Habits and the Long View

If you aren’t satisfied with your life today, yet you continue the same habits that got you here, you’ll still be dissatisfied next year, possibly even more so.

Many habits may feel quite satisfying in the moment, but they have no long-term positive impact. They are temporary pleasures or escapes but nothing more. These habits tend to self-perpetuate automatically, but as you become more conscious and rational, you’ll discover the importance of replacing these short-sighted habits with better ones.

In my early 20s I could spend as much as 18 hours straight playing video games, a habit that I enjoyed but which produced no significant long-term impact (other than becoming a more skillful gamer). By replacing that habit with reading and writing, I’ve played hundreds fewer games but read more than a thousand extra books and wrote more than a thousand articles and a book. I feel good about that trade.

Think carefully about the long-term impact of your current habits. Your habits will likely take you down a path that’s either increasingly satisfying or increasingly disappointing.

A small course correction today can make a huge difference over the next 10 or 20 years. That may seem like a long time to wait, but those years are going to pass anyway, and someday you’ll be looking back to your self of today, perhaps with appreciation for your wisdom… or with disgust for your short-sightedness.

I often look back at the decisions I made in my 20s and feel glad that I put so much thought into how those decisions would affect myself and others down the road. I hope my 60-something self is equally appreciative of the careful thought I put into making decisions while I’m in my 40s.

Imagine your future self 20 years out looking back at the habits you have today, having experienced two more decades of accumulated impact from those habits. What would s/he appreciate about your habits? What would s/he beg and plead with you to change?