Imagine If Your Habits Were Progressive Routines
If you’re into self-improvement at all, you’ve probably heard a lot about habits.
Thought leaders say you should develop good morning habits… good tech habits… good fitness and nutrition habits…
And if you read any of their books or watch any of their videos, you’ve probably noticed that they make it seem so easy…
It’s practically effortless the way they talk about it – you just set a goal, practice a few steps, and voila – you should be a whole new person!
But when it comes down to it, you set the goals, you make the changes, you push through for a while, and then…
You try again.
You fail again.
You start to wonder why you can’t “stay on the wagon” of whatever your new habit is supposed to be…
And you start to beat yourself up.
Why Can’t You Develop The Right Habits?
Why is it so hard? Is there something wrong with you?
After all, the conventional wisdom is that it takes only 21 days to create a new habit…
If you try your hardest and go all 21 days, and it still doesn’t change your life, you might start to wonder…
What kind of lazy dunderpate are you?
Why doesn’t this work for you when it works for everyone else?
I’ve got bad news and good news for you.
The bad news is… it doesn’t work for everyone else!
This notion of magically forming habits after 21 days is a gross oversimplification, so thinking you can just will yourself into a grand life change because you’ve spent a few weeks on it is a concept that’s flawed at its very foundation.
The good news is… even though habits are very difficult to create from whole cloth… routines are not.
This means if you want to create a massive change in your life, YOU STILL CAN.
You just have to change up the way you put it into practice.
Recently, I had a fantastic guest on London Real – a man by the name of Nir Eyal.
Nir is an expert on the topic of forming habits – he literally wrote the book on the psychology that builds habit-forming products.
This book – the New York Times best-seller Hooked. You can find it on the shelves of companies like Facebook and Google as inspiration. It’s more or less a manual on how to persuade people to create new habits – like rats pushing a bar to get a new food pellet.
Named The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology by the M.I.T. Tech Review, Nir has now turned his focus to the other side of the equation.
Instead of studying how companies can entice us into forming new habits that equal revenue for them, he now studies the psychology driving us to distraction, and why solving the problem is not as simple as disowning our devices.
This new research is meant to help us liberate ourselves, and create new routines – not habits – that will lead us to the lives we truly want to lead.
A Break Down Of Habits Versus Routines
Basically, the definition of the word habit is an impulse to do a behavior with little or no conscious thought. This could be something like the way you brush your teeth before you shower. It’s such an automatic thing you don’t even have to think about it – it’s just what you do.
But it wasn’t always that way. When you were a child, your parents probably had to tell you to go brush your teeth a few hundred times before it ever occurred to you to do it on your own.
Now, as Nir explains, a routine is different from a habit because it’s a behavior frequently repeated.
To go back to the teeth brushing routine, maybe your parents had a good night routine for you when you were very small. (Or maybe you had one that you taught your own kids.) Something like, when it’s 8pm, you go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, read a book, say your prayers, and go to sleep.
That’s a routine – it’s a pattern of behaviors that you repeated every night.
And now, years later, it’s become a habit.
Every Habit Starts As A Routine, But Not Every Routine Can Become A Habit
The expectation that things should be habits is fundamentally flawed. If you want to set yourself up for success at anything – fitness, hygiene, writing, whatever – you must first create a new routine for yourself.
That’s why it’s silly to say, “I want to be a writer, therefore I will write for 21 days and at the end of that time, I will have a perfect writing habit.”
Could you create a writing habit in 21 days? I suppose it’s possible…
But what’s more likely is that you’ll sit down to write on day one and make a little headway. On day two, you’ll want to write, but you’ll get distracted by something more pressing, and figure it can wait until tomorrow. On days three, four, and five, you’ll really want to write, but you won’t have the time, so you’ll tell yourself you’ll write a lot on the weekend.
Then when the weekend rolls by, there will be a long list of other things you need to do, so by day nine or ten? You’ll have basically given up on your new “habit”.
If, instead, you set yourself with a routine that you get your morning coffee, open up Word and write for 30 minutes every day from 830am to 900am, rain or shine, now that would be a routine.
Can you see why that approach is a lot more likely to succeed?
And you can replace the word “writing” with running or just about anything else – the same holds true for any goal you want to achieve.
So the next time you decide you need a change in your life, don’t look to make a new habit. Instead, set a clear goal and then create a system – aka a routine – that will help you achieve that goal.
You might just be surprised at how quickly your routine catches on.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored