.

Letting go isn’t easy. But if we do, our finances can become so much healthier.

Happiness & Letting Go

A lot of times, I’ll get frustrated with my kids. Or Eva. I’ll find my chest tightening up, and have a very strong urge to tell them what to do. To control them. To make them act as I think they should act. Other people can be so frustrating!

But honestly, the problem isn’t with them. They’re all beautiful human beings, and my attachment to how they should act is getting in the way of me seeing that.

I’m missing out on their gorgeousness because I want them to be the way I think they should be. Instead of just seeing how awesome they already are!

So I have to let go of my shoulds. I have to let go of the source of my frustration, which is my ideals.

Instead, I can let go and open up to who they already are, and savor the deliciousness of that.

Weight Loss & Letting Go

I have a bit of a belly. Yes, I know, I’m a horrible person. The world should shame me for having 20% bodyfat!

But seriously, I decided I need to tighten up my diet a bit, because I’ve gotten into the habit of eating a bit too much every meal, and over the long term, that leads to a chunkier Leo. Still lovable, still wonderful, still sexy … but not good for my health.

So I’ve set myself a plan: a green protein smoothie for breakfast, and a set meal for lunch and dinner (half a sweet potato, lentils, edamame, hummus, leafy greens, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, some sriracha sauce drizzled on top, some pickled daikon radish, yum!). No sweets or flour. Only eat between 11:30am and 5:30 pm (I haven’t implemented this last part yet).

Anyway, it’s a simple plan, and it will absolutely work. Until my wife bakes vegan chocolate chip cookies, or the kids have vegan pizza. My two greatest nemeses.

It’s hard dealing with the urge to eat these delicious comfort foods. I have to see the urge, and let go.

Loosen my grip on these tastes, and let them blow into the wind.

Letting go, I open myself up to enjoy the yumminess of the food I already planned to have. Weight loss is that simple, if you practice letting go.

Getting Good at Letting Go

So it’s all easy and breezy, right? Not so fast. Letting go is the ultimate hack, but in truth, it’s hard as hell.

We don’t want to let go. You might already have had that reaction to some of the things I’ve written: “But I like my (insert the thing you’re attached to here)! Why should I let go of it?”

Because of your attachment.

If you get in the habit of letting yourself hold on to all your attachments, you’re going to develop many difficulties in life. Maybe you already are dealing with those difficulties. Practicing letting go is a way to greater happiness, health and focus.

So practice. In small doses, try noticing your attachment, and letting go of it, just for a few minutes.

Try letting go of your distractions and need to be updated for one hour. See what that’s like.

Try letting go of your electronics for two hours. What can you open up to instead?

Try letting go of your usual comforts, for one day. What deliciousness can you experience instead?

Try letting go of the things you want to buy, for one week (no buying anything but necessities like soap and toilet paper). What is that like?

Practice letting go, just for a little bit. Every day.

This daily practice is how you master it. And that’s mastering life.

Zen Productivity Workshop

Interested in working live with me, on Zen Productivity, simplicity or letting go? Let’s do it!

I’m going to be coming to a city near you soon and doing a 2-day workshop.

Sign up for updates here, and I’ll let you know soon!

from zen habits

The Ultimate Productivity, Simplicity, Finance, Happiness & Weight Loss Hack

The 10 Things Perpetually Healthy Nerds Do that Unhealthy People Don’t.

We want weight loss to be effortless, exciting, and entertaining:

“One simple trick to lose 50 pounds!”

“The superfood that burns fat!”

“How Hugh Jackman got in shape to play Wolverine in just 12 weeks!”

We want that one workout that scientists hate that finally melts the fat off our midsections and tones our arms and makes us look like Wonder Woman. We gorge on acai bowls and omega-3s and get excited about the latest article that says red wine is a health food as we polish off another bottle.

Like Monty Python searching for the Holy Grail, we go through a series of follies in search of a nice idea that never actually comes to fruition.

Get On With It from Monty Python

Right, right.

Reality paints a much different picture:

Weight loss comes from habits that don’t grab headlines.

Boring, dull, and oh-so-incredibly effective.

I have seen tens of thousands of people lose millions of pounds collectively and get healthy permanently since I started Nerd Fitness almost a decade ago.

At the same time, I have also seen hundreds of thousands of people make dramatic grand declarations about the latest trend or fad, lose a few pounds, and end up right back where they started. If that sounds like you, you’re in good company.

No wonder a 2016 British study declared “we’re doomed to stay fat.”[1]

So what gives?

What’s the difference between the Try-Try-Agains and Perpetually Healthy Nerds (PHNs, for short)?

With over 40,000 students now in our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, and 10 years with thousands of emails and success stories, I created this monster resource that dives deep into the 10 most crucial habits of Perpetually Healthy Nerds.

How many of these 10 can you check off? Be honest! Santa is watching.

1. They have a Groot Mindset.

Your mom was right, you are a unique snowflake.

That means there are ton of things that affect why you’ve gained weight over the past decade and why you struggle to lose it:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Stress level
  • Home environment
  • Mental health
  • Activity level
  • Diet quality
  • Diet quantity

All of these things play a factor in what you look like and how healthy you are. Despite all of these various factors, I’ve seen a common thread amongst Perpetually Healthy Nerds (PHNs) that crushes all other factors:

A Groot mindset.

You’re reading Nerd Fitness, so I assume you’re familiar with Groot, the tree-like superhero from Guardians of the Galaxy. He can grow and change his shape to suit the situation. He also says, “I am Groot,” but that’s less applicable here.


