Not too long ago, my wife and I were victims of a dreaded disease known as complacency.
If you’ve never experienced this illness before, it’s a condition where your days blend together, you never accomplish anything noteworthy and you feel like you’re stuck on an endless treadmill.
Here was our typical day…
- We got up
- We went to work
- We came home
- We ate dinner
- We watched TV
- We went to bed
- We got up again the next day
- Rinse and repeat for eternity:)
We had no purpose. We weren’t making that much money and my wife hated her job.
On some days, I wondered whether I could tolerate living this way for 40 more years before retiring. So I consulted my Dad for advice.
Me: Is spending all day at work just a part of adulthood? Because it sucks.
Dad: Why does it suck and what have you tried to switch things up?
Me: Nothing really.
Dad: Well you can’t expect life to be different if you don’t change your behavior.
Thanks Dad! Shortly after this conversation, my wife and I decided to start a business together……and it went nowhere.
Even though we were super excited to get started, the zeal quickly started to fade. And within a month, we were back to where we started, mental drudgery.
Here’s the thing.
We are all capable of accomplishing great things in life but we often don’t follow through.
Sometimes, we psyche ourselves out. Sometimes, our motivations start to fade. Sometimes, we just can’t get started.
9 times out of 10, we don’t change not because we don’t have the ability to change. We fail because we get in our own way.
Even though my wife and I eventually went on to create 2 million dollar businesses together, it required us to rewire our brain to make the necessary changes.
Here are my strategies for getting off your butt and taking action backed by science and personal experience!
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Find An Excuse To Get A Fresh Start
Right now, it just happens to be New Years. And New Years is well known for being that time where you magically cast away your bad habits and promise to make a change.
Now we all know that most New Year’s resolutions are destined to fail but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use this time to give yourself a much needed boost of motivation.
In fact, you should take a page out of Hallmark’s book and leverage any remotely special event as an excuse to take action!
It’s my birthday, I’m going to lose weight!
I’m stuck at home due to the pandemic. Time to start a YouTube channel!
Speaking of YouTube, I dragged my feet for over 5 years because I couldn’t get myself to start a channel. But I used the pandemic as an excuse to launch and today, I have almost 70k subscribers.
Sometimes you just need a spark!
It’s also important to meet new people to get a fresh perspective on life. When you hang out with the same friends for years, you tend to revert back to old behaviors that are hard to shake off.
“Steve’s just going through another one of his ‘start your own business’ phases again. It never lasts”
“Steve, you don’t even like writing. What makes you think you can create a blog?”
“Steve, you hate putting yourself out there. YouTube is never going to work”
When you’re stuck in a rut, it’s surprising how a few innocuous comments can negatively affect your motivation.
Start with a clean slate with some new friends. Go to a conference! Interacting with people with whom you have zero history is liberating.
Remove All Mental Hurdles
The problem with motivation is that it doesn’t last. My chemistry teacher once told me that matter always gravitates towards higher entropy and lower energy. It’s true with people too!
Earlier, I mentioned that I put off starting a YouTube channel for nearly 5 years and it wasn’t for a lack of desire. I just couldn’t keep it up.
Every time I created a video, it would take me 2 hours to film and another 6 hours to edit.
Because each video required 8 hours of my time and I wasn’t making any money from my channel, I started to dread the process which eventually caused me to quit.
Willpower can only take you so far and sometimes the best way to persevere is to sit down and analyze why you keep failing. You have to figure out what is truly stopping you from taking action.
One reason I dragged my feet with YouTube is because it took forever to set up my lights and camera every time I needed to create a video.
So to solve this problem, I put together a mini video studio in my office where I could easily push a button and start filming right away.
The other reason I could not maintain my YouTube channel was because I hated editing my videos. While I loved filming, editing literally sucked the life out of my soul.
As a result, the solution to my YouTube problem was to find a capable video editor. Ever since I found MJ (my current editor), I’ve been able to create 1 video per week for the last 2 years!
Once you get to the root of your problem, the rest works itself out and you can establish a sustainable routine.
Always Choose The More Enjoyable Path
According to Ayalet Fishbach, the author of the best selling book How To Change, it’s much easier to choose an enjoyable path than a highly effective path when it comes to sustainable change.
For example as I get older, I find it harder and harder to stay in shape and lose weight.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that the most efficient way for me to lose weight is to go running. And by running for just 30 minutes per day twice per week, I can shed 10 pounds within 6 months easy as long as I maintain a reasonable diet.
But the problem is that I hate running with a passion!
So instead of running twice per week for 30 minutes, I spend 2 hours playing ultimate and tennis instead.
Even though ultimate and tennis requires double the amount of time as running to lose the same amount of weight, I actually enjoy playing both sports. As a result, staying in shape is much less of a chore.
According to Fishbach’s study, people tend to care more about instant gratification compared to long term rewards.
As a result, you are much less likely to maintain an unpleasant activity for a long period of time unless you can see immediate results.
