Seek a sense of completion
Can’t stand that Netflix cliffhanger, your dopamine-addled brain fuelled yearning for one extra episode?
That’s the feeling of cognitive dissonance my friend, and our common aversion to open loops and uncompleted activities.
The good news?
We can leverage this psychological quirk for its positive effects. In this case, added emotional wellbeing.
By completing our daily to-do’s, we achieve cognitive resonance, a joyful feeling of kittens and rainbows, signifying progress on the imaginary life treadmill.
Set small daily wins
That’s all well and good, you might think.
But how can we satisfy the need for completion during sprawling projects over extended time horizons?
Small daily wins.
Aim to complete 1-3 manageable bite-sized, high-leverage activities that advance your long term goals.
Plan these items ahead of time to avoid indecision and action them prior to competing responsibilities.
Track their completion for your records and issue appealing rewards to condition habit formation.
Review them at night with a mental pass or fail.
Do stuff even when you don’t want to
Humans are excellent self-saboteurs.
Even when setting small, easily achievable daily activities, we often fail to act.
However, the art of doing when ‘we don’t feel like it’ builds internal credibility.
Did I really want to haul myself out of a warm bed at 5.45am to start this article? Hell no!
But I also know that overcoming negative feelings and taking positive action shifts those rusty cogs of behaviour change.
Do this enough times, and we start to feel like someone who eats discomfort for breakfast, reinforcing positive self-image and remaking our identity.
Daily happiness, or at least achieving a respectable level of fulfilment, is within our reach.
But it does require dealing with a degree of discomfort, which many aren’t willing to do.
‘Life is suffering’, as the Buddha once remarked.
And it’s only after accepting this that we can learn to love it.