Unhealthy Nerd: “I have bad genetics. My parents are overweight. I am busy. I have children. I have a slow metabolism. I’m never going to be able to lose weight. This plan and your strategies won’t work for me because [excuse to let myself off the hook]. I’m the fat guy/gal and that’s all there is to it.”

Perpetually Healthy Nerd: “I have bad genetics. My parents are overweight. I am busy. I have children. Soooo….How can I make this work for me in my situation? I know people like me who have lost weight, which is a great sign. I refuse to accept that I am a lost cause. I am Groot.”

It might not be your fault that you are overweight (thank genetics and bad habits from your parents!), or that life sucks right now. But it IS our responsibility (and nobody else’s) to deal with it.

People that get healthy build a new Groot-like identity for themselves. Not the identity of a victim of bad genetics or a “too busy” life, but rather the identity of somebody that CAN change.

We all have emotional, visceral responses to what we see in the mirror or how we feel when we wake up. We need to cut through the emotion and get to the truth: we alone are responsible for our fate, and that means we alone can fix it.

Key Takeaway #1 - Have a Groot Mindset

Even if it isn’t your fault where you are, accept that it’s your personal responsibility to deal with it.

Like Groot, you can change and grow. You’ll learn that your excuses are moot – if busier, older, fatter, poorer, and more injured people than you can get in shape, you can too.

Decide today that “I am a perpetually healthy nerd” and then simply do the things that perpetually healthy nerds do. And then repeat.

2. They know their “Big Why”.

The road to perpetual weight loss and healthiness is fraught with peril.

Even the best-laid plans will end up in a ditch on the side of the road unless you have the ability to persevere when life gets busy and it’s Taco Tuesday and a new video game just came out and your kid is sick and you just don’t feel like exercising.

That perseverance comes from a damn good answer to the question: “Why?”

And not just “Because I need to lose weight,” but two levels deeper, Inception-style: WHY you need to lose weight. That’s the motivation and answer you need to be reminded of to persevere over the next few months.

Because cake is delicious.

And winter is coming.

If your answer is: “I’m here because my doctor/wife/husband thinks I should lose weight. I know I should exercise more and do more.” you are more doomed than Sean Bean in literally any show or movie. You will give up at the first sign of adversity.

Compare this to the raw, deep, honest answers we get from Nerd Fitness Academy members when we ask about their “Big WHY”:

  • “I’m here because my dad died of a heart attack at age 45, and I don’t want my kids growing up without a father like I did.”
  • “I’m here because I want my husband/wife to look at me the way he/she used to, and I want us to grow old together.”
  • “I’m here because I just got dumped and I want to get healthy so I can start dating again. I don’t want people swiping left on my photos anymore.”
  • “I’m here because I want to look in the mirror and be proud of what I see. I want to stop hiding behind others in photographs.”

Find Your Big Why

Why are you here?

Is your reason for being here more important to you than cake? If it isn’t, you’re gonna give up at the first sign of adversity.

Write down your Great Big Why – and go deep, my friend. Way down. And ask yourself “Why?” to the answer of each of your questions until you get to the root of your reason for being here.

Once you write that answer down, hang it up somewhere you can see it every day: fridge, cubicle, bathroom mirror. Accept responsibility for your current situation, be compassionate, and also accept that you CAN change, and your identity can change with small wins that prove it.

3. They don’t go on diets; they adjust their nutrition.

Perpetually UNhealthy people have a love/hate relationship with diets.

Mostly hate.

They go on diets all the time, and then they go off diets. And then they go on another diet. And then they find another diet that’s supposed to promise even faster, easier weight loss, so they switch to that one.

Unhealthy people get dieting wrong from the start, and this is what dooms them.

Unhealthy people go on a diet for a month or two until bathing suit season is over and they can’t wait to go back to “eating normally,” because dieting sucks!

The problem is that their “eating normally” is often the reason why they’re overweight in the first place.

Temporary changes to one’s eating results in temporary changes to one’s physique. Like an addict chasing the next high, somebody consistently has to chase the next diet because their normal eating is the problem in the first place!

And I’m with you, dieting sucks.

Starving yourself, eliminating all of your favorite foods, and trying to use willpower to avoid candy and sweets is terrible. No wonder people abandon diets as soon as they start them; they think “if this is what it takes to be skinny, I’d rather stay fat and happy.”

Let’s compare this to PHNs.

They don’t go on diets, because they know diets suck and temporary changes won’t work. Instead, they make adjustments to their nutrition and eat for their goals.

PHNs have internalized the following: “The concept of ‘normal eating’ is broken, which means it needs to change permanently. You never get to be ‘done.’”

Think about that for a second.

If you are “never done” with your nutrition, and you can’t go back to how you were eating before, then the ONLY way permanent success happens is if you actually enjoy and can stick with your new “normal.”

Fortunately, because PHNs have a Groot Mindset, this doesn’t scare them!

If giving up soda forever is scary, they slowly cut back from 12 a day down to one a day. If giving up pasta forever scares them, they learn about portion sizes and turn pasta into a special experience (homemade pasta, only when out at restaurants, etc.).

Here’s another difference about PHNs: They usually don’t do “cheat days” or feel guilty when they eat ice cream. That’s a recipe (zing!) for self-loathing and shame.

Instead, PHNs eat well most of the time and occasionally choose to consume foods that might not line up with their goals (pizza while playing D&D once a month, beers and wings on Sunday during football season).

PHNs have the same idea about supplements – they know supplements can’t replace a great nutritional strategy, so they don’t chase the latest and greatest.

These things are fine, because they are playing the LONG game – years, not weeks or months:

Don't do diets, adjust your nutrition

Stop going on diets!

Stop chasing silver bullets – those are for werewolves!

No more diet pills, cleanses or crazy 30-day strategies.

Nothing you do can be temporary, or the results will be temporary.

Instead, make deliberate, incremental permanent changes to your daily nutrition, slowly, over a period of many months. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t do “cheat days.” Instead, eat to line up with your goals. If you are afraid of giving up something, don’t. Work to make it more of a treat and less of a daily indulgence.

Know that it took years for you to get to your current physique, and it’s going to take months if not years to correct it.

Once you accept that you never get to be “done,” you learn that you have to enjoy the journey, and pick changes that won’t scare you away from adhering to your plan.

4.They know what’s in the food they eat.

Do you know how many calories and grams of sugar are in a can of Coke? Or how big a serving of peanut butter actually is? Or how many calories and carbs are in a cup of “healthy granola?”

If you do, you’re well on your way to being a PHN!

Whether it’s portion control, calorie counting, tracking macros, or even keeping a food journal, PHNs have a rough idea of the nutritional breakdown of the food they consume regularly.

After all, GI Joe tells us that “Knowing is half the battle!”

The other half is lasers:

Knowing is half the battle, lasers is the other half

PHNs know their nutrition accounts for 90%+ of the battle when it comes to weight loss, and thus that’s where their focus is!

Seriously. 90+ PERCENT.

So they do their homework:

  • If they eat the same thing regularly, they spend a few minutes educating themselves about how much they are actually eating every day.
  • If they eat out, they do some rough calculations to track how many carbs, fats, and protein is in the meal they’re about to eat.
  • If they do bulk cooking for the week, they know how many calories and grams of protein are in each meal.

With each meal tracked, this behavior adds up to a quick mental model every day of roughly how many calories a PHN consumes each day.

This knowledge allows for shame-free and guilt-free meals even if they aren’t part of the big picture:

For example, a PHN will know that they’re going to be eating pizza for dinner, so they opt for eggs and bacon for breakfast and a salad for lunch to even out their daily total.

Because PHNs also know sugar is a big culprit in spiking insulin and making waistlines larger, they seek to limit sugar intake and make their calories count, especially if those calories are in beverage form.

PHNs are inherently skeptical of food marketers, and therefore take the time to look at labels:

  • Coca-Cola (20 oz): 240 calories, 65 g of carbs (65 g of sugar)
  • Naked Juice Green Machine (15 oz): 270 calories, 63 g of carbs (55 g of sugar)

Look at those two things above: one is a can of cola that you know is bad for you, the other is marketed as a “healthy beverage.” They’re both terrible for you!

PHNs know that fruit juice is pretty much sugar water, most granola bars have as many carbs and sugar as a candy bar, and a “healthy” muffin is a calorie bomb.

PHNs want the most bang for their buck, so they educate themselves on food.

Learn about the food you’re eating. You’re a grown adult, you can take 3 minutes and Google it.

Once you know the composition of your meals, you can start to make subtle adjustments or change quantities over time as you start to approach a healthier weight. Be okay with “good enough” to start, and get more accurate as time goes on.

For each food, learn the following:

  • Total calories
  • Serving size
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbs

Keep a food journal and just write down what you eat every day for a week. If your weight isn’t changing, adjust down total calories and minimize sugar consumption and see how your weight changes. Make small adjustments over time and see how your body responds.

Speaking of goals….

5. They use Blueprints and Blocks to Create Goals.

Perpetually unhealthy people say things like “I’m going to exercise more this year!”

Goals like this are cloudy with no real markers of success. With no beacon guiding them, perpetually unhealthy people don’t know if they’re on track, and there’s no accountability if they don’t succeed. These goals get tossed in the abandoned pile next to goals like “I’m gonna start flossing!”

That is very different from PHNs.

PHNs grow like Groot through proper goal-setting and achievement:

  • They pick a blueprint: an outcome-based goal.
  • They place the blocks to build that blueprint: a habit-based goal.

An example: “I need to lose X amount of weight by X date or else X will happen.”

This is the goal that my friend (and NF success story) Saint set: to reach a single-digit body fat percentage before his wedding date, or he’d lose $500 to a friend. With a very specific goal and a specific timeline, we can work backwards to calculate how much weight we need to lose each week to build that blueprint: our goal physique.

Once a blueprint is selected, a PHN will focus on just placing the next brick or block according to the plans. They know that if they picked the right blueprint, placing one block after another in the right place will eventually result in a completed building.

In Minecraft terms, once you have the blueprints for a replica of Rivendell, all you have to focus on is placing the next block in the right place. Repeat. Eventually, you’ll have Rivendell:

Here’s a real-life example of this block-placing mentality:

“My goal is to reach 150 pounds by December 1st, so I will eat one vegetable every day, and I will strength train for 30 minutes, four days per week.”

In this instance, a PHN is focused only on the habits themselves, trusting the outcome will take care of itself.

Using block-habits like this results in no wiggle room: You can very easily answer the question “Yes I placed the block” or “no I did not place the block.” You either ate a vegetable today or you didn’t. You either exercised for 30 minutes today or you didn’t.

Pick habits and challenges and goals that are designed for YOUR level. Start with habits SOOOOO easy that you can’t help but achieve them. And focus on the habit.

If you’ve never built a thatched hut, don’t pick a blueprint of a cathedral for your first building. Pick a blueprint that works for you at your level, and complete it! Only then should you pick a bigger, more complex project to follow.

Think of it in video game terms:

6. They don’t HAVE to exercise, they GET to.

Unhealthy people treat exercise as a miserable means to an end: “I’ll exercise until I reach my goal weight and then I can stop this exercise stuff and go back to what I was doing before.”

