I have one really annoying habit… I can’t seem to keep a habit. I mean it. Not even a bad one. I tried to smoke when I was in my twenties and it just wouldn’t stick. I can keep a habit up for a few years and even that will go.
I would like some habitual behavior, like exercise, taking my vitamins, and washing my face at night. These shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well let me tell you they have been almost impossible for me.
I loved reading The Power of Habit it had a ton of good stuff in it about how we make habits. The author talks about keystone habits. A keystone habit is a habit that can have a snowball effect on everything we do. For example a habit like running can change how we feel about ourselves by helping us feel stronger and lose weight. That self esteem could give you confidence to change your career path, find a mate… the list goes on. So instead of thinking I have to lose weight, exercise, quit my job, find something I love to do, you could just start running and the rest would take care of itself.
I know this to be true. When I was a runner (25-30 miles a week) there were a lot of things that seemed unrelated to running that running effected in a positive way. I ran for 5 years and I loved it. Nothing stopped me from running. I would go out and run at eight at night in the rain. Wake up at 3:30am to squeeze a run in. Then I went back to school and I still kept running, but then I was only able to do about 3 days a week. Then I got a job and I only squeezed out 2 days if I was lucky. Since quitting my job I have started again, but can only seem to do 5 days a week for about 3 weeks and then I get knocked off routine by any number of things.
What will make it stick? What made it stick in the past? Why was it such a singular priority for me? I don’t know all the answers to these questions, but here’s what I am willing to try. I read this great blog post over on Zen Habit and it seems to mix a lot of things I believe to be true about habit forming. I’m also going to incorporate a little of the Kaizen method of using increments and a dab of BJ Fogg’s ideas on taking tiny steps.
- Do a 30 day challenge, focusing on just one habit. I am going to exercise for 40 minutes or more 5 days a week for 30 days.
- Write it out on paper, along with your motivations, obstacles, and strategies for overcoming them. I’m going to do this as soon as I’m done writing this blog post.
- Commit fully, in a public way. I think this is pretty public, so I guess I already have one thing completed.
- Log your progress. I’m going to log my progress on this blog. I don’t know if I’m going to do in formal blog posts or if I’m going to put a widget on the side, but I will log my progress. * I’ve decided to log via photos on instagram. See you on your phone 😉
- Remain publicly accountable. See above.
- Reward every little success. I find this to be a powerful tool for me. It can be small rewards like declaring ‘yeah me’ or big ones like finally investing in another pair of running shoes.
- If I fail, I will figure out what went wrong, plan for it and try again.
If anyone wants to join me you are more than welcome. I like this list of beginner habits. I’m looking forward to crisscrossing some brain synapses.
image via the pressure
torrieNovember 13, 2012 at 1:08 PM
i cannot seem to stick with a habit- basic habits that "everyone" incorporates into their daily routine/life… habits that i KNOW are the keystone to bigger changes, feelings, behaviors, … it's as if i'm afraid of order/boredom… but i know without a doubt how much better off if with certain basic elements (reading, exercising, face-washing :), BLOGGING- which i really, really want to get back into…)- with a sense of structure & routine.
i am hosting a book club this week, and am still finishing the book (case in point), but after that i'm finally going to listen to 'the power of habit' which i purchased a while back (knowing that this is a must-read).
i look forward to reading about your progress!
Desi McKinnonNovember 13, 2012 at 1:48 PM
The first half of the book is awesome because it's more personal, the second half is interesting from a group perspective, but I didn't get as much out of it. I can't wait to hear what you think of it.
ColleenNovember 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM
I agree with your take on the book. SPOIlLER ALERT: when I listened to the part about the guy killing his wife my adrenals were wreaked for the the rest of the day! (But that's just my own issue)…
I'm so excited for you to do this! You sound committed and inspired.
180|360January 16, 2013 at 9:08 AM
I think Josh and I are probably more similar. I kind of need to get out of some of my habits (like drinking wine every night!) It's funny — I think I'm too stubborn to break them! I'm not a highly organized or planned person, but I do have set routines that I rarely deviate from. The one thing that works for me is to do things in the same order every day.