It is super hard to implement a new idea for how to live the optimal life into one’s daily routine.
The problem has existed ever since we humans started to try living according to higher moral principles, than say, just receding to our primal instincts. Both religion and philosophy have historically been vehicles for this.
But due to our somewhat unreliable and easily distracted nature, we have always sought to find techniques that could help us stay on course when times got challenging.
Journaling, meditation, praying, fasting and the practice of wearing symbolic artifacts have all served as reminders, to help us remember our path.
One of the greatest emperors of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, chose to sit down and journal in his diary after a hard days work, contemplating the optimal way of living for a stoic philosopher, mostly to remind himself of what I already knew, so he wouldn’t forget next time he would encounter a stressful situation.
It is still as difficult today, for us humans to stay on a mental course, once we get pushed or stressed out, and that is what makes Marcus’ book relevant 2000 years later.
Recently, I wrote about how I like to try and incorporate certain principles into my daily routine, by writing them as reminders on the lock screen image on my phone, so I can get reminded several times a day.
The problem I found with this, however, is that my brain has a weird ability to ignore a static image that it is presented with continuously throughout the day. It is as if the letters loose their meaning, once you have seen them enough times.
So now, instead, I have come up with the idea of using my to-do list to repeat a daily mantra.
It is important to mention, that I use the Inbox app from Google, as both my email client and to-do list, and this is important, because of the snooze function that you can use to snooze all emails and to-dos to a future moment.
I input a principle that I want to remember as a to-do, and then I snooze it for the next day. Once next day rolls around, and I decide to check my email inbox, I get reminded about the mantra, which I had totally forgotten about, and then I snooze it again for the next day, or whenever I want to be reminded again.
The act of having to interact and snooze the object makes it easier for me to actually register and think about it for a split second.
Right now, my daily mantra is something I stole from Zenhabit, and is simply: “You don’t know anything”.
If you stretch the meaning of this saying, you can apply it to almost all areas of your life:
Oh, you are feeling stressed right now? You don’t know anything about how stressful life can be. Your life is probably pretty easy.
Oh, people seem stupid and annoying today? You don’t know anything about what it is like to be them, or even how they perceive you.
Oh, you don’t feel like making the extra effort today? You don’t know anything about what the long term consequences of your laziness will be. Better make sure to put in the work today.
I might change this mantra over time, or input several others into this system, that I can snooze to different times. But this is what it looks like currently.