I read a lot these days. I rarely go out except to get food or take a walk in the neighborhood. My 1-hour-a-day commute to work is now a bonus time. The often unproductive chit chat I used to have with my colleagues in the office, while I miss those very dearly, I nonetheless appreciate the time saved by staying home.

Even for an introvert, I do not relish staying at home all day every day but I figured if I have no other choice, I might as well just find something to be grateful for, and that is the little extra time it saves me. I have scraped together such fragments of time and devoted it to voracious reading. 

I like to think of myself as a slow reader. I take my time and I read as much to educate myself as to entertain myself. That is why I generally don’t make it a habit to count the number of books I have read. Where is the fun in reading when you feel compelled to finish a certain number of books within a given time period? That is sort of thing school does and it is the reason why for most people, myself included, it was never fun.

***

I don’t normally take notes when I read (Yes, I am lazy like that), but over the past couple of months, I have read three books and the ideas in them have struck me as potentially lifechanging, so I decided to take some notes this time.

So these are my notes you’re reading right now. Usually, I take notes in some diary or journal or on the margins of books but today I decided to write it in the form of an article. That way I can share it and fulfill the little commitment I made to myself 7 months ago to publish one article per month.

I made a similar commitment last year in which I challenged myself to tick off one significant achievement per month and this seems to have worked really well.

Over the years, I have learned countless times through personal experience and learning from others that being consistent is far more powerful than being intense. If you give a slow-moving stream enough time, it will eventually break through rock. Here’s how James Clear put it in Atomic Habits: “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years”

Of course, this is common knowledge but the strange thing is that we hardly put it into practice. Our attention span is limited. We want to see the results now. We have a tendency to postpone or write off anything that promises rewards several years hence. That is why in many ways success in any worthy endeavor is more often an act of faith. You have to believe in yourself and believe that things will work out well before you can put in the consistent effort that is required.

Do you know what will happen if you read at least 30 minutes a day every single day for 5 years? Can you imagine what will happen if you consistently save and/or invest just 5% of your monthly income for 10 years? Do you know that working out on a regular basis can increase your happiness, boost your energy, and make you live longer? These tiny commitments over the long haul produce a compounded effect that is enormous and more than worth the sacrifice.

This is very much different from goals. James Clear refers to such commitments as systems. The way goals work is, you set a goal and you either achieve it or not. With systems, you just do the thing consistently. You make it a lifestyle. With goals, you have the potential to become successful. With systems, you are a success. When you fail at a goal, you might set another goal or start all over again; sometimes some people even give up. 

With systems, success and failure are only steps along the way. They are just guideposts. When you fail you learn. When you succeed you learn. You take this as feedback and modify your systems accordingly to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

***

Scott Adams in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big kind of says the same thing: When you are starting out, try as many things as you can, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Learn as much as you can. The more you know, the more you can know. Each new skill doubles your chances of success. Start with one skill, however easy it is, and be good at it. It will set in motion a chain of events that will catapult you to greater success.

Associate yourself with the people who are already in the place where you want to be. Studies have shown that hanging around friends who are lean and fit can also make you fit and vice versa.

If you want to enhance the quality of your life, rearrange your life so that you can have more control over your schedule. Concentrate your energy on the one thing which when achieved will simplify or obliterate so many other issues in your life and give you the freedom you want.

Sometimes it is okay to be selfish. The world needs you at your best. Learn to prioritize your needs when you feel you need to. Personal sacrifices for the sake of others is great. It is heroic. But keep in mind that the hero who dies today will not live to help more people tomorrow. You can help a lot more people by taking care of your own self first and keeping yourself healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

The most important form of selfishness involves spending time on your fitness, eating right, pursuing your career, and still spending quality time with your family and friends. — Scott Adams

That said, never forget that sometimes the absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to help others.

Do you want to be happy? Here’s a formulat Scott Adams suggests:

Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it). Work toward a flexible schedule. Do things you can steadily improve at. Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself). Reduce daily decisions to routine.

Thanks for reading ;)