“Success is the product of daily habits – not once in a lifetime transformation”
This is my favorite quote from an awesome book that I just completed reading called ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. While this book gives us many valuable and deep insights about how small habits formulated can give tremendous results, I wish to share with you a simple yet significant lesson that I learnt from this book.
But before sharing that let us brush up something which we all already learned at school. Remember your 8th grade science class? We were taught about the Latent heat of fusion.
Imagine that you have an ice cube sitting on the table in front of you. The room is cold and you can see your breath. It is currently twenty-five degrees. Ever so slowly, the room begins to heat up. Twenty-six degrees. Twenty-seven. Twenty-eight. The ice cube is still sitting on the table in front of you. Twenty-nine degrees. Thirty. Thirty-one. Still, nothing has happened. Then, thirty-two degrees. The ice begins to melt. A one-degree shift, seemingly no different from the temperature increases before it, has unlocked a huge change.
When you heated it from twenty-five to thirty-one degrees and the ice cube did not melt, can we say that the work put-in is wasted? No, it is just being stored. All the action happens at thirty-two degrees! This is called the latent heat of fusion. (Latent meaning- a quality or state existing but not yet developed or manifest; hidden or concealed)
Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change. Similarly, habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance.
People make a few small changes, fail to see a tangible result, and decide to stop. But in order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau —the author calls it the Plateau of Latent Potential.
Complaining about not achieving success despite working hard is like complaining about an ice cube not melting. Let me share a personal experience with you all, I was not a regular reader, I couldn’t make myself to just pick-up a book and start to read, let alone completing it.
Then came the time when I was to start preparing for my MBA entrance exam, the language part was as important as aptitude and reasoning. I was doubtful and not convinced about how reading a book, any book for that matter, will help me in any possible way. But with plenty of time in hand I pushed myself and picked up a book to read.
I choose Harry Potter so that I won’t lose interest, my goal was to just read and finish the book and so I did, there were times when I had given up reading midway, just because I didn’t see any changes, or improvement in my command over english language, it was frustrating, I felt this is not leading me anywhere.
It took me 2 months to finish the 1st book, I did not stop there. I picked up the second book of the series and I could finish it in less time. I started to enjoy reading.
I would google the new words I came across, I started telling whatever I had read to my friends, towards the end of finishing 7th book, I observed my reading speed had improved drastically, my vocabulary was improved, I could talk in english ever so flawlessly, overall my confidence and communication skills had also improved.
The 7th book was not the one which magically transformed me, but it was all that work put-in before. 6 months later, language was the part I had scored the highest in my exam and it was the reason I could clear the cut-off.
Now I’m a fresh book-lover, I ace all of my seminars and presentations, successfully clear job interviews, have great social skills, and am able to write this blog. The habit of reading a page or two everyday has changed my life around in a good way.
Change can take years—before it happens all at once. People feel discouraged after putting in weeks or months of hard work without experiencing any results.
However, this work was not wasted. It was simply being stored. It is not until much later that the full value of previous efforts is revealed.
All big things come from small beginnings. Small but good habits such as choosing to eat better, taking stairs instead of elevators, keeping yourself hydrated, improving your sleep cycle, and sitting in correct posture will result in good and sustained health.
Likewise, adopting good financial habits like saving small amounts regularly for specific goals, creating a budget and using it to guide your spending, having conversations with your friends and family about managing money, and regular review and updating your financial plan, will result in robust financial health.
The investment which we make for our future may not seem to be giving expected returns, we feel disappointed when the performance is volatile, but it’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed. It’ll take its sweet time to grow and reap benefits beyond our expectations.
No matter what financial habit you decide to take up, you will be that much closer to achieving your financial goals. All that matters is that you start and persist long enough to break through the plateau of latent potential!
Be healthy, be wealthy.