Temporary changes, miserable strategy, temporary results… sound familiar?

They run on a treadmill because they think they should, but they hate it, and they never want to go back. Or they get dragged to a class with a friend and the class ruins fitness for them.

They do their best to build the habit, but they’re so unhappy and unexcited about the exercise that the habit never sticks.

Look, here’s the truth: “exercise” sucks.

So PHNs don’t do “exercise.”

At the same time, I’ve heard from Nerd Fitness Academy members: “I can’t believe it, but I actually look forward to exercising now. How did THAT happen?”

What’s going on here?

Because nutrition is 90% of the battle, having the habit of exercise and movement is more important than what specific type of exercise you choose.

This means PHNs pick things like gymnastics, swing dancing, ultimate frisbee, martial arts, hiking, or strength training. Whatever gets them off their asses and moving!

If there’s a type of exercise they HATE… they don’t do it.

Exercise goes from something they “have to do” (ughhhh), to something they “get to do” (yes!).

Now, if a PHN has a very specific physique goal (six pack, toned arms, a better butt, broader chest, etc.), they train for their specific goals to build the body they want and get hooked on improvement: “I can’t wait to go to the gym and find out how much stronger I got.”

You don’t have to exercise in a way that you hate. Pick the kind of exercise that makes you come alive. Don’t have that form of exercise yet? Try new things! Especially the stuff that doesn’t feel like exercise.

Have a specific goal or physique in mind? Train for that goal and get hooked on constant improvement to get addicted to exercise. You are a video game character increasing your strength attribute with each training session – there’s that Groot Mindset again!

7. They invest in their health like a 401(k).

When it comes down to our health, we can invest in three ways:

  • Our Time
  • Our Effort
  • Our Money

Perpetually Healthy Nerds know this and prioritize accordingly: they know investing in their health is the best decision they can make. So they decide what’s the correct balance of time, effort, and money to use for that investment.

Let’s do an investment analogy: some people LOVE spending 50 hours a week pouring through company statements to find value and going all-in on picking individual stocks. For others, they might instead choose passively managed index funds and pay a small fee to not have to think about it. Or they hire a financial advisor (a fiduciary! not your dad’s friend who has a hunch!) with a time-tested track record to advise and guide them.

Either way, the best investors (guys like Warren Buffett) advise time-tested, long term thinking with “buy and hold” rather than chasing “get-rich-quick” schemes.

Your health is an investment just like your net worth:

  • If you want to devote your effort and time to building your own workouts, crafting your own meal plans, and keeping yourself accountable, that’s awesome. I did this for myself for years.
  • You might decide to outsource your programming to a coach, recruit an accountability partner, or buy into a program that creates your workouts and nutrition for you.
  • Either way, this is a multi-year process that requires discipline!

We have thousands of people who read all the free content on Nerd Fitness for years not really taking their health seriously, but the second they finally invested in The Nerd Fitness Academy or joined Rising Heroes (our monthly habit building adventure), they took action and lost weight.


Because we VALUE what we pay for and invest in, making us more likely to actually do the damn thing.

Unhealthy people don’t look at all of this stuff rationally – they complain about spending 99 cents on an iPhone app that could save them 30 minutes a day, and then gladly spend $6 on a sugary Starbucks beverage each morning without a second thought.

Your money, your time, and your effort are all limited resources: how you choose to spend each of them tells me a lot about your priorities.

I am a Proud PHN (a PPHN, if you will), and it’s why I gladly pay hundreds of dollars every month for my own online fitness coach.

Many probably think I’m crazy and that this is a waste of money (“just do your own workouts!”), but I feel that it’s the best money I spend every month, and it’s why I’ve prioritized it over other expenses.

I’m not just paying for a workout plan in an excel document.

I am paying for accountability from somebody who is checking in on me, expertise from a trained professional who can spot my weaknesses, and the knowledge that I’ll actually do the workout because I’m spending my hard-earned money on it.

I’m also saving myself hundreds of hours and years of expertise because I’m buying those things from a pro.

It just happens to ALSO come with a workout and nutrition plan to follow.

PHNs invest in themselves in some way with the right things prioritized. It’s usually by adjusting their finances to prioritize their health:

  • They might have a free gym in their apartment complex or basement, but they pay money to join a gym near work with fitness classes, because they hate working out alone and if they know people are counting on them to show up, they’ll actually GO.
  • They might pre-pay for 20 trainer sessions because they know if they’ve already paid for it and scheduled the workouts, they’ll actually GO.
  • They might pay $20-30 to just go to a gym for one hour on vacation. Expensive? Not when you compare it to the weeks spent after the vacation trying to get back on track.
  • They’ll skip movies out or cancel their cable to instead prioritize a meal service or buy more cookbooks so they never get bored with cooking new healthy meals.

In each instance, PHNs have done the math: they’re not just paying for access to a gym or an overpriced omelet. They’re not “wasting their time” when they invest their time and energy into the right things. They have their priorities in order and spend their limited resources on the most important, most efficient things.

It’s not what you say is a priority, it’s what you spend your time or money on that’s a priority. So PHNs prioritize their money and time on the best stuff, even at the expense of other creature comforts.

How much money do you spend on your health?

How much time and effort do you devote to creating your workouts or fine-tuning your nutrition?

Have you ever hired a coach or paid for an online course? D

o you buy apps or software that make your life easier, or do you try to get by with free stuff that you know you won’t actually use?

Whether it’s time, effort, or money, if you want to be a PHN you need to invest in yourself with your priorities in order. This might mean spending more for a gym and canceling your cable bill, or preparing your own healthy meals instead of simply ordering out every night.

