There is a lot of talk about habits at the moment. Losing the bad ones, starting new ones, using habits to build will power, finding a habit that will solve the problems of your life. The problem with habit talk is that it can draw out the shame gremlins and much negative self-talk. If the habits are unrealistic it is a straight road to disappointment and self-criticism. When I was in my local bookstore recently, I saw a ton of books on habit changing so it must be something on people’s minds.
What habit do you want to change or start?
These authors have interesting ideas:
Tiny Habits (2020) by BJ Fogg offers a simple and easy to follow solution:
You need motivation (the desire to do it), the ability to do it (the time and space) and a prompt (a reminder that says to do it now.) When these three things happen, habit forms. But, most importantly, you also have to link the habit to a positive emotion so that you want to do it. Take a new habit you want to try, maybe it is a daily workout regime or mediation or even writing in a journal and scale it back so that it is as tiny as possible. In fact, it will be so tiny that there is no excuse not to do it and you will even feel a positive emotion afterwards. Want to meditate for 15 mins every day? Start with three deep cleansing breaths. Then link the habit to a positive emotion, so that the habit will stick. Maybe play a favourite song (your personal anthem) afterwards, or have a lovely cold glass of juice, or stretch your arms over your head and smile. BJ Fogg also attaches tiny habits to his daily routine. He does push ups after he goes to the bathroom, opens a book when he is on the subway and takes deep cleansing breaths when he turns off the tv. The smallest tiny habits can make a big difference when they all add up. 1 minute of meditation can become 5 in a matter of weeks, a 10-minute walk can become an hour in a month. String together the tiny habits and voila, you have real, concrete change. Baby steps are the way to go.
James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits (2018) suggests the following: “3 R’s of Habit Change” and it goes like this…
1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)
He also asks us to think about the impact of a habit: The short-term response to eating that chocolate bar is pleasure, while the short-term response of a run might be pain. But the long-term response is the exact opposite. Think weight gain over fitness. He says almost every habit that you have is the result of many small decisions over time. Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.
If you make your good habits more convenient, you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.James Clear
My biggest take away from James Clear is this one:
“Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.”
So decide: I am a runner and then you will run. Don’t run to become a runner. Run because you already are a runner. The habit will align your vision of yourself with the reality of who you are. I am a writer so I write. I am a photographer so I take photos every day. I am a meditator, so I mediate. The goal is not to run, it is to be a runner. This shift in how to see a habit as an extension of your identity is very helpful in getting motivated.
Think about that. In the doing we transform into being who we want to be.
So imagine yourself. Create a vision. And then start something because it is who you already are.
Take away inquiry:
What is the one thing I can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?