A friend recently contacted me and wanted to know of any tricks I had to maintain my peace of mind and to keep from backsliding into old habits and routines (I get similar requests almost weekly). He has come out of a long, dark winter and did not want to slide back into fear, drinking, and other bad habits. He knew of course that willpower alone wouldn't do it so what kind of hacks did I suggest?
It seems everyone is looking for life-hacks and shortcuts to make life easier. Books and programs selling short work weeks, getting fit without exercise, and productivity hacks all soar to the top of best-seller lists. It still amazes me how easily the modern versions of snake oil sell, but I guess human nature doesn't change so the carnies just change the label and call it something else. I fall for it once in a while myself. We're all looking for the magic pill that will make life better and easier - once and forever.
Often times the snake oil salesmen are not intentionally selling you a worthless potion - it worked for them! Why then do so few people get real value from self-help books or routines? Could it be that most people don't do the required work?
All routines, procedures, and systems are empty. They're like closet organizers- the structure is there for you to use, but if you don't use them to organize your belongings they are worthless. Tim Ferris offers some serious productivity and time saving 'hacks' in his best selling book The 4-Hour Workweek , but do you really think that Tim works only 4 hours a week? What Tim has offered is convenience - a set of systems, and like an instant sauce which requires water or milk to be added, you must add the work. I'd dare say his strongest hack is willpower -the king of all hacks.
I will agree that there are routines and systems that we can use to make our lives easier and more manageable. I've found that maintaining a morning routine and following certain guidelines give me the strength and clarity I need to live a productive and meaningful life, but I work hard at mindfulness every day. Willpower is required. (See more on tools and systems here, here, and here) Mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and self awareness are all great tools, but if you have addictions, bad habits, and challenges - and who doesn't - then a lot of willpower and determination is required to overcome them.
Living a meaningful life can be hard work but it's worth it. Grab your tools and get to work - the work of Life. With the right practice it gets easier.
Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living