You’re not buying a course or a workout or an overpriced salad. You’re buying expertise, accountability and momentum.

And NEVER underestimate momentum.

8. They Go All In On Momentum.

PHNs are big fans of Isaac Newton:

An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by another force.

Nothing could be more accurate when it comes to your health.

Unhealthy Nerds just starting out have a LOT of inertia to overcome.

Their body is used to sitting on a couch and eating junk food, which means building the habit of exercise is agonizing. They have to convince themselves to get off the couch and go out into the wilderness. Eating vegetables and healthy food sucks compared to their normal comfort food.

But they use max effort to do these things a few times, and momentum starts to shift away from unhealthy and towards healthy.

And that’s when things fall apart.

Their kid gets sick or they work late and they miss a workout. Not the end of the world, right? But then it snows the next day, and one missed workout day becomes two, which becomes 30 in the blink of an eye.

And shit, they’re back to square one.

PHNs know this all too well, so they dump all of their energy into cultivating and protecting their momentum. They invest their time and money in momentum-building or momentum-protecting products or services.

PHNs know that shit happens. Travel. Vacation. Kids. Work. So they focus on doing whatever they can to build momentum quickly and maintain it.

Perpetual health doesn’t happen in days, or with a few decisions. It takes months (or more likely, years) of consistent effort, so they go all in on momentum until their default behavior is healthy eating and exercise:

  • They exercise 4 days per week without fail. Yes, even on vacation.
  • They go for a morning walk every single day, even when it’s snowing.
  • They schedule workouts for early Saturday morning with a trainer so they know they can’t drink like a fish on Friday night.

Because momentum.

PHNs are all in on these habits, because they know it’s more than just “missing a workout.” It’s killing their momentum, and momentum is crucial to long term Perpetual Healthy Nerdiness!

This is why PHNs subscribe to the “Never Two in a Row” rule.

We know life happens, and sometimes getting to a workout or eating healthy food lined up with your goals isn’t an option. But it’s always the exception, never the rule.

Which is why if they miss a workout, they get to the gym THE NEXT DAY, without fail. The next meal after an unhealthy meal is the MOST important meal they have ever eaten. They never make two mistakes in a row because they know momentum can be ruined in a heartbeat.

Momentum is crucial to being perpetually healthy, so protect it with your life.

Never miss two workouts in a row, because it quickly becomes 30 in the blink of an eye. Never eat two bad meals in a row, because two quickly becomes a week of pizza and Chinese food.

Live by the “never two in a row,” and build momentum with daily goals.

9. They know their Kryptonite.

PHNs are big fans of the late great physicist Richard Feynman too, even if they don’t know it:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Unhealthy nerds might be aware of their Kryptonite, but they just hope and pray they have enough willpower to overcome it every day.

They eat a single Oreo, and then spend an hour thinking about cookies until they go eat a whole sleeve of Oreo cookies and then berate themselves for not having more willpower.

PHNs know that we ALL have Kryptonite.

We are all flawed superheroes.

Unhealthy nerds try to fix their flaws through sheer willpower and then shame or guilt themselves when they can’t stop their behavior.

PHNs recognize their Kryptonite, and have a plan that doesn’t require willpower to overcome it.

If a PHN knows they have a sweet tooth, they don’t keep cookies and candy at home – they add more steps between them and the bad habits they are trying to break.

If they know grains make them unhappy and bloated, they follow a Paleo diet and remove those foods completely so there’s no attempt to only eat half a serving of something.

If they know they struggle with portion control, then maybe they try skipping a meal with Intermittent Fasting.

They also always ask the questions that get to the heart of their Kryptonite with regards to weight gain:

  • Maybe they eat when they’re bored.
  • Maybe they eat when they’re upset.
  • Maybe they eat when they’re nervous.
  • Maybe they eat when they’re watching TV.

They KNOW these things about themselves, and they know unhealthy food has been designed to be addictive.

So they plan for it!

PHNs introduce accountability, punishments, and rewards into their life to keep them on track and avoid their own personal Kryptonite:

  • They check in with someone every day to make sure they ate their vegetables.
  • Their friend has been instructed to donate $50 to a terrible cause they hate if they miss a workout check-in.
  • They reward themselves with new running shoes (a reward that rewards them back with more momentum) if they complete 20 runs in a single month.
  • They don’t go to certain bars or make sure they eat before going to a party, because they KNOW they’ll make a bad decision once they get there.
  • They build their environment to not have tempting foods at home – it’s tough to eat poorly when your cabinets are stocked with good food.

Unhealthy people do motivation wrong, and they let their Kryptonite defeat them. PHNs know their Kryptonite and build systems to deal with it.

Know thyself, my dear friend, and know what your triggers are.

We’re all flawed; PHNs just plan for their flaws better. These triggers can be environmental or situational or emotional. Know it will happen, and build a Kryptonite-proof plan so you don’t have to worry about avoiding it.

Stop relying on motivation and willpower to tackle your Kryptonite.

Don’t put yourself in bad situations. Build your batcave (your environment) so it’s tougher to make unhealthy decisions and easier to make healthy ones. Don’t go out to dinner at unhealthy restaurants, and schedule early workouts on Saturdays so you won’t drink yourself silly on Friday.

Yes, I realize Kryptonite is Superman and Batcave is Batman, but they’re from the same universe. Deal with it. 

10. They are surrounded by Lakitus, not Banana Peels.

You are the average of the 5 people you associate most with.

Are those people Lakitus in your life?

Or are they banana peels?

Banana peels need no introduction: drive over one in Mario Kart and they’ll ruin a perfectly good race by crushing all of your momentum.