People who pursue their goals in a fun way always stick with them longer.
Bundle Difficult Tasks With Enjoyable Activities
Finding pleasure with difficult tasks is great but sometimes it’s impossible to enjoy what you’re doing.
For example, I hate doing the accounting for my businesses!
I detest writing product descriptions for the products that we sell.
I dislike lifting weights to build strength.
Making drastic changes to your life is rarely fun. And more often than not, it sucks!
But sometimes, you can trick yourself into making hard tasks more tolerable by associating them with an activity you enjoy.
For example, when I was young, my Mom always took me to get ice cream at Swenson’s after a piano lesson. Even though I never enjoyed piano, I always looked forward to getting a caramel turtle nut fudge cone with chocolate sprinkles after:).
Whenever I have to write product descriptions for Bumblebee Linens, I snack on some of my favorite foods.
Whenever I lift weights, I listen to my favorite music.
If you can bundle an unpleasant task with something you love, the 2 activities often average out to something much more tolerable.
Join A Mastermind Group
When my wife and I first started our business, we were lonely. We didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of and we had no one to hold us accountable for our progress.
Joining a mastermind group solved most of our problems.
A mastermind group is a cohort of people with similar goals who meet on a regular basis to share ideas. In our case, my wife and I formed a mastermind group to discuss ecommerce strategies and we met with our group once per month.
Mastermind groups are great for the following reasons.
- Your group will provide you with advice and insights that you never would have considered.
- You’ll get a confidence boost from helping other people with problems that you’ve already solved.
- You’ll gain an accountability partner to make sure you make forward progress.
For example, my mastermind group once helped me grow my business 42% in 7 weeks.
There’s also a hidden benefit of having a mastermind group that is rarely discussed.
According to Eskreis-Winkler, a professor at the Kellogg school of management, giving advice and teaching others improves your own outcomes in life.
I discovered that whenever I gave advice to the group, I was much more likely to follow through with my own words to avoid being hypocritical.
Create A Flexible Routine
The best way to build a habit and make forward progress with your goals is to create a routine.
I don’t do anything whenever I feel like it. Instead, every task for my business is penciled in on my calendar at the beginning of the week.
- Mondays – I film a YouTube video and prepare a podcast for publication
- Tuesdays – I create a lesson plan for my course
- Wednesday – I give office hours to my Profitable Online Store course members
- Thursday – I give office hours to my Profitable Audience course members
- Friday – I work on my ecommerce store marketing and plan the following week
- Saturday – I relax
- Sunday – I write a blog post while my kids are in Russian math class
For the most part, I work from 7:30am until noon on most weekdays and work roughly 20 hours per week.
However, it’s important to note that I never assign specific times to any of my tasks. Everything on my schedule is flexible with the stipulation that it MUST get done by the end of the week.
Editor’s Note: I used to assign specific time blocks to all of my tasks but I found that if I ever missed a particular time block, then I’d be more inclined to skip the task altogether:)
Create Task Associations
Another trick that I use to make forward progress with my goals is to create task associations.
A task association is a group of tasks that are lumped together in an “if/then” fashion.
For example, here’s a task association that I use to make sure that I do pull ups everyday. Whenever I have to go to the bathroom, I do 5 pullups.
My pullup bar is conveniently placed right outside of my bathroom so I quickly pump them out after every bathroom break. Prior to implementing this “task association”, I could never get myself to do pull ups. But now it’s easy and I don’t even think about it.
With my businesses, I make an effort to complete one business task every time I use my computer.
For example, whenever I use Facebook, I go down my business task list and cross something off. The task could be as simple as emailing someone back but something always gets done.
Put Money On The Line
Another way to rewire your brain to force a change is to put money on the line.
If there’s a goal that I absolutely want to achieve, I will give $1000 to a friend and tell him or her not to return my money until I’ve accomplished my objective.
This is a scary (and painful) way to force yourself to take action but it works.
Everyone needs a kick in the butt and sometimes the best motivation is the fear of loss.
Occasionally, my business partner and I will make a bet that we have to do something embarrassing if we don’t meet our goals.
Whatever you do, choose something that genuinely inflicts pain or humiliation.
Put Yourself In A Drastic Situation
The final method of forcing a change is to purposely put yourself in a “sink or swim” situation.
If you want to start a business, then quit your job cold turkey. Through the sheer desperation of needing money, your brain will find a way to make things happen.
For my wife and I, we put ourselves in a life changing situation when we decided to start a family.
When my wife became pregnant with our first child, I was forced into responsibility.
All of a sudden, I wanted to make life changing money. I wanted to buy a home in a great school district. I wanted to spend all of my time with the kids.
Having a child rewired my brain to make a change.
Now I’m not telling you to go off and start a family but you have to figure out what strategy works for you.
As my Dad once famously said, you can’t expect your life to get better if you continue down the exact same path. Use these 9 techniques to take charge of your life!
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.