Make Success the Default Option

May 2020 · 800 words · 4 minute read

This whole Coronavirus pandemic has led to me doing a lot of thinking recently, some of it good, some of it bad. I’ve come to realise just how much of an impact the environment has on my general mood. I’ve come to realise how important structure is for my physical and mental health and I’ve come to value a calmer, saner discourse over the rubbish that tends to permeate the airwaves.

More importantly to this post, the Coronavirus has completely upended all of my routines and all of the structure that previously existed in my life. It’s genuinely, and I am not trying to exaggerate too much here, been a large reset on my life.

The impacts so far have been:

The long and the short of it is that I’ve come to realise how important it is to me to have:

I’ve given myself a complete free pass for the first couple months of the pandemic but I’ve now realised that this is not the best approach either in the shorter term or over the longer term. Instead, what I should have done was to introduce more rigour and structure to deal with the period of uncertainty. More structure and discipline, not less. My own personal pathology is pretty clear to me, I’m very swingy emotionally and it’s important to me to have some form of structure in my life.

Via self reflection and reviews of my long term journals I’ve been able to identify that the structure and discipline has always preceded the success. I can’t just introduce something into my life and think that I’ll succeed at it, instead, I need to build this up from the bottom up and integrate it into my life. I’ve come to think about this structured building of discipline is about making success the default option.

Unpacking this statement.

Maintaining a consistent exercise regime is almost effortless for me if I; have an exercise plan, live nearby to a gym, aim to go 4-5 days a week (typically M,T,T,S,S). If I put these three things in place then I’ll typically be successful in what exercise goals I have. If I do these then I’ll almost succeed by default.

If I want to improve my body composition then (assuming my exercise regime is dialed in) I need to; stick to 6-12 healthy meals which are typically low carb, not have alcohol in the house, make sure I get enough sleep. Hitting these three things typically brings me to the body composition I like to maintain fairly easily.

My writing has been the most consistent and successful when I; always have a topic to write about, write first thing in the morning upon waking. The biggest thing for me in writing is being paralysed by having to decide what topic to write on. By taking this choice away and making it the night before for example it frees me up to just write.

If I want to dial in my finances and save more money I just have a simple step, move a set amount to my brokerage account immediately after I get paid. This single step, is all that it takes for me to achieve my financial goals.

To reduce my stress levels it’s typically a function of sufficient sleep, good diet and exercise and having sex. That’s basically it.

The hardest thing though, is not that I don’t know what I need to do in order to be successful at what I want to achieve it’s in having to think about it in the first place. If I need to summon a new writing topic each and every time I try to write in the morning then I’ll never get started. If it’s 8pm at night and I’m looking at an empty fridge then chances are my diet will be shit that night. If I turn up at the gym and have to ask myself “what am I training today” then I already know I’ll be fucking around for that workout.

Yes, structure and discipline suck in the short term but if they make success the default then they’re probably worth it.