Unhealthy people get spun out all the time by banana peels in their lives:

  • “What do you mean you don’t want to eat my lasagna anymore? You love my cooking.”
  • “Everybody is coming over to play D&D and eat pizza, you can’t miss this.”
  • “You don’t need to lose weight. You look fine. Live a little. Come on.”

Questions and comments like these subtly influence our behavior every day.

So think about the people in your life: the things they say, the activities they choose to spend their time on, the foods they eat, the restaurants they frequent, etc. These are the reasons why they look like they do.

And that stuff rubs off on you whether you realize it or not! Which is how you end up looking like them.

Compare that to surrounding yourself with Lakitus. If you’re not familiar, Lakitu from Mario and Mario Kart is the little guy on the cloud that picks you up out of the water and puts you back on course.

Like Lakitu, look for the people in your life who pick you up and put you back on track, hold you accountable, and use healthy, positive peer pressure to keep your momentum.

Take exercise:

  • Banana Peel: You want to exercise, but your friends are mad at you for skipping a Destiny 2 or World of Warcraft raid… you’re going to skip the workout.
  • Lakitu: You want to exercise, and your friends are at the gym counting on you for a team workout… you’re gonna get your ass to the gym!


  • Banana Peel: You are out to dinner with friends and they order lasagna, chicken fingers and fries, a large pizza, and enchiladas. You’ll likely order junk food to fit in, rather than order a salad and endure their scorn.
  • Lakitu: You are at a healthy restaurant and all 4 people order salads before you order – I’d bet $1000 you’re going to order something healthy too.

Mental health:

  • Banana Peel: You have 5 friends who never talk about anything serious: how are you supposed to tell them about your depression medication or that you’re thinking about going to see a therapist?
  • Lakitu: You have 5 friends who are not only accepting of your flaws, but share theirs too and have advice for you.

In multiplayer terms: do you want to be part of a group with 5 newbies that suck at Warcraft and get everybody killed on a raid? Or do you want to be part of a group of 5 rockstars that are 4 levels ahead of you – that can show you new zones, keep you alive, and make you a better player?

You want the second group! And you want that second group equivalent in life!!

So you need to be surrounded by people that pick you up, not slow you down.

PHNs know this, and they make the hard decisions about who is worthy of their time and attention.

They often fire their unhealthy friends and family – even if only temporarily – because they can’t be around negative influence as they’re trying to build momentum. I’ve heard of tons of stories where unhealthy relationships have ended because a PHN was dating an unhealthy person who didn’t want them to be healthy!

In their quest to become a PHN, we know sacrifices must be made.

Along with minimizing time around banana peels, they MAXIMIZE their time with Lakitus. Instead of spending time around people who say “you don’t need to lose weight, you’re too skinny as it is” they surround themselves with people who say, “That’s awesome, how can I help you reach your goals?”

PHNs use 20 seconds of courage to strike up a conversation with someone at the gym on how to do a certain exercise, and make plans to train together the next day.

PHNs join a running club at work, or start a running club if one doesn’t exist yet.

If PHNs don’t have people in real life cheering them on, they find an online group that pushes them to be better.

I recently asked our private men’s community from the Nerd Fitness Academy what the group meant to them.

This response jumped out at me:

You are influenced dramatically by the people around you whether you realize it or not.

You alone get to choose where your time is spent and who you prioritize.

For the time being, at least until you become a PHN, you might need to sacrifice or fire your friends and family members that are pulling you down. You might need to have a serious conversation with your significant other that “likes you more full-figured” if your goal is to be healthier and happier.

Or diving deep into deflection strategies if you have to constantly deal with unhealthy family members you can’t fire.

If they are worth your time, they will change their tune to be more supportive and helpful and less of an anchor.

And then start spending time around people who are stronger, healthier, happier, and more successful than you. And do what they do.

Are you a PHN?

Phew! Okay, let’s see how many of these you can actually check off:

  • I have a Groot Mindset
  • I know my Big Why
  • I don’t go on diets. I adjust my nutrition.
  • I know what my food is made of.
  • I have blueprints and blocks.
  • I don’t have to exercise; I GET to.
  • I invest in my health like a 401(k).
  • I go all in on momentum.
  • I know my Kryptonite.
  • I seek out Lakitus, not banana peels.

Give yourself a score, and let me know which ones are the toughest for you to follow through on.

If you checked 6 or fewer boxes, pick ONE of the PHN habits and work on it for the next month. Internalize it. Make it part of your new identity. And then move onto the next one.

You’re overcoming inertia and building momentum!

And NEVER underestimate momentum.

Agree with the list? Disagree?

Did I leave one off?

Leave that in the comments too!

Also, congratulations, you just finished the longest article in the history of Nerd Fitness – give yourself a high five.


PS: If you are somebody that is interested in investing in their health right now, these are the three paths available to this community:

  • Join the Nerd Fitness Academy – a one time fee for lifetime access. Follow the workout plans, adjust your mental attitude, follow our 10 level diet system and have a private community to support you.
  • Check out Rising Heroes our monthly team-based story driven adventure. Get new real-world missions each week that make you healthier and help us take down a sinister shadow organization.

If you are looking to invest in yourself, I hope to see you in one of these programs!

photo credit:Reiterlied Rex across the fields, Meeting Star Lord and Baby Groot, benjaminreay Big question mark, Mark Bonica Paleo Diet – Day 14, clement127 Chicken factory, post-apocalyptic research institute 3mm model, sualk61 Hamster wheel, evoo73 balance, hjl Kryptonite on Blue, Reiterlied Biking on the Lake

from Blog – Nerd Fitness

The 10 Things Perpetually Healthy Nerds Do that Unhealthy People Don’t.

