The older I get, the more obvious this little truth is – Little habits, over time. This phrase can be said in a lot of different ways to describe a lot of different things. But it’s true. We tend to think life is about these grand gestures or big wins. But the truth is, as we get older, we start to see the power of little habits over time and what they can either create or destroy in our lives.
Little Habits, Over Time – Our Finances
Yes, what Frugal Feline post would be complete without mentioning our finances. For those of you nerds out there, you might be getting all excited and wiggling in your seat. But for the rest, you’re probably skipping this section.
I understand. Do what you will.
What I’d like to suggest here is that we underestimate the power and pervasiveness of the little habits that dictate our personal finance successes and failures.
Take the couple that lives paycheck to paycheck with the excuse that they just don’t make enough money. “We don’t make enough to…” is the belief, but behind that belief is a series of little habits that eat away at their monthly income leaving nothing left over after all “expenses” are paid.
It could be:
- Eating out (or worse, door dashing)
- Grocery store selection (or worse, Instacart)
- Competitive friendships that result in over-consumption of goods out of your price range.
How about the couple that has a very modest lifestyle?
- Nothing fancy.
- Starter home.
- Average income.
- Were always afraid of debt so didn’t have payments.
- Took their time saving up for a home.
- Bought things with cash.
- Made a big down payment.
- Never made a lot, but always saved and invested.
- Paid themselves first on principle.
- Gave 10% of what they made.
Both of these examples exhibit little habits in their financial lives. For one, the little habits are destroying their personal finances. For the other, they are creating the small wins that compound into big successes. Or at the very least, the ability to retire when they reach 65. Which is shockingly uncommon these days. The Financial Samurai has a great post on the retirement reality.
Little Habits, Over Time – Our Health
If I told you to go eat a salad for lunch today, I’m positive that it would have no measurable impact on your health. But what if you started eating a salad for lunch 5 days a week for a year?
It’s really the same decision: I’m going to eat a salad today.
But when it’s repeated consistently over the course of a year, the outcome is completely different.
One of the most harmful lies of our modern day is the lie of the workout. I call this one the “1 hour workout” lie. Whether explicit or implicit, many of us have a belief (there it is again) that a workout needs to be an hour long for it to matter. And it needs to be very intense, difficult, involving special equipment, maybe even a personal trainer, etc.
But we are not innocent here. We are not the victims. If it weren’t profitable to devise a magic fat loss pill and market it on TV, then we wouldn’t have such a prevalence of it in gas stations, GNC’s, and grocery stores. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to have the positive outcome without the positive little habits. And our health is a great example of one of those places where an 8 hour workout once a month won’t make us fit. And a once-a-day magic fat loss pill falls short too.
But a 10 minute body weight home workout done 5 days a week for a year?
Little Habits, Over Time – Our Dreams
Another lie of our culture (spread by companies who want to sell more advertising spots) is that of the overnight success. The garage-based computer business that became an IPO. The teenager who wrote a social media app over a long weekend of red bulls and In-N-Out. The entrepreneur who landed a deal with a mega retailer to get her clothing line on the map.
We are told that if we just put enough on the line, we can take a massive risk and maybe become the next Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Kendall Jenner. But again, are we the victims or the problem? If the overnight success story didn’t sell so well, we wouldn’t see it over and over again. And we wouldn’t be so blind to the exaggeration of the facts to fit the narrative of the overnight success.
The unfortunate truth is often times we are afraid of chasing our dreams. We are more comfortable dreaming of our dreams than taking steps to purse them in reality. This is mostly because our fear of failure is greater than our desire for success. We prefer the devil we know to the devil we don’t.
So we buy into the lies that tell us that we can’t chase our dreams in the mornings or the evenings. The lie that small positive actions over time won’t result in big positive outcomes in the future.
Nope, we will need to quit our jobs, forfeit our income stability, and go all in. Take out loans, raise money, etc.
We buy into the lies that success is just around the corner of an all-night coding session and a pitch to the right person.
Or we can just sit down on a Saturday morning and knock out that book we’ve been dreaming about.
Why employ little habits when everyone else is achieving over night?
Little Habits – How to Use Them
If you haven’t caught on by now, let me be direct. Little habits over time are behind the greatest successes and failures. They are behind the “overnight” entrepreneur who creates the next big thing. Behind the fit 40 year old at the grocery store. Behind the stress free, financially free couple who gives generously and enjoys life.
But unfortunately, little habits over time are also behind your broke, paycheck to paycheck family members. And behind the failures of attempts at becoming overnight business successes. And even behind the unhealthy people we see in our day to day.
Little habits over time aren’t a decision to employ. They surround us and abound in us. They define us. They’re either taking us closer to who we want to be or further away. They’re either destroying us or making us.
Little habits, over time are the tool we can use to get anything and everything we want out of life. But they’re not easy. That’s why most people don’t use them. Most people would rather pay for the magic pill instead of employ little habits over time because they are not easy. It’s freaking hard to be consistent and do it every day.
Little habits over time are either making us or breaking us. They’re the reason people succeed with money and the reason people fail with money. They’re the reason people are healthy, and the reason people aren’t. Little habits over time are the engine behind business successes and business failures.
Little habits over time are not a choice. They aren’t something we buy off the shelf. They’re already here. In us and among us. We will either learn to master them and use them to shape who we want to become. Or we will ignore their power, continue to look for the magic pill, and wonder why we wake up at 50 somehow still living paycheck to paycheck despite numerous big raises.
Ironically, little habits over time is the magic pill we’ve been looking for. It’s the catalyst to living out our dreams. Little habits over time is the secret we’ve been searching for. It’s the truth.
But it’s not something we can buy. It’s something we must master and use to our advantage.
To master it will allow us to achieve great things.
To ignore it will allow it to destroy us.
A Call to Comment
Where in your life do you employ little habits over time to your benefit? Where might you be allowing these to create destruction or hold you back?