Good Habits: If You Don’t Have It, Create It

Raise a hand if you happen to have a stack of books you’ve been planning to devour for so long yet, it’s been six years and the farthest you’ve gone to actually reading them was when you checked them out at the bookstore? Or, maybe you have a pile of clothes sitting in a corner in your room that has become a haven for all the tiny critters of the night? 

If you found that relatable, even in the slightest degree, then you’re going to love the rest of this article. 

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”  

If you have used this excuse one too many times in your life, then you, my dear friend, have nursed the twinge of guilt that follows every unticked box in your to-do-list for far too long. Doesn’t it feel mighty awful? But it’s not as if you purposely wanted to feel bad about yourself; it’s just that you couldn’t do it or you couldn’t stop doing what you were doing in order to do what needed to be done. 

We all have goals, and you should never measure your progress with the progress of other people. But the question here is whether you’re making any progress at all. I guess this is the part where I come in. When I was 14, I was a little bit lost and trying to figure out my place in the world. 

Now, I have come to realize that if I didn’t have good people pull me out from the haze of my illusions of grandeur, I doubt I would’ve come out the other side with my head still properly screwed on. 

So, think of me or think of this article as that friend. I have no judgments or preconceived ideas of what constitutes a good person. Think of me only as someone trying to pull someone else up. 

So, how do we form habits that help us achieve our goals? The first thing we ought to do is erase the predetermined notion that habits are boring. 

The mathematician slash philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, “Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.” Habits are automations that can be good or bad. Nevertheless, according to Stanford behavior scientist B.J. Fogg, all habits are formed the same way. 

“Are you saying that forming a habit of exercising every day can be as easy as picking up my phone?”

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying! 

Now, the keyword here is ‘easy.’ Make your habits so easy you can do it even when you’re in a hurry or on the occasion of having a hundred things wrestle for your attention. 

How do we make our habits easy? 

Excellent question! 

Three words—Break. It. Down. 

Break down your habits into the tiniest version it can be; that, my friend, is how you make a habit simple and achievable. 

For example, you may want to create a habit of doing yoga for 30 minutes every morning. To make a habit simpler and more doable, you have to start small. 

The way I see it, you have two hurdles you need to get out of the way. First is the fact that you have to shake yourself awake with a blaring alarm every single day. It’s not the most fun idea, but you know it’s what you need to do. Instead of waking up at 5 A.M. and risk falling asleep again (or NOT WAKING UP AT ALL), try getting up 5 minutes earlier than your usual waking time. Sounds easy enough, right?

Lastly, we have to think about how realistic the prospect of exercising for 30 minutes is. It’s not realistic at all, especially since you’re just starting out. It takes way too much time. 

Rather than exhausting your body and mind trying to nail that Cat-Cow pose the first time around, the easiest way to do it is not to set the goal as exercising for 30 minutes, but to set is as getting up 5 minutes earlier than your usual waking time and simply getting on the mat. Yes, you read that right.

Whether you want to power through The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga is a matter of choice. After all, you’re already there, might as well do it. 

Breaking down our habits to the tiniest and simplest version increases our chances of completing that particular task.

 Now, the next most important thing to take note of, and I beg of you not to forget this one is to celebrate yourself. And by celebrate I don’t mean going on a shopping splurge, I mean telling yourself how awesome you are for having completed the job. Marrying action with emotion makes it easier for your brain to wire in the habit. 

Repeat after me: I am awesome. 

Habits are formed, not by repetition alone, but by emotion as well. The whole operation of habit-forming runs critically on the latter just as it does on the former, maybe even more.

If you’re reading this, I want to congratulate you on making it this far. Self-improvement can be an arduous task, and most times, we may think climbing Mount Everest would be easier. People who have climbed the Everest would disagree, but they’d tell you how the ‘getting there’ part was so worth it in the end. 

Wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing, trust the process. You will get there. I’m rooting for you.