A Guide to Getting Good at Dealing with Chaos

By Leo Babauta

It is a wonderful thing to have order to our lives, to simplify and have routines and systems that make things peaceful, organized, and calm.

Unfortunately, life likes to throw chaos and disorganization our way.

Things get disrupted, people interrupt, email requests pour in, our neatness gets messy, schedules get thrown into disarray, things get busy and hectic and complicated.

How can we stay sane in the middle of all this chaos? How can we take the chaos and busy-ness and messiness, and use them as opportunities to get good at handling it all?

The answer is with practice. And the practice is a method of letting go and re-centering in the middle of chaos.

The Method: Letting Go & Re-Centering

When chaos and messiness come our way, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not inherently stressful and anxiety-inducing. It’s just that our minds don’t usually like these things. We want order and simplicity.

So the problem isn’t the external situation. It’s our internal ideals. We want order and simplicity, not to be interrupted, not to be overwhelmed. The ideal of orderliness is causing our frustration, stress, anxiety, not other people, not a chaotic situation.

The ideal of orderliness causes our difficulties. And we created the ideal. Therefore, we are causing our own difficulties.

The good news is that, if we created the ideal, we have the power to change it.

What if we let go of our ideal of orderliness, and created a new ideal: the perfect situation is what is in front of us. Our current experience is perfect, as messy and uncomfortable as it is. It is absolutely perfect. We just need to see its beauty.

So in the middle of chaos, the method is this:

  1. Notice that we are getting anxious or frustrated.
  2. Notice that our ideal of orderliness is causing the difficulty.
  3. Let go of that ideal, which is causing our pain and struggle.
  4. Breathe, and re-center ourselves, so that we become calm. This is simply returning to the present moment, with no ideals, seeing the situation afresh and with new eyes and an open heart.
  5. See the beauty and perfection in the moment in front of you.

That’s the method, and it is simple. But not easy.

The difficulty comes from a couple of things. First, we don’t like to let go of our ideals. We want things to be the way we want them. We want people to behave the way we think they should act. We want control over things. That we can’t actually have these things doesn’t often matter. We want them nonetheless. Second, we have difficulty in seeing the perfection in chaos and disorder. They don’t live up to our ideals, so seeing the beauty in them is foreign. We need to open up to them, but we’re not used to it.

The answer to these problems comes with practice.

The Practice: Opening Up

Whenever you have difficulty with disorder and chaos, with letting go and seeing the perfection in the moment … this is an opportunity for practice. And what a wonderful opportunity it is.

Feel the hardness in your heart when someone is behaving imperfectly. Feel the sharp edge in your chest when things start to fall apart and get messy. Feel the frustration in your torso when someone interrupts your quiet time, or leaves their things out and makes a mess.

Then see that as a wonderful opportunity to practice.

Here’s the practice:

  1. Notice when you’re resisting the method above. It could be because you don’t want to let go of your ideal (what you want) or because you don’t want to see the beauty in the current moment. It’s one of the two (and they’re the same thing).
  2. Sit (or stand) still. Pause and notice your resistance. Notice what’s going on.
  3. Try to open your heart and mind, just a little. Be less closed off, and more open to what’s happening. How can this be your teacher? How can you open up, just 1%, to what is in front of you?

Little by little, you can learn to let go of your ideals (which are causing you difficulty) and open up to the perfection of the messiness of this moment. And as you do, you’ll get better at chaos. You’ll be the master of messiness. You’ll be the Zen center of the universe. What an amazing gift to give yourself.

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Take two minutes to fill out this survey.

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from zen habits

A Guide to Getting Good at Dealing with Chaos

The First Hour: Creating Powerful Mornings

By Leo Babauta

As your day starts, it’s easy to get lost in the habit of checking messages, replying to email, checking the news and your favorite blogs.

It’s easy to fritter your day away doing a thousand small harmless actions … but the essential actions get put off.

The antidote, I’ve found, is putting a little emphasis on making the first hour of your day the most powerful hour. Treating that first hour as sacred, not to be wasted on trivial things, but to be filled with only the most essential, most life-changing actions.

Sacred actions might include:

  • Meditating
  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Writing (or creating in some other way)
  • Practicing or studying
  • Practicing yoga
  • Exercising
  • Focusing on your most important task of the day

On the days when I’m able to take those kinds of sacred actions, my entire day is changed. I am more mindful, I am more energetic, and I’m more focused and productive.

Treating this first hour as sacred helps me to remember that every hour is sacred, if I treat it as such. It helps me to remember that I don’t have a lot of hours left (I have no idea how many hours are left!), and that I have to live each one with appreciation and mindfulness.

My Current First Hour

The time that I wake up, and my morning routine, has varied over the years. It never stays the same, changing sometimes monthly. But when things tend to drift off into mindlessness, I refocus myself and choose a sacred routine that I find helpful.

Here’s what I’m doing right now with my first hour:

  • A short meditation
  • Write
  • Read
  • Study
  • Short yoga practice (or run with Eva)

I’ve only started doing this, so I keep each action fairly short (other than writing). The yoga practice, for example, is just a short series of poses, instead of a longer practice that I might want to develop over time. I’ve found it useful to start small when you get started, to form the habit.

Creating Your Powerful First Hour

You don’t have to choose the same mix as me, of course. The idea is to figure out what you think would be most powerful for your life, and put those into your sacred hour.

You might not know what mix works for you … pick something and try it. A good mix might include:

  • Some kind of meditation or reflection (gratitude journal, for example)
  • Your most important task
  • Something that takes concentration, like creating, reading, or studying
  • Something physical, like a run, yoga, workout, tai chi

But none of that is fixed in stone. If you find that you can’t concentrate in your first hour, maybe you use it for physical activity like taking a walk. If you don’t like physical activity, maybe you do something you’ve been putting off for a long time, like decluttering.

