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Habits, Leverage, and Trees

If you want to totally screw up your life, here's my advice: cultivate some bad habits. That's how most people do it. Very few people screw up their lives by drinking once, but a lot of people screw it up by developing a drinking problem. I've never heard a story of someone who went to Vegas for the first time and lost his entire fortune, but I've heard plenty of stories of people with gambling addictions who have blackjacked their way to bankruptcy. Even breakups are far more likely to be caused by habitual bad behaviour than by a single action (even in the case of cheating, a lot of couples stay together).

This is because a single action doesn't have all that much leverage on your life. But habits, on the other hand, define us as people-- literally. What we do regularly becomes a label. Bob's an alcoholic. Tom is a cheater. Raymond is a gambler. Habits change ephemeral verbs (Tom cheated) to nouns. Once you're defined by your habits, it takes a lot to change that. If Bob doesn't drink for a night, he isn't magically changed into tee-totaler. You are your habits.

And that's why habits are my religion. I write about them all the time, from every single angle, and that's mostly a result of being fixated on habits in my own life. If you can change your habits, you can change who you are.  So I pay very little attention to rare occurrences and work on my habits constantly.

On Sleeping Less

On SEBASTIAN MARSHALL

Hi Sebastian,

I've been in touch before, and found it to be a highly valuable exchange. I was just reading your post titled 'Watching the Lightning' and had a couple of questions, if you don't mind?

Firstly, do you find 4-7 hours sleep per night sustainable? I note the post was written a few months ago so I imagine this has been enough time to measure the success of getting aforementioned amount of sleep. I've tried to limit myself to 6 hours sleep a night, but found it a struggle after 2 or 3 days. I plan to push through the struggle as I imagine it will become easier after time, which leads me to my second question: what steps did you take when planning to reduce your time spent sleeping?

I have my highest performance levels overall when I'm average 7.5 hours per night. But often I get there in a funny way - a mix of 4 hour nights and 12+ hour nights. Beyond that, I think napping is valuable, diet/exercise/health is extremely important if you want to do it, consistency is important, and also getting high quality sleep in general.

I've recently come of the opinion that most people get very little really good sleep - too much artificial light, not enough exercise, bad diets, stimulant usage (caffeine...), inconsistent schedules, and so on. I think it'd be possible to run at the 4-6 hour sleep range with maybe a 30-120 minute nap each day, but you'd need to be near perfect across the board on all the good sleep elements with serious discipline about consistent schedule, total darkness and minimal artificial light before you're going to sleep, regular exercise, a perfect diet, maybe quit caffeine entirely?, and similar.

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