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Zen Habits | The Power of Habit Investments| Marathi stories | Hindi Stories | Gujarati Stories

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The Power of Habit Investments

One of the things I’ve learned in my last 7 years of creating new habits is the power of compound habit interest.

It sounds really obvious when you say it, but if you do something small repeatedly, the benefits accrue greatly over time. It’s obvious, but not everyone puts it into practice.

It’s like putting a little extra cash into an index investment fund … let’s say you put in just $5/day (less than you spend at Starbucks perhaps) … at the end of 20 years, you’d have almost $70,000 if you could make just 6 percent interest, and closer to $90,000 if you could make 8 percent. Change that to just $8/day, and you’re now talking about $140,000 or so. It adds up greatly over time.

The same principle applies to habits.

Let’s take a few examples:

  • Spend just a few minutes a day studying Anki flashcards, and at the end of a year, you have a ton of new phrases and sentences learned of a new language. Sure, it’s not the same as being fluent, but it’s much better than you were a year ago.
  • Spend just a few minutes a day doing pushups (even if you can’t do any at first), and by the end of a year, you’ll be much stronger. I’ve seen the same thing happen to me when it comes to lifting weights — I was very weak when I started, and though I’m not going to impress any weightlifters with what I can do now, I’ve made remarkable progress over time.
  • I started out not being able to run 10 minutes, but started with 7 minutes. Soon I could run 10, then 12, then 15. At the end of my first year of running, I ran a marathon.

Adding little amounts over time makes a huge difference. And the benefits aren’t just the small amounts added up — there’s interest accrued as well. Running a little each day not only allowed me to run better, but I got stress relief from the running, which helped me to quit smoking. I lost weight. I felt better throughout the day. I started eating healthier.

The benefits from a small amount of investment paid off in huge dividends.

Ways to Build Up Habit Investments

If you repeat something regularly, just doing a small amount each time, it adds up hugely over time. Some ways to do that:

  1. Actual money. Seriously, if you don’t have any savings yet, cut out one or two small daily expenses (Starbucks grande lattes are a good example) and instead, make regular automatic transfers each week (or every payday) to a savings account. Once you have a small emergency fund, pay off debt. Once you’ve paid off most of your debt, start investing. Your finances will improve immensely with time.
  2. Healthy eating. Eating just one small healthy thing a day, if you aren’t eating healthy now, will pay off over time. Just add one fruit instead of an unhealthy snack you might have in the afternoon. Do that for a couple weeks. Then add a veggie to lunch. Do that a few weeks. Each step of the way won’t seem hard, but you’ll eventually get used to each change. Sometimes the veggie won’t be something you love, so just eat a few bites. You’ll learn to enjoy it with time. You change, little by little.
  3. Waking early. Wake up just a few minutes earlier tomorrow (say 7:55 instead of 8:00), and stay at that level for a week, then another 5 minutes earlier for the next week, and so on. In less than 6 months, you’ll be waking up 2 hours earlier, and you won’t have ever really noticed it. It’ll never feel like you’re waking earlier. Most people, btw, try to do way more than this (say, an hour earlier at first) and then fail, and never figure out why.
  4. Writing. If you haven’t been able to create the writing habit, just write a sentence today. I’m completely serious. Then write a sentence tomorrow. Do that for a week. Next week, write two sentences. This sound ridiculously easy, so most people will ignore this advice. But if you follow it, you’ll be writing 1,000 words per day, every day, this time next year. Maybe 2,000 per day the following year.
  5. Stretching and/or yoga. I’m the world’s least flexible person (I think it’s in the Guinness Book). So now I stretch just a little each day. I bet in a a month or two, I’ll pass the guy in Luanda that’s just a little ahead of me on the flexibility list. I’ve started by just doing three yoga poses each morning.
  6. Musical instrument. My wife Eva started learning to play the guitar yesterday. Just a couple chords. If she practices those two chords each day, then another chord or two when she feels pretty confident with the first two, she’ll be playing some Bach and Granados next year.
  7. Meditation. I made a vow to meditate at least 3 minutes a day. That’s all I have to do, though sometimes I’ll do more. That makes it super easy to do it every day. What will I get if I keep doing that for years? I’m not sure, but I know I already have a judgment-free space, with no expectations, and it helps me to be more mindful and focused throughout the day.
  8. Decluttering. Just declutter a few things every day. In a few months, you’ll have a dramatically less cluttered home.
  9. Language learning. Study three cards a day with words/phrases/sentences on them. You’ll be speaking Spanish like loco in six months. (Yes, I just gave you your first Spanish investment in that last sentence.)

You get the picture.

Less-than-great Habit Investments

The habits in the last section are usually seen as good things to build up, but they’re not the only things people put into their habit banks. A few other ones that aren’t seen as good:

  1. Social media sites. Checking social media on a regular basis builds up … what? Not a desirable skill, good health, mindfulness, new knowledge except perhaps what people had for lunch or what product they’ve recently launched. Just think about what you’re building up as you check these sites. The same applies to other things you might do on the Internet on a regular basis.
  2. Junk food. When you eat lots of sweets, chips, fried foods, stuff with cheesy sauce, lots of fat … what are you building up? Not healthy habits. You’re building up disease.
  3. Watching TV. I’m not completely against television (I love Parks & Rec, Modern Family, the Office, Downton Abbey) but when you watch a lot of it, especially flipping through all the cable TV channels, you are probably not watching the best stuff (any kind of reality TV is mind junk food, in my opinion). Think about what you’re building up with this time investment.
  4. Complaining. Do you regularly complain about other people? Do you regularly dislike people, dislike your job, dislike your life? Are other people the problem? You are building up unhappiness.

These are just a few examples, but it’s worth thinking about what you’re building up over time. What we repeatedly do grows into who we are.

How to Create Habit Investments

It’s a fairly simple process that you can repeat with various types of habit investments:

  1. Pick something desirable. If you repeatedly do this activity, what will it grow into? Is that what you want?
  2. Do just a minute or two of it. You can’t build it all up in the next few days. That’s a good recipe for failure. Just do 1-2 minutes of it today. Smile as you do it.
  3. Set a daily reminder. Let’s say you want to do it every day at about 6:30 a.m. Set a reminder for that time, and make it a priority to do it each day, just for a minute or two.
  4. Watch it grow. If you just do it repeatedly, it will grow. Don’t force it. Keep the repeated activity as small as possible for as long as you can if you want it to grow (it sounds paradoxical, but it works).

A few warnings:

  • Don’t worry about doing a lot of it. As you repeat this new habit, don’t worry about growing it. That’s a good way to fail. Most people fail because they try to do too much too quickly.
  • Don’t worry about missing a day or two. This is another reason people fail — they miss a day or two, then just give up. If you miss a day or two or three, just start again. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.
  • Don’t do a bunch at a time. Do one per week at the most. One per month is even better.

What Will You Put Into Your Bank?

You’re making daily deposits, tiny investments in who you are. What do you want to invest in?

You can invest in something that will make you live a happy, healthy life with meaning … or it can be a life of distraction and bad health. It doesn’t take a Warren Buffett decide which is a better investment.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different
Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
Liking Healthy Foods is a Choice
Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches
The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
The Flexible Mind
Declutter Your Life
A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems
Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
The Little Book of Contentment
The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
Simplify the Internet
12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
The Work You Love is Waiting For You
The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing
The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
How to Learn Anything
Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
Untrack: Letting Go of the Stress of Measuring
15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
Create a Superhealth Community
A Vegan Tour of NYC

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