Life is chaos. The unexpected happens everyday.
Health scares. Relationship dynamics flip overnight. Money evaporates into thin air.
All of these things occur frequently and disrupt our seemingly stable foundations. And they are all out of our control.
I believe this is the default state of the universe. Entropy is a broad sweeping principle that applies from the macroeconomic, down to the subatomic level.
The universe, for some unknown reason, loves disorder.
Humans, on the other hand, appear to function best with order. Society is the perfect example and has allowed us to do some great things.
Yet, there is no evidence to prove that order is natural. Beneficial, yes. Default state, no.
This pits us in a consistent battle with nature. We fight on a second by second basis to maintain order.
We keep our city streets clean of debris and litter that slowly accumulates over weeks. We adjust and tune our instruments as the universe slowly breaks them down, to ensure they sound pleasant. We wash our windows to remove dust and dirt that inhibits us from seeing clearly.
The physical world provides many examples of the constant struggle against entropy. I believe, on a personal level, this concept is equally true and powerful.
If we let our discipline fall to the wayside, disorder enters our lives. When we don’t exercise, our valuable muscle fibers shrink and atrophy. When we don’t socialize, our ability to communicate and connect dissipates. When we choose to mind-numbingly binge watch television shows instead of read books that challenge us, our neural pathways lose reinforcement.
I was recently introduced to a simple concept: your mind and body are just tools. They are great tools, don’t get me wrong, but they are nevertheless just the machines our consciousness uses to get shit done.
I found this incredibly freeing. If you buy into this idea, your identity becomes completely independent of how you look, what you can do with your body, how “intelligent” you are, what you think, and so much more.
You start to realize that who you are is bigger than your body and mind. This is crucial, if you want to achieve some level of happiness and fulfillment in life.
Thus, if our bodies and minds are tools, they are also subjected to entropy. And, as previously explained, humans love order. So, it is in your best interest to fight the force of disorder that constantly plagues the bodies and minds of us all.
There are many ways to do this, which I will dive into in another post. However, there are two fundamental, simple habits that can help you build positive momentum with the war on entropy.
These two habits take roughly one hour per day to practice: a nontrival investment in time, I understand that.
That being said, when I look back at the happiest, most successful periods of my life, every single good streak I had included me practicing both of these habits consistently.
So, try it for two weeks and see the difference for yourself. I know these two habits will kick start you out of any rut or struggle you’re in, if you actually put in the work to do them.
But, if one hour per day is too much time, you can stop reading now.
Train your mind: read non-fiction for at least 30 minutes every day
American culture loves to glorify physical fitness…for good reason (which I’ll discuss later). But little is talked about it terms of mental fitness.
To be clear, I define fitness and health differently. Mental health, in my definition, is a baseline level of well-being, much like physical health. Fitness, on the other hand, is strength and the rigor needed to perform a myriad of tasks in various environments.
Someone can be disease-free with great biomarkers, but unable to run one mile without stopping or lift a 45-pound plate. In this case, they are healthy, but not fit.
In my eyes, fitness prepares you to be healthy when conditions aren’t ideal. Fitness is an anti-fragile endeavor. It is a system that gains from variability (e.g., muscle confusion) and thrives in an environment filled with chaotic entropy.
I view mental fitness analogously. Someone can have a balanced neurochemistry, but be unable to weather the emotional storm that comes from losing their job or a loved one.
Mental fitness prepares your mind to handle the inevitable shortcomings of your expectations. To be clear, mental fitness doesn’t ignore tough emotional events: it helps you accept them for what they are (entropy), find the lessons you need to learn, and move on wiser.
As I mentioned, there are a lot of habits that can develop mental toughness. I’ll give my full list later, but some common examples include: meditation, reading, creating idea lists, and having tough conversations.
The most high leverage habit I’ve found for building mental fitness is reading non-fiction books.
With as little as thirty minutes per day of reading, I can open my mind to new ideas and learn powerful lessons. I give myself the opportunity to internalize incredible principles authors have spent their entire lives refining.
As many people way smarter than me have explained, it doesn’t matter what you read, especially initially. What matters is that you find non-fiction books that grab your interest and hold it. Find books you won’t want to put down.
This make take some time to uncover, especially if you don’t read often. That’s fine. Just head to your local library or bookstore and spend an afternoon exploring different genres and books. Find one some that captivate you and dive in.
The types of books I read varies based on my mood and goals. I’ve had phases were I read only biographies and business books. I’ve spent a fair amount of energy exploring human nature and psychology. I’ve had period of time where I nerded out on finance and physics.
It doesn’t matter what you read, just that it challenges you and becomes a source for new thoughts and ideas.
In addition to growing your mind with new information, reading is important for mental fitness because it forces you to practice focus. In a world with more distractions than ever, reading properly is like bicep curls for your mental focus.
How often do you truly work on something for more than 15 minutes without checking your phone, email, or Instagram feed? If you’re anything like me, not very often.
This is a common way disorder manifests itself today. Fighting this resistance with disciplined focus builds mental strength and resilience.
I recommend putting your phone in airplane mode for 30 minutes while reading and truly immersing yourself into the book. This will train you to separate yourself from the chaotic dopamine rush our phones ping us with 24/7.
Bonus: take notes on what you read; log new concepts and ideas you internalize in a note book, Evernote, or Google Keep
Train your body: workout at least five times per week
We talked about physical fitness already and, odds are, you already know its importance. In summary: your body is a tool, developing physical fitness allows you to get the most out of it.
Physical fitness makes your feel good. It gives your energy. It makes you look good, which gives you confidence.
Physical fitness and mental fitness go hand in hand. They feed off of each other. That’s why it is imperative to practice both consistently: you get (buzz word bingo) synergistic effects.
Like reading, it doesn’t really matter what you do. Just pick a program you can stick to, even when things get hard.
Personally, I’ve loved lifting weights, dating back to my high school football (glory) days. But I understand that’s not for everyone, for various reasons.
Do what your body allows you to do. Push yourself, but not to the point of breaking. Use common sense here. Staying in the game is how you win long-term, so don’t press yourself to the point of ruin.
There have been times where I’ve been injured or exhausted and had to resort to walking or biking just to get some movement in. Make sure to get adequate rest as well, so your body can rebuild itself.
This is why I recommend leaving two days per week for you to decide. Listen to your body. If hitting the gym a couple more times makes sense, do it. If not, recover.
Bonus: log your workouts in a journal or on your phone; this makes your workouts more intentional and you can aim to improve each time you enter the gym
I certainly don’t have all of the answers. I also don’t guarantee that these habits will dramatically change your life overnight. Because they won’t.
But, as you work to restore order to yourself — your body and mind—the path to success and happiness will start to become more clear. As your body and mind evolve, so do you.
You’ll start to see the triviality of most of your problems and concerns. You’ll start to gain more control over your emotions and the environment that impacts them.
You will also grow. Which is fun as fuck.
It’s simple: read and workout. Yet, I bet most of you still won’t do it. But that’s a topic for another post entirely…