Before Break the Twitch existed, I realized many small daily decisions I was making were more of a muscle-memory twitch than intentional actions.
Since starting this blog and intentionally exploring the impact of my small daily actions, the twitch has shown up in places I never expected. I even wrote a book about it, and learned even more about the twitch and incorporated the learnings into the book and audiobook. As the exploration continued, my philosophy on how to break the twitch evolved along with it.
The result of that evolution is the below three-tiered approach to living a practical, intentional life in alignment with our personal values.
an impulsive, unproductive response to a feeling of discomfort
“I’m feeling the twitch right now, I keep checking my phone for no reason.”
The different scenarios that cause the twitch will vary greatly, but they all have one thing in common. We feel a certain type of discomfort, (sometimes called suffering in Buddhism) and there is an impulsive, unproductive solution that doesn’t necessarily solve, but eases that discomfort. There are many types of this discomfort, but a few examples are:
- Desire → Twitch → Purchase
- Wanting to improve ourselves, purchasing something instead of taking action.
- Frustration → Twitch → Distraction
- Getting stuck on a writing assignment, intermittently checking Twitter and Facebook.
- Hunger → Twitch → Junk Food
- Feeling hungry, grabbing first available food instead of a better option.
- Boredom → Twitch → Smartphone
- Seeking distraction, avoiding being alone with our thoughts.
While these are just a few examples of the various discomforts and twitches that we employ to ease them, there are many more. Now that you’re familiar with the twitch itself, let’s discuss the philosophy that can help break the twitch while continually moving us towards a lifestyle that aligns with our values.
1. Minimize Distractions (Minimalism)
To change our lives in a meaningful way, we must create space to allow it to happen. Focusing on the essential becomes increasingly difficult with a distracted mind, a cluttered home, and a jam-packed schedule. Even if you’re not exactly sure what you do want in your life, begin by removing everything that you don’t. Release the heavy while promoting what makes you feel light.
In order to minimize clutter, it’s important to note that clutter takes on many forms. Consider the following:
- Impulse purchases that don’t align with your values or desired lifestyle.
- Mental distractions caused by 38 quick social media checks throughout the day.
- Physical clutter lying around the home that takes recurring time and energy to organize and clean.
- Mobile notifications that pull you away from your creative process, causing a loss of focus.
- Over-stuffed garages that could be a workspace for a passion project, or even parking space for a car (imagine that).
Another way to think about this is to simply reduce the distractions that pull us away from the things that really matter to us. We have limited time and energy each day, so we must minimize the clutter in a way that allows us to use those resources effectively.
Starting now: Spend some time thinking about things you may be doing on a near-daily basis that do not align with your values. Which things in your life give you energy and which things drain you of that energy? What actions are you taking without consideration, simply out of an established habit? Slow down and try to become more aware of these things around you as though you were experiencing them for the very first time.
If you’d like to learn more and get started, I’ve put together a comprehensive overview on minimalism with definitions, benefits, strategies, and real-life examples.
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2. Take Action (Habits)
Once space is created by reducing the distractions and clutter in our lives, we must utilize some of it for small daily practices of good habits. Without a focus on taking small actions towards desired goals, other new unproductive tendencies will replace the clutter in the space we’ve created. Even worse, the same bad habits will return to consume our time again. As Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
The small things we do each day compile over the years to become what we spend our lives on. With this in mind, we should focus on implementing the actions that align with the lifestyle we desire. Some examples of these habits might be:
- Reading 20 pages of an interesting book every day.
- Spending 1 on 1 time with a spouse, child, or friend for 5-10 minutes every day.
- Doing 20 push-ups every day and increasing by one or two each week.
- Writing 500 words per day in a creative journal or on a blog to share your ideas with the world.
- Meditating or sitting in stillness for a few minutes every morning to reflect and be grateful.
Your chosen actions might be similar to the ones above or completely different, but regardless they should reflect the way you want to be spending your life. While these don’t make up all the things that it takes to maintain a household or family, each of these small actions will work to utilize the space created through decluttering in a meaningful way.
Starting now: If you can imagine spending a day doing exactly what you want to do, what are the small habits that would make up that day? Instead of thinking about the things you dream of having, visualize a day spent in the life that you desire. Identify the actions that can be done now and those that will help build up to that lifestyle.
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3. Create Flow (Creativity)
As we declutter our lives, new possibilities emerge within the space that is created. Once we focus on breaking the twitches in our lives while building daily habits that matter to us, what’s next? That’s where creating opportunities for a better life comes in.
Identify things you’re passionate about and find ways to teach others what you know. Over time, this will give you a platform to connect with other creators and help people along the way. These opportunities can create additional income with a side-hustle business that eventually allows for location independence or whatever big lifestyle goals you may have. What really matters is simply doing more of what you love and increasing your return on invested time. Some examples of ways to create opportunities are:
- Starting a blog to articulate your own ideas and share your perspective with others.
- Making videos for YouTube that have the potential to create additional income.
- Going to meetups and connecting with other people with similar passions.
- Launching an Etsy shop to sell crafts or creative items you like to make.
- Learning a skill that would allow you to work remotely from anywhere.
While the category may be broad, it all falls into the spectrum of creating various opportunities to improve your lifestyle beyond what would otherwise be possible. Starting Break the Twitch has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my own intentional living journey. It has allowed me to connect with incredible people and establish a platform to share ideas beyond my physical self. If the site exploded and disappeared, I’d start it all over again today.
Starting now: Assume the title of Entrepreneur and start thinking about ways that you can create opportunities to extend beyond the first two steps of minimizing clutter and building habits. It may be something you love making or perhaps a skill you have that you can share with others. Grab your smart phone and upload a video to YouTube, you never know what connections and benefits may come of it.
Start today using what you already have to break the twitch.
The absolute best way to make any fundamental shift in life is to simply take action using the resources available. No course will do the work, and new running shoes won’t put one foot in front of the other. It’s the small consistent steps in the right direction that will move us to where we want to be. With that in mind, employing the above philosophy should help in making meaningful progress towards that ideal day we truly want.