You Are the Total Sum of Your Habits
“ Drop by drop the water pot is filled “ Buddha
We are creatures of habit. You are the sum total of your habits. It’s true, even if we don’t want it to be, it is. The reality of life is that you are where you are because of all the habits you have adopted thus far. And it is totally fair game. The good or the bad news (depending on your point of view) is that, what that means is, you can change your habits to become the person you want to be.
“And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them” Charles Duhigg
I think we all get to that place where we have a list of things we want to achieve, a clear vision of the person we want to become and a sense of impending doom that we will never get there because it’s all just a little bit too hard. For me, before this year I had a vision of me waking up at the crack of dawn, necking a smoothie of berries, cherries and grass before going for a three mile run (I hate running). Then I’d get back, tidy the house, put on a power suit and head for the office. Thank god I found a little bit of common sense this year when I realised that was more the idea of myself that I thought I should be rather than the person I actually wanted to be. The reality was I wanted to start some sort of thing on the side of my work, I wanted to be someone that prioritised their morning time and I wanted to feel like I was getting shit done. So there is definitely an art in reflecting before you stir up five-hundred and one habits that you must complete to be the next CEO. I’d start with first asking yourself, do you want to be the CEO?
Asking yourself some honest questions can be the best way to get to where you truly want to be. You don’t want to get to the top of the ladder to realise you’d been climbing the wrong one. Simple questions (with no further thought than just answering) are things like:
What brings you joy?
When do you find you have most energy in the day?
What do you think you are good at?
What did you love doing as a kid?
When was the happiest time in your life?
What did the best day this year look like?
Just having a little think about what really brings you joy is a really good, wholesome place to start. You really don’t need to be the CEO, have two point five kids and a home office with a view of central park if you don’t want to. There is some science in being careful what you wish for. We see fancy shiny things and think that people’s lives are magical. Every person has their story.
So, once we’ve decided whether your destination is CEO or captain of your own ship or no ship, whatever. Then we start to pivot into what those habits look like. The best way to do this, I think, is think about what the ultimate is. So you want to have written a book that sold ‘x’ amount of copies or raging six pack… okay (no judgements) we need to think about the steps to getting there. Some practicality and science is always good, albeit very back of the fag packet vibe. If you want to write two hundred page book and you want to do it fairly soon, then you’ll need to think about how many words you want to write a day to achieve that. And if that is realistic. Have that in the back of your mind but for god sake don’t let it be the thing you hold on to. It’s just so you can get an idea of the reality of your expectation.
And then it’s about thinking pretty fairly. I wouldn’t try conquering seven habits at once, likelihood is you’ll fail. Try one thing, for a little bit of time, that is manageable. Get used to building habits first. So taking the book analogy, aim to sit down every day, for the next seven days, for two minutes to write. Yes, two minutes. You’ll do much more than that, in theory, but the point is to get into a routine so you can then build on your habits.
Doing a little bit every day is much more economic than trying to do everything in one day. Your first seven days should look like this:
On reflection what that means is you’ve gone from presumably not writing very often to sitting down five times this week to write. You are smashing it. If you can consistently do this for a couple of weeks you will find you are writing more and more consistently than ever before. Which is exactly what you were after.
Part of habit formation is being convinced of your why enough to stick with it. So make sure you’ve got that in check. Then it’s about setting processes up to help you not fail i.e. tracking your habits. Then on top of that it’s about making them manageable enough to not fail. Writing for two minutes vs making yourself sit for an hour to write everyday otherwise feeling bad. I know which one sounds easier to me.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on April 19, 2020.