Build Better Habits Using Coffee and Chocolate (as a Metaphor)

Nick Knopik
Dec 4, 2020 · 4 min read

Which do you like more, coffee or chocolate?

I definitely like chocolate. It’s kind of addictive, it gives me a little bit of a sugar rush, and there are enough different kinds to keep it interesting. Especially if we’re including peanut butter and chocolate together, then it’s game over. The problem with chocolate is if I eat too much of it I feel awful. We’ve all probably made that mistake as kids on Halloween, and maybe once or twice since then. It’s a fine line between a treat and a problem.

On the other hand, I really like coffee. I like the taste of coffee as much as I like the taste of chocolate, but coffee makes me feel good for a long time after drinking it. The caffeine does wonders for my productivity, mood, and motivation. When I first started trying to get into coffee in high school, I never craved it. But I kept trying it and trying it, and before too long I was hooked.

When we have free time, our default choices (Netflix, TikTok, video games, drinking alcohol) are like chocolate. They make us feel good for a while and they are fine in moderation. But if our free time is only filled with default choices, we’re going to feel pretty bad about ourselves.

A new THING introduced to our free time is like coffee. A THING could be yoga, reading, running, cooking, sewing, coding, painting, or any other healthy habit. At first, we’re probably not going to obsess over our new THING. We may even have to teach ourselves to like it. But the more we stick with it, the more we’re going to realize we enjoy the way it makes us feel. Eventually, we’ll crave it. We’ll consume more coffee and cut back on chocolate.

This year I’ve discovered new THINGS like I discovered coffee when I was in high school. In January, I recognized a pattern of too many default choices filling up my free time. So I started picking up one new THING per month. Among other THINGS, I have started practicing yoga, reading, meditating, running, and running a website this year. I always go through a period of adjustment where I get used to my new habit (the taste, if you’re still okay with the coffee simile), but each time I’ve come out the other side craving my new THING whenever I have free time.

New THINGS, like coffee, make us feel good for a long time after enjoying them. But I’m not here to tell you to cut chocolate out of your life. Any coffee drinker knows that coffee and chocolate pair well together. That’s true for THINGS and our default choices too.

Chugging Cold Coffee

It turns out the order of operations during my free time matters. Let’s assume that on any given day I’m going to do my THING and a couple of my default choices during my free time. Doing my THING first ensures that I have used my free time purposefully before I even consider one of my default choices. Scheduling my free time really makes a difference here. During the day, I write a schedule for my free time. Following a self-prescribed schedule helped me establish a routine of doing my THING before unwinding later in the evening with some of my default choices.

After getting used to doing my THING before my default choices, I noticed something interesting happening. My THINGS were becoming my default choices. Instead of coming home and immediately looking up what college basketball games were on that night, I would unroll my yoga mat or pop open my most recent book. The more I defaulted to a THING with purpose rather than YouTube or scrolling social media, the more days I went to bed feeling great about how I spent my free time.

A major milestone in the journey of filling your free time with purpose is when you notice that your default choices have changed for the better.

Here’s the takeaway: drink your coffee first. Once you’re finished, grab a handful of m&ms. Life is all about balance.

If you’re interested in filling your free time with purposeful THINGS, I have a free eBook titled “Fill Your Free Time with Purpose”.


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Nick Knopik

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Helping you fill your free time with purpose |


A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (

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