Red Pill TheoryStruggling With Willpower? Try the 5-Minute Agreement (self.TheRedPill)

submitted by lurking_lion


I want to share the best technique that I have found to improve willpower and create habits (aside from meditation). It is sort of a “Jedi-Mind Trick” and is especially useful for perfectionists who have difficulty starting the things they love to do.


Most people here at TRP probably have goals, skills they’d like to master, and a few bad habits that need removing. The best way to remove a bad habit is to replace it with a positive one.

The battle and balance between Id and Superego should not be neglected for a RP-aware man. All your “higher” aspirations of being the perfect Alpha man who fears nothing are in constant conflict with your primitive “small mind”. There is a side in you that wants comfort, coddling, and basically to return to the womb. However, I think there is another facet to the unconscious that is rarely discussed: Your Id wants you to lose. This is why most people are mediocre.

Which brings me to the next point that people like Trump understand: It is harder to be a winner than a loser.

While you’re beating away at yourself for having second thoughts at going to the gym, the demon-child in you is not only resisting the physical exertion needed to go to the gym, but it wants you to not be successful.

The reasons for this are complex but I believe stem back to childhood trauma, repressed rage, and feelings of inferiority that fester in most people. In adulthood these can manifest as perfectionistic tendencies and a fear of failure, both traits that I think would characterize a sizable crowd here at TRP. Both traits hold you back from accomplishing (starting) your goals.

So, you want to write more? Play music every day? Golf? Meditate or read every day but just keep failing to start so habits cannot form? You need the 5-Minute Agreement:

The 5-Minute Agreement:

Get a notepad and write down the things you’d like to do every single day. Lists help. Then draw columns for every day of the week to make it official for yourself. The “Agreement” you make with yourself is that you promise that you will give 5 minutes every day to said activities. Let’s say you choose 5 habits that are: exercise, meditate, read, write, practice guitar. You only have to dedicate 25 minutes a day to all 5 of them and all of those aside from exercise can easily be done before bed. Then you just check them off on your list as you go along.

The idea is that if the activity is truly something you love to do, you will want to do it for far more than 5 minutes once you begin. But if you don't, that's OK. The resistance of our Ids is strongest before we start. The pressure of expecting to dedicate all kinds of time to something is what we find daunting and will cause perfectionists to falter.

Give it a try, it’s autohypnosis and it works.

Lessons Learned:

  • Habits form by repetition, with starting being the hardest part.
  • If you can’t dedicate at least 5 minutes a day to some habit or skill you’d like to develop, it’s not your thing.

[–]heartbroken_nerd 53 points54 points  (5 children)

Great video on a similar topic by Julien Blanc

It's a book review of "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield.

Highly recommended read!

[–]TomFoo 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Great book! One of those books that should be read once a year.

[–][deleted] 15 points15 points

[permanently deleted]

[–]Razgriz16 3 points4 points  (0 children)

You might be joking, but it's not a bad idea. Part of my morning routine is to read for 5 minutes from powerful books like The Way of the Superior Man. I read my main book later in the day, but it's a good way to brush up every day on powerful ideas, like brushing your teeth (or brain) when you wake up.

[–][deleted] 37 points38 points  (5 children)

The core of habits is rewards.

Your brain trains you to behave a certain way by giving you a reward every time you do it.

When you eat fats and carbs, your brain gives you a reward. This response is hardwired and can never be turned off. The only way to "resist" is if you anticipate an even bigger reward for not eating.

For people on a diet, this "bigger" reward is two folds:

1) The knowledge that they are on the road
2) The weight loss they expect tomorrow or next week

That's why once someone screws up one day, they will screw up big. They've already lost the reward of dieting (tomorrow you will not lose weight, and you will wake up with the knowledge that you screwed up yesterday), so they go for the other reward: the reward of eating.

It's not your "id" trying to sabotage you or anything like that. Your brain is just looking for the reward, and it will find a way to take it.

When I say your brain, take it with a grain of salt. You are your brain. Think of it as different modules within the brain. There's a module in your brain that seeks rewards, and there is a module that gives rewards.

The rewards-giving module is kind of protected; you can't "will" a reward to be released. If you could, you would die, because you would be satisfied all the time without ever eating or moving or doing anything.

