Why Our Habits Sometimes Don’t Stick
So I know it’s a bloody weird time at the minute. I feel as though life has never moved so fast but so slow at the same time. Everyday you turn on the news and there is some new information to understand, absorb and then think about how it’s going to impact your life. At the same time, we’re all indoors, going out only a few times a day to get shopping or exercise, so it can start to feel like you are living the same day over and over again. Anyways, in light of the awful current situation, I think when your world feels like it’s changing a lot, for me the best thing to do is take control of the things I can control and throw some energy at them.
It certainly helps me feel like I’m in control of life if I start to focus on some good stuff.
So with that in mind I wanted to talk about what is fast becoming one of my favourite subjects and that is habits. So as I’ve written before, habits have a real place in the world. Whether you consciously do the ones you want or you subconsciously do the ones you really don’t want, we all have habits. And as the saying goes, you are the sum of your habits.
One thing people seem to really struggle with is getting the motivation and reasoning to stick with habits. If you’ve got a goal it’s certainly pretty likely that you will need to create some habits to achieve it. How often is it though that we write down a goal and then forget all about it? That’s what I wanted to talk about today. Why don’t our habits stick? Well I think I know some reasons.
First up, I think it’s because we don’t consciously track habits and we are rubbish at remembering things. Take the habit of trying to do fifty push-ups every day for example. We can set the goal to do that for the next thirty days but if we don’t tract it, it’s easy to forget when you last did it. What tends to happen is that we get excited and energised by the idea of creating a new habit so for the first few days we execute with excellence and we’re dead chuffed with ourselves. Then day three and four rock around and it becomes a bit boring. By day seven we’re sure we didn’t do it once this week and therefore we are total failures. Not doing the said habit for a day or two isn’t the end of the world, the trouble comes in the story we tell ourselves. We will often say to ourselves “oh I haven’t done pushups at all really, this is rubbish, I failed, whatever”. It might actually be the case that you’ve done pushups four out of the seven days but you did them in the first four days and now can’t recall ever doing them. We live busy lives and we forget a lot of stuff. It’s not surprising we get demotivated when we can’t think through the most recent example of doing the habit. If you visually track your habits I have found you are much more motivated to do them.
Secondly is this idea that just doing something for a little bit will get you huge results. I hear this all the time and think it’s incredibly true. “if you want extraordinary results you need to put in extraordinary effort”. And don’t get me wrong I don’t subscribe to the whole work all hours until your eyes bleed and then wake up and repeat that process kind of thinking. Taking care of all aspects of life seems like a healthy way to approach things but I do think you need to be putting in a decent amount of work for a decent amount of time. Sometimes we feel like giving up if on day seven we don’t see a six pack and that sadly just isn’t how life works. It’s often cited that 10,000 hours is the amount of time you need to put in to get really exceptional at anything. 10,000 hours is a hell of a long time, it’s like 1200 working days. That’s a fairly decent amount of time. Getting a good grip on what it takes to get good at something and how long it will take to start seeing results from something is important when starting out different habits.
Lastly I think we overestimate what we can do in a month and underestimated what we can do in a year. We’ve all done it. You set out to become this fancy shiny new person only to get to mid January and to have lost all hope. I think some of that comes down to realistic expectations. We try and change absolutely everything and as a result we change nothing. Having new years resolutions as long as your arm whilst are intended well, we find overwhelming.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on March 24, 2020.