A few days ago a friend posted on Facebook that she got a brand new iPhone. She asked for tips on how to get familiar with her phone.
The advice I gave her was to read every tutorial and guide she could on the phone and explore all of its capabilities in the first ten days (there are thousands of them between official product, youtube videos, blogs and more).
The reason I gave that advice is simple. It reflects a pattern I’ve seen in me and maybe you’ve seen in yourself.
The way I learn to use a device in the first 10 days is essentially the way I’ll use it for the rest of it’s life.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about myself. Whenever I get a new piece of technology, I try to familiarize myself with it at once. I don’t naturally try out it’s maximum capacity. I simply find a few cool features and try to get it to behave in a predictable way.
I like the familiar. As a rule, most of us humans do: we like to take new things and domesticate them – make them behave how we want whenever we want them to.
As a result, within about 10 days, all the experimentation is gone. We tell ourselves that we’ve mastered it.
But we haven’t. The truth is we’ve mastered about 10% of the device’s capabilities. We’ve missed 90% of its potential, because our drive was to subjugate it, not learn it.
Our need for predictability killed our curiosity and innovation.
So…what if the next time you get a new device, you decided to learn everything you could about it for 10 days. Read blogs, tutorials, watched user videos and experimented with it endlessly without settling into any habits?
What would the next three years with that device look like? Better for sure. You’d be smarter, more efficient, more satisfied and get far more value out of it than usual.
But that approach only works if you’re willing to suspend habits for the first ten days and resist the drive to make everything easy and predictable.
Enough about devices.
Now the big question:
What if you approached the new year that way?
I’m convinced that one of the enemies of progress is routine. We are creatures of habit, but our habits (repeated patterns of behaviour) often take us to places we don’t want to go.
I say 21 days only because this isn’t a phone we’re talking about, it’s our life. And it takes 21 days to make a new (and better) habit.
What could it look like if the first 21 days of 2013 meant you launched a radical assault on the status quo:
You bought a new alarm (or downloaded the nicest alarm app you could find) and set it for 5:30 a.m. and made no excuses?
You changed your meeting schedule so you could do something active 5 out of 7 days?
You changed grocery stores and had to learn a new pattern of shopping – and you just never went down the chip aisle?
You pulled your credit cards out of your wallet and put them in a lock box or cut them up?
You used smaller plates for 21 days as a way to cut back portion size?
You gave away $50 a week you’re currently spending on yourself?
You picked up a new bible (or got a new bible app or reading plan) and never missed a reading for 21 days?
You decided you not speak a critical word to your family or friends and every day just prioritized doing it?
You took a new route to and from work to give you more thinking time?
I’ve already experimented with a few changes in my habits as 2012 draws to a close in the area of fitness.
I set my bike up on a trainer (done that before). But I did two other things to make working out more automatic.
I reorganized my schedule to accomodate spinning 45 minutes 3-5 times a week.
I preloaded some documentaries on Netflix’s Instant Cue to watch when I’m working out. As a result, I don’t have to think about what to watch – it’s there preloaded ready to go.
My motivation is double now – I want to work out and I can watch some intelligent film at the press of a button. New habit = progress.
You can fill in the blanks for whatever you need to conquer, but you see the pattern, right?
The way you spend the first 21 days of 2013 will set the pattern for how you spend the next 344 days of the year.
Your desire to domesticate the new year and make it predictable and ‘easy to use’ runs deep, and it will lead you to exactly where this year led you unless you attack that pattern. 2013 will be exactly like 2012 unless you intentionally change it.
So why don’t you do that?
In 21 days, so much could be different.
What do you want to change? What are your ideas on how to change it?