How to stop bad habits and form good ones, by illacertus

[–]Rhunta 2 points3 points  (2 children)

You are not your brain. You are you. And your brain is a part of you. It is the part that makes you perceive everything.

[–][deleted] 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Conscious thought is maybe 20-30% of our awareness, if that. There is so much more going on.

[–]Paradigmond 0 points1 point  (1 child)

The only way to "resist" is if you anticipate an even bigger reward

This seems to sum up the major roadblock to successfully changing patterns in your life. For someone who has never experienced being desired it seems impossible to conceive of this bigger reward as not some fantasy.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

That's why the anticipated reward has to be more immediate than "I will become attractive in two years".

[–]Bewbman 23 points24 points  (0 children)

This is the most important thing I've learned consistency is more important than anything else. You can kill yourself in a workout every two weeks or do 15 mins casual everyday. You will only get results with the latter and eventually stop doing the former. Habits are more important than effort.

[–]_the_shape_ 11 points12 points  (0 children)

The main issue with perfectionists is that they're too obsessed with the outcome. If they were to pour their drive for excellence into the means to getting there, they'd likely both achieve and exceed the outcome they were after all along.

By no means does this amount to just doing repeatedly (and mindlessly) until it clicks - you do have to gauge your progress, yes, but at the very top of your concerns ought to be your work ethic and then the results.

It's said that Da Vinci drew until he could no more, up until death. Same for Picasso. Muhammed Ali reportedly trained until it burned instead of counting reps. Kobe Bryant wouldn't settle for anything less than 400 made shots during any given practice.

The way to pride yourself in the finished product is to pride yourself in the training required to achieve it.

[–]MortalSisyphus 12 points12 points [recovered]

I don't think it is healthy to keep categorizing "comfort" as some sort of evil which must be abolished.

The mind must be balanced between Drive (dopamine), Peace (serotonin), and Threat Response (cortisol).

We in the Western world put too much emphasis on drive, achievement, goals and are addicted to dopamine. The Eastern world has much more emphasis on peace, serenity, ie. serotonin. Those who suffer from anxiety and depression are usually stuck in the threat state.

The point is none are inherently better or more important than another. They all simply evolved as different branches on the tree of survival. Treating the desire for peace and comfort as some sort of childish "Id" is both simplistic and misguided. You need balance.

Seek to be a well-rounded man. Devoting your life to chasing the carrot on the end of the stick may not bring you true fulfillment.

[–]bigdickbanditss 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Comfort in this context is more or less used as a word to describe unproductive and unhealthy things like sitting at home eating ice cream and watching Netflix all night. I think peace and serenity is different. Being alone with yourself without anything stimulating your brain at all times is one of the scariest things a human can confront. Of course to the learned man, peace (meditation, mindfulness) becomes very comfortable and even enjoyable, but take it from someone who can finally meditate longer than 2 minutes without getting frustrated... peace is so difficult.

[–][deleted] 3 points4 points  (1 child)

You've no idea how much I needed to read this (and I find it funny activities you listed are basically my top activities to do).

I like to call myself a writer. I was contacted by publishers when I was 18 (four years ago) for a novel I was writing. The pressure built up, I caved, but I always returned to writing, just different projects. This happened for the past three years and I finally gave up. Until last night, I started writing something new, but every third or fourth sentence, I'd convince myself it was utter shit, and had no motivation to finish.

I'm going to try this, and see if it works for me. Thank you OP.

[–]Ozymanberg 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You'll get better again. You're just rusty, it happens with any sort of skill. In order to get to the good stuff you need to pump out the shit.

I like to write music but before I've gotten to a song that I even remotely have the balls to play to people I have to write like 6 terrible songs. I feel this stuff applies to almost everything, especially creative processes.

[–]najaanwe 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Pareto Principle: 80% of the (mental) difficulty is in starting the habit/task; 20% of the difficulty is going through with it once you've started it.

Instead of "I will work out three days a week" try "I will drive/cycle to the gym three times a week, regardless of whether I work out or not when I get there."

Instead of "I will floss everyday" try "I will floss one tooth everyday."

Of course, once you start the activity you'll realise how little effort it takes to just do the whole thing and you'll realise that you actually want to do it as well.

[–]look4wolfpack 2 points3 points  (0 children)

This is actually really clever.

