I was sitting around this weekend thinking about practice. I had just read an article that said that to get good at something one had to spend ten years practicing. Studies show that practicing is the one strong predictor of success in nearly any field.
Then I thought, "what am I practicing?". I'm practicing eating healthy. That's good. I'm practicing rapping. Good too. After a nice long pat on the back I thought of a more important question. What am I not practicing?
I realized that every time I practice a bad habit, I'm enforcing it and making it harder to break. I guess that's obvious, but for some reason it hit me like a ton of bricks. I see myself, down the road, being someone who keeps his living space really clean, pays bills as soon as they come in, gets ready fast in the morning, and doesn't procrastinate. Every day I continue to not do those things I'm making it harder to start doing them.
And what about this mystical 10 years? I'm sure that's accurate for things like sports, being experts on topics, ninja fighting, etc., but some things don't need to take that long. When people talk about personal development they talk about slow and gradual change. Why? I can be a proactive tidy person for one day - anyone can. And if I do something one day, I can do it the next day too. It's like when I started eating healthy, or when I went vegan. I just changed my beliefs on the matter, and that changed my actions.
In a second my beliefs changed to be repulsed by my previous behavior. Having a messy house wasn't about having a messy house - it was about clinging to old habits that detract from my life.
I got up, and did 6 loads of laundry - enough to wash every article of clothing I have. I cleaned up the boxes of stuff that I brought over when I moved in. I did all the dishes and scrubbed the sink. I went into my bathroom and scrubbed the counter and sink. I (with the assistance of the lovely Evan) hung some prints I had bought three years ago. I vacuumed everywhere, including the floor of the closet. I went through my computer and deleted old files, combined iterations of backups, and uploaded 4gb of important files to my online backup.
The weird part is that I was enjoying it. Every load of laundry made me happier. Organizing my closet made me feel good. Getting on the computer didn't appeal to me - I wanted to do all these things that I normally hated doing.
My new approach is to instantly develop new practices. When you decide that it's ok for a change to take years it WILL take years, or it may never get done at all. It becomes too easy to put it off. When you institute a new practice and demand that you stick to it from day one you feel empowered, excited, and immediately accountable. Try it!