Jerry explained that he believed to improve as a comedy writer, he'd need to write comedy every day.
So each day that Jerry wrote, he drew a red X on the day's block on the calendar. Several days of writing would form a long chain of Xs. And not breaking the chain became its own motivation to keep writing.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking some Xs on a calender wouldn't really be enough motivation for you. I figure you're thinking that because it occurred to me too.
Like our brains are some how more complicated and advanced than Jerry Seinfeld's?
Why This Works
Often there's a lot of mental resistance we have to overcome to begin doing something we actually wish we'd do. (Strange and frustrating, huh?) Like writing or cleaning or exercising daily. (Anyone want to amen?) We want to do it but we-don't-wanna, and we're stubborn.
The beauty of the "don't break the chain" method is that it lets us divert our stubbornness away from the "I don't wannas" and redirect it towards not wanting to mess up a good winning streak.
Raise your hand if when you're on a roll, you're highly motivated to keep rolling.
I thought so.
You can put your hand down now. (Seriously, if you are at work or in a coffee shop, please put your hand down.)
If you want scientific reasoning for why this works, I'll tell you what clinical neurologist Dr. Daniel Amen says. (Can I get another amen? Just kidding - I should let Jerry write the jokes.) Dr. Amen explains that:
"The chart appeals to your logical PFC; but the series of Xs, signifying accomplishment, gives your limbic system a little rush of good feelings."
And we tend to continue doing anything that gives us a rush of good feelings. Don't we?
So, could you be only one pen and one calender page away from improving at something? Or from creating a good habit? Only a chain of Xs away from a daily quiet time routine or a daily walk after work? Try it and see.
I'm going to try it. Like Jerry, I'm going to mark an X for each day that I write since my one word is CREATE. And I'm going to see if my brain buys in to the concept of keeping the streak alive.
I want you and I to become the kind of person that keeps our good streaks going. So I'm encouraging you today to think about what you could try using this method to do. A daily quiet time? More home-cooked meals? Training for marathon? ...