I was reading recently about the life of Benjamin Franklin, and was intrigued by his constant desire for self improvement. He even took the time to specifically document and list the “values” that he wanted his life to reflect, and once compiled, he set out to create a life that reflected these values.
What struck me, as I was reading about his life and methods however, was not his desire to live his personal best. Rather, I was very intrigued by an observation he made as he attempted various self-improvement experiments.
He found that conviction alone wasn’t enough to live the life that would reflect his values. He needed something more. He need the power of inclination. He once stated:
As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employ’d in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason.
A brilliant observation, and one that is, in my opinion, absolutely correct:
No matter what our intentions in life are, no matter how big our goals may be, if we don’t have the “machinery” of powerful habits and inclinations, we will not be able to achieve our desires.
I have been thinking lots about this concept in my life as I continue to set and refine my life goals. I am a big believer in setting “Extreme Goals” – goals that require my utter conviction and require me to be my very best in order to achieve them. I like these types of goals because I have found that giving my absolute best to an endeavour, of my own choosing, has great intrinsic value. When I do this I truly “enjoy the ride”.
But like Franklin, I have also come to the conclusion that my best intentions are completely at the mercy of my inclinations, and that in order to achieve my extreme goals, it is equally important to set up the machinery correctly.
I must give myself over to the mercy of powerful habits in order to achieve extreme goals
So a new “habit” that I have adopted is, before setting any goal, I analyze my current habits, and I ask myself this question, “will my current habits provide the horsepower to motor this extreme goal?”.
This is a powerful self-examination because most of the time the answer is NO. I set a very large goal for myself, and then I realize that in order to achieve this goal, I have to adjust my habits, and in many cases adopt new, more powerful ones. I do this because I know that it is really the power of habit that will carry my through. It is the power of habit that is truly the most important.