Hey all/three people!
Day seven of the habit experiment is complete. I’ve been officially running for a week straight starting each day at 5:15am, the crowd goes wild!!! I’ve heard that the first two weeks of developing a habit are the easiest as the excitement of the new challenge is present. After those two weeks excuses seem to bubble up, a day is missed here and there, then a week, then you are back to the same routine you had prior to the habit development. Needless to say I’m not shooting off the celebratory fireworks just yet. I did start to find excuses to not go this morning (I’m sore, it’s 33 degrees out, I’m tired, I’ve been working hard) but I pushed through anyway!
The purpose of this post is to continue to talk about and dissect the idea of habit forming. I’ve read many books on the subject and quite frankly did not expect the high frequency in which habits are discussed. Habit forming apparently is the cornerstone to many personal development books along with the ideas of goal setting relationship development, and freewriting. This is why.
After I read a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg I realized that habits influence EVERY SINGLE part of my life. After doing a little soul searching post-book, I began to notice that every action I take, even the smallest most unimportant action, is wildly influenced by habits. I realized that we all are being pulled by a string of habits from the moment we awaken to the moment we hit the hay. These habits dictate my every action yet a veil of free-will skews my perception.
The first step of forming a habit is to recognize their influence in every action you take, all day long. Ask yourself if this is something that you’ve done before and the answer is usually yes. Once you start recognizing habits you can start categorizing them into good habits and bad habits. Good habits are the ones that keep you at your best and give you a feeling of accomplishment. Working out, reading, clearing your inbox, drinking tea instead of coffee, walking the dog, shutting off all the lights before leave, are all good habits. Conversely, bad habits are the habits that limit your abilities, leave you feeling regret, and represent all those things you know you shouldn’t be doing but you do them anyway. Drinking a beer after work, eating a cheesesteak at lunch, not going to that event you probably should go to, or procrastinating are examples of bad habits.
Picture the perfect you. Damn you are sexy and successful I must say. I’d want to be the perfect you too. What does the perfect you act and look like? What would it take for you to become the perfect you? Moreover what are you doing now that is not getting you closer to the perfect you?
These are the questions I ask myself when I’m determining good habits from bad ones. More importantly it helps me identify the bad habits that I want to replace with good ones. The idea of replacing habits with other habits is the key to habit forming/creating. You can tell yourself as a smoker to just never smoke again, but you know how that turns out. Studies show its much more effective to try replacing the habit with some other habit (chewing gum, eating, etc).
“But Eric, I have a ton of bad habits; you’re telling me I have to target each and every one and systematically replace each with another habit?” Yes and no person who asks interesting questions. We want those habits replaced, there is no way around that. However, there are “keystone habits” that can help replace a bunch of habits at once. Just like regular habits there are bad keystone habits and good keystone habits. Keystone habits are those habits that have the ability to create a chain reaction effecting all aspects of one’s day.
For instance a bad keystone habit is the habit of alcoholism. Although the habit may have began as only replacing one good habit, it has now manifested itself to replace many of the habits the alcoholic once enjoyed. A good keystone habit that is successful to many people is exercise. Exercising, like other keystone habits once developed, creates a chain reaction throughout the day that alters the usual habit loop that your brain is programmed to carry out. People who exercise each day tend to eat healthier and accomplish more tasks. Another good keystone habit might be to have breakfast with your kids every morning, reading before bed each night, or attend weekly church. Different keystone habits work for different people. The reason I’m trying to now develop the exercise keystone habit is because this keystone habit works for A LOT of people.
In the next post I plan to talk about how habits, when set up properly, can create astonishing changes and results in ones life. When used in conjunction with goal setting, habits can pave the way to achieve the your seemingly far-fetched dreams. I’d love to hear your stories about good or bad habits and how you’ve changed them or have tried to. Thank you so much!