This article isn’t really about cold showers, it’s about creating an environment for yourself where it’s easy to succeed. Where you’re free to succeed apart from “the man” telling you what to do. I’ll tell you in a bit how cold showers have helped me become more self-disciplined and consequently helped me as I seek to become happily self-employed.
The question to ask yourself would be: “if you could do one simple repetitive action that helped you stay on track, would you do it?” If the answer to that question is yes, then read on.
This article is for those of us who would rather work for ourselves than working for someone else. It’s about cultivating freedom of lifestyle. It’s about taking back ownership of our time. The biggest barrier that I’ve found to achieving that freedom is myself. More specifically, self-discipline.
"The one quality which sets one man apart from another - the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity - is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness - it is self-discipline. With self-discipline all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream. " -Theodore Roosevelt
Caveat: Cold showers may not be your thing; I’ve outlined my personal experience below. The reason cold showers have been so beneficial to me is because they have become my keystone habit, not because a cold shower is the ultimate discipline hack. Your keystone habit could be anything from making your bed every morning to waking up at the same time every day.
What is a Keystone Habit?
Also called a cornerstone habit, a keystone habit is a powerful and sustainable way to hack your strength of mind. Think the tortoise vs. the hare. A keystone habit allows you to win a small victory with the intent of influencing every area of discipline. We’ll compare the tortoise and the hare after we talk about the barrier of self-discipline.
The draw of freedom vs. the barrier of self-discipline.
In the past 15-20 years there seems to have been a pretty significant influx of people who have made the choice of self-employment. Not only has the internet made this possible, but there seems to be a mindset shift to match the new horizon of possibilities that the world of the internet brings.
Here’s the problem though, most of us would love to control our own time, and consequently our lives, by starting a business or working as a freelancer, but for many, self-discipline can seem like a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
Possibly there are some of you who are already self-employed, but find life as a freelancer frustrating at best. What’s worse is that the reality of making your work support your dreams seems so close, yet somehow unattainable. You remind yourself to work harder, but the motivation comes and goes.
It can be frustrating to wake up every morning in the absence of a higher-up telling you when to work. The frustration is worse because it’s self-directed. I’m sure you know that guilty feeling after waking up far too late. You tell yourself that you can do it later that evening which turns into later that night.
It can be distracting when there’s no one telling you what to do and how to do it.
It can be difficult trying to maintain a steady schedule when you’re your own boss.
Self-employment is no cake-walk, it is the road less traveled. But the benefits far outweigh the costs.
So, how do you overcome yourself and your failures to create the life you’ve always wanted?
How a Keystone habit plays into healthy habit formation.
There are two basic strains of thought when it comes to habit formation.
The older thought process is as follows: to change a lifestyle you need to change the entire foundation. Primarily by creating a strict regimen that must be followed at any cost.
For some, this method works, for those of you like me, it simply doesn’t.
If you’re like me and have tried to diet using this train of thought. It works… as long as you stick to it. It also fails miserably if you don’t and leaves you hating yourself and hating that you even tried.
The problem is longevity.
We’ve all tried it, one mess-up day, one failure brings that flood of guilt and self-hate. You know what I’m talking about.
It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you that you should have known better, you should have tried harder. As you continue to offend your self-made promise, you push the guilt into the recesses of your mind hoping they’ll go away.
In the end you begin to give up on your goals, even if just a little. Little by little, your dreams disappear.
Conversely, through the use of a keystone habit, you begin to cultivate confidence in your own ability to discipline yourself by sticking to one simple habit.
As each day passes, your self-confidence builds. Forget guilt, forget kicking yourself every time you fail.
Because it’s such a small habit, you can use the long term vision of forming the habit as encouragement rather than relying on the negativity of prospective failure to put a fire under yourself. It’s like a life hack that affects every area of personal responsibility.
Let’s call it a halo effect. The idea is as follows, because I’m doing so well in this area, why couldn’t I do the same in this other bigger area. If I’m able to make my bed every day, why can’t that apply to writing 500 words every day, or keeping the same hours of work every day?
Cold Showers, my habit of choice.
For me, the resulting influence on my mindset has been pretty astounding. As the title suggests, my keystone habit of choice has been a wonderfully shocking cold shower every single morning.
Seriously, it’s been over 3 weeks and I’ve taken a cold shower every day but three. Even on my overnight hiking trip. How does a bath in a ridiculously cold mountain stream sound? Let me tell you, it was pretty invigorating.
- I start the day with a pattern of overcoming difficulty.
- I subject myself to an unavoidable reminder to live self-disciplined (this one is a bigger deal than it sounds).
- It reminds me that I can do anything.
- I feel better about my day.
- I feel better about myself.
- I feel like a superman every day without fail.
- My room is cleaner.
- My bed is always made.
- I can focus on my work much easier.
Let’s forget about the supposed health benefits of a cold shower; I have found the psychological benefits to far outweigh the physical benefits. It’s not about the invigorating feeling you feel after the cold shower, even though that’s pretty stellar, it’s about tricking yourself into remembering your full potential. It’s about remembering that you can do anything you set your mind on.