Whatever we have done with our lives makes us what we are when we die. And everything, absolutely everything, counts. –Sogyal Rinpoche
Think back to the goals you set for this year, or last. Did you get it done? Did you form positive new habits? If you’re like most people, your bottom lip protruded a little further as you pensively considered your failures.
So let’s step out of that rut, and here’s the good news. You can create the habits that you want to, and it doesn’t have to be hard.
Good habits can be established in two or three days
Have you heard that “it takes 21 days to establish a new habit?” It’s been quoted so many times that everyone believes it, but it’s not true. Think about when you started a new job. How many days did it take before you could get there without thinking about the route? Before you started entering the building the exact same way, before you had your routine down pat? It didn’t take you 21 days; it probably took you two or three days.
How did you establish the habit so quickly? Because you were concentrating, because it was important to you, because you had to do it, and, most important, because there was a sequence. First you got up, then you got dressed, then you traveled to your work place, then you went into the building, etc. You did it in order.
If you want to establish a new habit, make it sequential. Hook it to an existing habit. If you want to exercise every day, for example, do it right after you brush your teeth in the morning. Do this for a couple days and it becomes automatic. And if you happen to forget, you’ll have this nagging “what did I forget to do?” feeling. It’s uncomfortable, uncomfortable enough to do your exercise just to make the feeling go away.
You don’t have habits — you are habits
Observe some strangers. Look at the big guy with the muscles. Do you think he has a habit of making excuses whenever it’s time to hit the gym? How about the lady who’s comfortably retired? Does she have a habit of maxing out her credit cards?
Lifelong habits write themselves upon your body and upon your circumstances. They make you what you are. You don’t have habits. You are your habits.
What is a habit, anyway?
A habit is something you do under certain circumstances without having to make a conscious decision. They are behaviors based on a decision that you have already made.
We couldn’t function if we had to make a decision every time we took an action. “Oh, I’m eating. Shall I take another bite now? Should I swallow what’s in my mouth first? Should I splatter these mashed potatoes against the wall?” We don’t do that. We establish our routine and we stick with it. Maybe 90% of what we do is habitual, from how we walk to the posture we use while typing at the computer. We couldn’t function otherwise.
Good habits give you momentum:. They propel you to do things without your having to waste energy making a decision. Like brushing your teeth every night before going to bed, or getting up in the morning and going to work.
Every day we reinforce our habits, whether they are good or bad. We create our habits and they create us. Every day of the year.