How rubber bands can keep you going

Don’t be scared, you won’t be hurt. Or at least, the biggest part of you won’t. There is probably lingering a small dragon somewhere inside of you. This dragon named Resistance, however, is not safe. Resistance is going to die.

The Read More Warrior has found a new weapon: rubber bands. Resistance hates rubber bands. When dragons come in touch with rubber they turn into rubber themselves, as we turn into stone if we would look into Medusa’s eyes. Rubber dragons are not as scary as the real ones, and can even get sold as toys for kids!

Of course, we aren’t going to shoot with rubber bands. However, we can use rubber bands to battle Resistance. How? Let me explain. Showing up daily is the best antidote to Resistance, but showing up daily is easier said than done. We need some extra motivation to pull that off. To explain the concept I’ll use a personal example. I try to write daily. If there is another habit that you would like to do daily (like reading) you can apply the same concept to that.

I have two containers, one is transparent, the other is not. In the beginning, the non-transparent container is full of rubber bands and the transparent one is empty. Every day, I take one rubber band from the non-transparent container and put it around my wrist. From then on only one rule applies: I can’t put this rubber band off unless I write a paragraph. When I’ve finished a paragraph, the rubber band goes to the transparent container. *puts rubber band in transparent container*

“That’s silly, why should that work?” you might ask. Well, first of all, these containers are a visual cue for my daily writing habit. (For more information about habit formation, I recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. This technique I developed was highly inspired by this book.) So when I see these containers, I’m reminded that I should write that day. You can’t build a habit that you forget about.

Secondly, the transparent container visualizes the writing progress. I find seeing the slow but steady progression deeply satisfying. It’s like watching new leaves sprout from a plant and seeing it grow for several months. I don’t know why, but someway I feel the urge to organize a big party when my big transparent container will be full one day.

Thirdly, having a rubber band around my wrist is slightly irritating. Because of that, I want to put it off as fast as possible. That ensures that I will start writing soon. Starting with writing (or reading, or whatever other habits you try to do daily) is the most difficult part. After that, the writing almost seems to take care of itself magically. However, after a while, you realize that there’s only one thing that comes close to the difficulty of starting, and that’s stopping.  

Lastly, there is the push and pull effect. We want to see the rubber bands in the transparent container, which is the pull factor, where we can see our progress. We can’t see our progress in the non-transparent container, which is the push factor so our subconscious wants the rubber bands out of there. This effect can even be magnified by making the non-transparent container ugly and the transparent beautiful.

After a while, you’ll begin to notice that every day the same story repeats itself:

See containers -> Don’t feel like doing [habit] -> Put rubber band on wrist anyway -> Start with [habit] -> Feel weird because now it’s difficult to stop with [habit]


What you could do to increase the push-pull effect, even more, is use two transparent containers: a small one and a big one. The small one is easier to carry around, but one day it will be full. So now and then you can empty the small transparent container into the bigger transparent container. This empty small container will have again a bigger pull effect. In the bigger container, you can further track your progress.

Your Turn

Use the rubber band technique for a habit you want to perform daily. If you can’t choose which, I’ll choose for you and I choose reading one page a day.

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