There is this one thought you play with doing for quite some time – it could be working out, trying out a new cooking class, or starting to write every day.
In the beginning, you are full of energy and get to work – no questions asked. It feels great doing that thing at first, but after some time passes or as you hit resistance, this relentless energy ebbs away.
And now you are in this situation, trying something new which you are by definition not good at, maybe face your first adversities and find yourself without this initial mover.
Many people simply give up when things get hard or this dreamed of activity isn’t all sun and rainbows. That’s why so many start diets full of enthusiasm and fail horribly. Or working out. I bet anyone knows at least one person who proclaims every year anew to start a rigorous diet or work out 6 times a week. 90% of these hard cuts fail. Just think of new year’s solutions. Same story.
That’s why motivation is an unreliable friend. Enjoy it while it is there, but what keeps you moving isn’t motivation. Who purely relies on it will inevitably fail.
Beyond motivation the going gets tough…
The Power of Habits
Habits work unconsciously – on Autopilot
And right here lie most of their superpowers.
Things done unconsciously on a daily basis1are the holy grail of self-development. They will have the largest impact on your life – because done high-frequent. And the surprising part is – you already knew that!
Just think of one good habit of yours. Let it be doing the dishes right after every meal, moving after waking up, or brushing your teeth. It takes a lot of unnecessary thought out of your daily life.
The world would be to complex to grasp if there were no such thing as habits. If every tiny action would take us to actually think about it, we couldn’t focus on the important tasks and would die because of too much input. WE would get literally brainfucked out of ourselves by the simplest tasks – imagine how hard getting your groceries is when you are hungry. Thus I imagine this burden must feel like.
Create a Lifestyle
By combining many alike habits one can create a lifestyle. Often one big habit lets a flood of minor, good ones into your life, too.
By creating a lifestyle you identify with, you internally oblige to adhere to it. And this lifestyle is what is going to stick with you – for along time.
Later on you grow conscious to an healthier nutrition, too. You try to move more throughout the day and feel generally more awake. And many more…
These lifestyle-building and really healthy habits are what I call key-habits. More on that topic later on!
In Habit’s Benefits lies also their destructive Power
With this immense power come not only good possible outcomes. The same things that make habits so beneficial for us, can wreak havoc onto us.
Instead of something beneficial like sports did regularity, imagine smoking, blaming everyone else for everything, or hitting your cats to relax.2
Many of these bad habits can really cause hell to open up onto your life:
Smoking can kill you horribly
not taking responsibility for anything will let your life be like a shallow wasteland
…and hitting cats might be the worst of all sins.
And as every one of you might know, it is insanely hard to get rid of these bad habits once they’ve been into your life for some time. More than 90% of smokers trying to stop fail.3 And that although every one and his dog knows smoking harms oneself badly and might cut your total lifespan down by a few decades.
Step-by-Step Guide to create Habits
Take Inventory of your Habits
First look at your life and take inventory of your average day:
Start with your imaginary self right after waking up and go through your morning, work day, after work day and so on.
Now do the same quickly for a leisure day.
Ask yourself the following question and write down everything you could observe: What are you doing every day without much active thought?
Now take this a step further and judge your habits as healthy habits, bad habits, and fairly neutral ones.
Good: Working out, reading, meal prepping, …
Neutral: Your typical route to work, the meals you tend to cook most often, …
Bad: Smoking, blaming others, bad organization, …
OK – now that Step 1 is done and you know where you stand at, Step two is about thinking of your future.
Choose which Habits you want to implement
Now that you have a starting point, you should know where you wanna go, before you embrace that journey.
To find out which habits you wanna create in the next time, make a list of 10. Eradicate 7 and forget them completely. The 3 remaining are the ones you should be working on in the next time.
My advice would be to choose one habit at a time. Choose the one which seems the most game-changing for you.
I found a few habits What I call ‘key-habits’. Let me explain this thought:
There are some activities which will transform your life and get an avalanche of other healthy habits flowing right behind them into your life.
Reading is another one I found to have this function. By reading you willingly expand your horizon. You learn new things, get into the minds of brilliant thinkers and the chances are high that some books might impact your life hugely.4
Now that you know where you are and where you wanna go, you have to decide what to take with you. You can’t take everything with yourself onto that journey…
Choose what to Sacrifice for it
For each new habit you wanna implement you have to sacrifice something. You only have a set amount of time and capacities and you have to decide well, which activities are worth your time.
Think of it this way:
You decide that working out might be the best to implement into your lifestyle.
But working out is a hobby that takes time, effort and dedication. Just doing it halfheartedly won’t get you far.
One sacrifice may be cutting short on some other activity to get more time. Your priorities change and maybe you cut short on TV for that. TV time would be sacrifice.
You can’t be a habit messy. Habits created halfheartedly will never stick with you, while bad habits only cut off in this way will always creep back in.
That’s why choosing actively what to sacrifice for the new thang will set you up for success.
Work actively on Implementing that Habit into your Life
I won’t lie here – this will take a lot of active work, discipline and willpower. You will have your positive as well as negative experiences, because willpower can be an unreliable jerk.
But if you stay true to your course, over short or long you will get it done.
Depending on your starting point some habits might be easier to turn into a lifestyle than others.
A few healthy habits might be a pain in the ass to build up.
And some bad habits might be harder to get rid of than others – looking at you cigarettes and crack…
Nonetheless, I strongly believe that everyone who truly wants to change his life in some way will find a way to do so. Even if it might make sacrifices or mean short-term pain. I would love to tell you a hack or fix to go around that, but that’s life. You will have to confront that new habit the first time every day and stick to it willingly.
It will be easier the longer you stick to it, until someday working out might be one cornerstone of your existence, or you are the most heretic enemy of cigarettes.
People change and so can you.
You are the Sum of your Habits
…for good or worse.
Of course is this statement not entirely true and too binary for our complex world, but one can say much by looking at the things one does daily.
These are the things which will determine much of your future-self:
What will it have to wrestle with?
What will it feel like?
Will it come closer to its dreams?
Strive to create one good habit at a time or get rid of one bad one. Over the course of years, this will pay off big time.
If you ask me nowadays I couldn’t imagine where such simple healthy habits as working out and reading would’ve got me in the future. They got me to grow up, to find my passion, to get away from drugs and alcohol, to take responsibility and care for something, and much more. These two lifestyles changed my life’s course entirely. And god only knows where it is going to.
Anyways, I hope that you could follow me well through this complex topic and that I didn’t wrote too much. Seriously, I already edited away much of the writing of my first draft. There are some topics I could write about for days. 😀
If there is anything unclear, hit me up and write me a comment. I hope that I could help you with my sight on habits and their importance.
Have a great day,
Sources and further reading:
Atomic Habits by James Clear* is one of the two most known books on habits – and so for a reason. I found his viewpoint very useful in terms of understanding the power of these unconscious drivers.