The main question to ask yourself is: if you were given the gift of an hour in the morning, what would you spend it on? What would make a big difference in your day?

Then test it out. Try the routine for a week and see what happens. Adjust if needed.

If you are already rushed in the morning and don’t have time to do all that, maybe start waking a little earlier. But I would guess that most of us have a little extra time that we spend on checking messages and other things online, that we could use in a different way. Instead of spending it on little things, reclaim that sacred time for more powerful actions.

My New Course: The First Hour – Create Powerful Mornings

I’m excited to offer a new course, called “The First Hour: Create Powerful Mornings,” as part of my Sea Change Program.

I invite you to join us in this 4-week course, by joining Sea Change today.

Sea Change is my monthly membership program for changing habits, learning mindfulness and changing your life. Each month, we focus on something different, and this month it’s creating a powerful morning routine.

What you’ll get with this course:

  1. Two video lessons per week
  2. A challenge to do a short morning routine session six days a week for the whole month
  3. A weekly check-in for the challenge so you stay accountable
  4. A live video webinar where you can ask me questions

I encourage you to join me and have your efforts to change your old patterns be supported by me and more than a thousand other Sea Change members.

Join Sea Change today and start the course.

from zen habits

The First Hour: Creating Powerful Mornings

The Ideal vs. the Reality of Changing Your Life

“Our plans never turn out as tasty as reality.” ~Ram Dass

By Leo Babauta

If only life went exactly as we imagine it would go … things would be so much easier!

Unfortunately, in my dozens and dozens of habit changes, I’ve never once had a change go exactly as I’d envisioned. The reality is always different.

Here’s the thing: that difference can be an interesting surprise, or it can absolutely derail you.

I’ll give you a few examples.

Example 1: Waking early: When I plan to start waking up earlier, I have this rosy ideal about how nice it will be to get up when it’s quiet, and use my day productively. I’ll meditate, write, read, exercise, do some yoga … life is going to be amazing!

Then I start waking early, and the reality is much different: I am tired, I’m moving slowly, my meditation is fuzzy because I’m tired, I don’t write as well when I’m still waking up, I don’t feel like exercising.

I can become very disappointed with this reality, and in myself. Or I can embrace the deliciousness of being tired, and see it as a thing to be curious about. I can continue with waking early, but instead of thinking I know how things will turn out, I can simply see what it’s like. Take a stance of not knowing, rather than thinking things will match my fantasies. And explore.

Example 2: Exercise: I always have an incredible plan for when I start a new exercise program. I’m going to do a hardcore squat program. Or an ambitious running program. Or some kind of intense Crossfit-style plan. Oh man, I am going to be so fit, and people will admire my new quads!

Then when I start doing the program, not only is it way harder than I imagined, but I struggle to stay with it, and even when I’m able to stay on plan, I might get injured. Or I’m super sore, walking around like a stiff zombie, then for my next workout I can’t push through the soreness. Turns out, my body needs a little more rest than I thought, and I should ramp up to intense workouts more slowly. Who would have guessed?

I can become disappointed with my body, with the reality that meets my optimistic self. Or I can see this as a learning opportunity, and a chance to adjust my thinking and my exercise plan. When met with the cold hard face of reality, we can adjust our plans to be adapted for that reality. We don’t have to grip tightly to the original plan, stubbornly trying to make reality conform with our ideals. Adjusting means we learn to be adaptable, flexible, fluid. This is one of the many lovely benefits of meeting reality.

Example 3: Writing a book: When I decide to write a new book, it’s interesting to note what my ideals are. I have this fantasy of being an amazing writer, who just blows minds and changes lives. People will not only be impressed by the wisdom and richness of my writing, they’ll throw their money at me in gratitude. I’ll wake early, write like a maniac, come back to revise and craft my tender words, and then publish within weeks, triumphantly.

I’m sure you can guess that reality throws some cold water on that fantasy, right quick. When I start writing, I first have to deal with the demon of procrastination. I’ll want to check email, read my favorite blogs, clean my house, do some “research” (those quotes don’t mean something dirty — the research is just an excuse to google things and put my writing off). I’ll fall behind schedule, be less than enthused about the project, and enjoy the writing a lot less than I thought I would. It feels like drudgery, not bliss.

This can derail me, and it has in the past. But my best response is to accept this reality, to see the humor in it (laugh at myself for my hilarious ideals), to find curiosity in the process, to find joy in the small moments of creation. Sure, people aren’t worshipping at my writing god feet, but I am connecting with people through my writing, I’m connecting with my inner, unseen self, and I’m connecting with the written word and all other writers in a way that I don’t fully understand. This is fascinating and something to appreciate at a level of detail that fantasy can’t match.

The Takeaway: Be Open

As you can see, the reality of life change doesn’t come close to what we idealize it to be. When we hit the ground of reality, we are never prepared for its actuality. And for many (myself included), that can be disappointing, frustrating, derailing.

But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If we are open to this different reality, instead of rejecting it, we can:

  • Accept this new reality
  • Be curious about it
  • See it as a learning opportunity
  • Find gratitude in the small details of it
  • Find joy in the small moments of it
  • Adjust our plans, and learn to be flexible, fluid
  • Embrace the deliciousness of drudger, or being tired or sore
  • Explore with a stance of not knowing

This is how we can meet the cold, hard reality of our actual changes. And it can be magnificent.

from zen habits

The Ideal vs. the Reality of Changing Your Life