The Basics of Better
Figure out the basics and then master them inside and out. Because they tend not to change and they can’t be beat.
There’s a page in The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha where he lists seven basic habits that increase happiness.
1. Going for walks
2. Reliving positive experiences
3. Performing random acts of kindness
5. Getting in the zone
7. Writing down five things you’re grateful for every day
That page changed my approach to life because I realized being happier wasn’t complicated. I didn’t need to do a million things to be happy. I needed to do a few things consistently. The right things, every day. The basics.
In our quest for better we often assume that the answer is more. More information. More apps. More tips and tricks.
When in fact the answer is often just the opposite. Rather than more, we need fewer. To subtract instead of add. To simplify instead of complicate.
When something seems complicated, it means you’re still figuring it out. Because once you’ve figured it out, most things in life are simple.
If you want to be healthier, eat more fruits and vegetables, get eight hours of high-quality sleep, exercise regularly, relieve stress and avoid smoking.
If you want to improve your wellbeing more generally, find meaningful work that pays enough for you to be financially secure, surround yourself with good people, contribute to your community and take care of your health.
If you want to save money, pay yourself first, spend less than you earn, and find ways to increase your earning potential.
I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s not complicated. Leading a good life is simple but hard.
Ever since I read that page I’ve been trying to narrow my focus.
To accelerate my learning, I’ve made more time to read books, started listening to podcasts on my commute, and focused on following insightful thinkers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
To get better at pullups, I’ve tried to lose some weight, strengthen my grip and core, and do fewer reps more often.
To deepen my social connections, I’ve started prioritizing having more one-on-one conversations with people I care about, being more open and honest with everyone around me, and writing this newsletter.
To make gratitude a bigger part of my life, I’ve started meditating, making time to actively wish people well, and focusing my attention on the parts of life that are really and truly amazing.
In practice, of course, nothing is ever that simple. Oftentimes things do need to get more complicated before they can be simplified. But knowing that’s the goal helps tremendously.
Charles Poliquin put it best when he said, “The rule is: the basics are the basics and you can't beat the basics.”
Every time I get frustrated or confused, or something feels too complicated to figure out, I remind myself that in the end it will be simple. In the end it will be about doing the basics better.
Figure out the basics and then focus relentlessly on mastering them inside and out.
Because they tend not to change and they can’t be beat.