[–]redefinedreality 6 points7 points  (1 child)

it wants you to not be successful

This is the bullshit that plants the seeds mental disorders in people. There is no part of your brain that's your enemy or fighting against you. Your unconscious mind operates based on distinguishing patterns in present variables.

Say you wear the same pair of red shoes to the gym every day. Seeing those shoes is something that happens everyday before you go to the gym.

Say today you just had a long day and you see those shoes. If your physiology at a particular moment is not gonna be beneficial to ensuring homeostasis (body weight, oxygen intake, mental wellness - that is - energy used in managing cognitive dissonance, etc), your "unconscious" mind is going to favor activity in parts of your brain that in the past have worked in preventing you from going to the gym.

You experience this as depressed mood, shifted perspectives, etc.

This is what we are as an animal whose developed cognition. The measure of discipline is being able to regularly cut through this phenomenon in favor of something you know is better for you.

[–]Cantloginhere 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Agree Mr brain does not actively seek to make you unsuccessful, but the primitive part of the brain evolved in much different times danger abound and you didn't know where your next meal was coming from. Primary urges being avoid unnecessary risks - which is basically activity, gorge on highly nutritious food - junk food and sugar.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I promised myself I would do something 9 months ago and shook my own hand on it and now 9 months later I'm living the promise. It just takes self commitment.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Fantastic post. I will try it out. Essentially you are programming habits into your subconscious. Did you come up with this?

[–]in_monk_mode 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I don't have the willpower to read the article

[–]pheosenpai 0 points1 point  (3 children)

What is this id you guys are talking about?

[–]Cantloginhere 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts.

[–]SatanAscending 0 points1 point  (0 children)

IIRC Freud divided human psyche on three parts. Ego - the conscious, ID - born in instincts and Superego - which is basically your upbringing.

[–]RPFlame 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Great thread!

Another tactic that worked for me was the reverse Pomodoro. Simply put, I started by procrastinating for 25 minutes, and study for 5. This strategy obviously doesn't work if you only have 1 day to study (the exam is tomorrow, for example), but it works if you are a self-learner.

[–]JoRocKStaR 0 points1 point  (0 children)

kinda sounds like the xeffect....Which is really great in itself!

It's helped me lose 35lbs in 3mths s far!

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (5 children)

Your Id wants you to lose

This seems very counter-intuitive to me. Explain?

[–]lurking_lion[S] 7 points8 points  (0 children)

My understanding of the Id would characterize it as dependent, narcissistic, and the host of our feelings of inferiority. It also holds the darker aspects to our psych such as fear, anger, and sadness, which many of us would like to deny the existence of.

It basically does not care about anyone else but itself. All the higher, moral, humanistic, "light" (Apollonian) qualities that we hold infuriate it. It wants to counter those and bring us back to the darkness, back into mommy.

And most importantly, it is slippery and will oftentimes do whatever it can to distract us. I think it is crucial to understanding both denial and the Hamster.

In short, it is the animal in us. Animals don't set goals. Animals don't have willpower.

[–][deleted] 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Sorry in advance for mobile formatting. It's not so much that your id wants you to lose. It's not actively plotting your downfall, it just doesn't give a shit. Your id cares about pleasure right here right now, getting it's needs and wants met.

It wants you to eat cake and jack off right because that would feel good. It does not want you to go to the gym because it will hurt. It does not want you to spend countless hours learning a skill because you could spend all that time eating cake and jacking off instead. It doesn't think about the long-term, because obviously in the long term it is much more useful for you to learn a skill instead of eating cake and jacking off but it doesn't piece all that together. All it says is you are wasting your time doing something you are bad at when you could be eating cake and jacking off.

Your id isn't necessarily a bad guy it's just not a long term thinker. It's up to your ego and superego to tell your id to shut up.

Hope this clears up some confusion.

[–]Ussama808 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Not sure if what I'm saying necessarily pertains to the id, but our minds are drawn to a homeostatic stimulus. One reason why people have trouble with willpower is because a lot of the time the mind subconsciously views change as throwing off your homeostasis. Being able to change your mindstate to one that welcomes and thrives with change is one of the main differences between everyday people and the super successful.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It's essentially blue pill, beta behavior. It's easier to just give up than to just put in the work to do it. It's easier to believe a comfortable lie you tell yourself than to hear the truth no matter how harsh. It's the part of our mind that just wants everything to be easy basically.