Look, it’s still January. We’re still only a few weeks into 2020, really. There’s loads of time to build healthier habits – but you will need to try to do something every day. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be something big. Actually, some think it shouldn’t be, to start with.
There’s even a book about improving your life by going through a routine of little habits that takes -30 minutes a day to complete. The micro-habits are things like having a drink of water then making a checklist, then prioritising that list. I don’t know if I’d call this stuff inspiring, and I think my issue with it is that they’re actions, rather than attitudes. How do you know what to put on your checklist if your head’s not in a good place to start with? That said, our behaviour can affect our attitude, of course, and perhaps the more go-getting we act, the more go-getting we feel.
Marginally increase discomfort
Check out this chap talking about the slightly confusing (just me?) link between linking habits, improving memory and emotion:
Essentially, if you want to start a healthy habit, you don’t have to start by doing actually doing it. Instead, break it down into small stages and create a positive feeling with each incremental step on the journey. Memory champ Mark Channon started on the road to pilates by getting up earlier, rolling out his mat whenever he went into the living room in the morning, having a little celebration, then going back to bed. “Three, four days (of this), it becomes automatic.” One also imagines it wouldn’t take many extra early mornings for it to feel like such a waste of time not to do pilates. I expect I’d soon start to resent going back to bed and decide I might as well make use of the mat.
It doesn’t always work, does it? Who else tried, and failed, the push-up challenge (or something similar)? When you’ve messed up on this kind of thing a few times, you end up feeling worse about yourself and really never want to go near these kind of ideas ever again.
I have another idea that might help those of us who struggle with forming habits.
Make it worth something
Regular readers know I have rock-bottom motivation most of the time. But this week I made use of a free desk I temporarily have access to, in another city about an hour away. I went over there on Wednesday and had a great work session there – not because there was anything better about it than home (in many ways it was more noisy and distracting) but because I’d put the effort in to get there. I found myself wanting to work to get something out of the effort involved. I worked harder not because the situation was easy, but because it was difficult! I felt the value of my time and energy more acutely. And because it all felt like work – getting up earlier, getting a train somewhere, talking to strangers, it was much easier to get into that frame of mind than my usual home environment. It’s all about associations.
Have you heard that saying, “How you do something is how you do everything?” I love that saying!
A decline in motivation in one area of your life impacts other areas, resulting in all good habits going out of the window and a sense of despair. But by the same token, an increase in one department has a positive impact on the rest.
In my opinion, at least, when you work at something (goals in the gym, a new language, social skills — anything!) you start to persuade your body and mind that you’re someone who works at things. This makes more sense to me, personally, than “do the absolute minimum viable habit and try to grow it”. Instead of casting yourself as a lazy no-hope who needs a load of tricks to get themselves to drink a glass of water, why not try to present yourself as a hard worker, and find out if it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy? How you do something is how you do everything. Don’t do things in a spirit of despair.
What would you love to be able to do? What step, big or small, can you take today to get there? Imagine you’re persuading some character who holds the keys to this dream, and write down three things about yourself that prove you can achieve it.
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