Bad Habits

Like many other people I am constantly and hopelessly wanting to acquire every skill under the sun.  Somewhere between planning a third cookbook, learning how to code in JavaScript, trying to re-learn all the languages I’ve forgotten over the past 6 years, and keeping my busy schedule balanced you may have noticed I haven’t always been the most prolific public writer.

The truth is  that writing is a habit and I have never been great at habit forming. Writing is an especially tenuous habit for me that has to be gently nurtured every day or I will find myself at the intersection of fear and apathy where my thoughts are too boring and too difficult or ill-formed to ever be written down. That does no good for anyone, but especially for me.

When I started thinking about ways I could get back in to the habit I tried to look at what was working instead. Then it struck me, there’s one habit I have been dedicating 2014 to and it’s been paying off. I have been doing fairly well exercising and losing weight over the past three months. I have actually lost 10lbs, something I had been talking about since I gained them but what made that any different than the 2nd cookbook I have been saying I was going to make for 3 years?

I won’t be telling you how I formed the bad habit of not creating my cookbook. If you’ve ever shelved a project you probably know exactly how to bad habits forms, so we’ll look what I was doing right in regards to losing weight:

  • I already had all the tools I needed to do it
  • I had a partner in crime who kept me accountable
  • I was at a point where I was unhappy enough to take action
  • I forgave myself when I missed a day and simply tried again the next day
  • I limited bad talking/negative thoughts and tried to focus on my progress
  • When I couldn’t see any results, I practiced patience
  • I focused on diet and doing 30 minutes of exercise a day – limited actions

The last bullet point was likely the most important for me. There are hundreds of things I could have added to my workout routine but I kept it simple with just weights and jogging and I won’t be changing or adding to my routine until I plateau when I still want to lose. There is so much information and dozens of ways to go everything that picking a simple plan and sticking to it to the exclusion of everything else might have been the key. Looking at this list I can tell you if I’d done the same for each of my goals in turn I might have been able to accomplish them all. If I could pick one simple starting point and not worry about if it were the only way, the best way, the most perfect way, I could at least start working towards my goals.

In contrast, especially with my writing I would just start working on them whenever I wanted. Naturally I would get frustrated with how long it’d been since I’d done it and then bad mouth myself so much that I’d stop myself before I could even think of forming a habit. Accomplishing all of my goals would be great but if I want to do this right and forms habits instead of just crossing things off a checklist I’ll have to do it in line with the above method.

So here is my current goal:

Write a 500 word post every Monday in April, June, and July

I will do this by writing every single day a little or a lot, brainstorming, and making drafts and we’ll see how it goes. Forming habits is one of the hardest things to do because it challenges the hedonic treadmill that humans are so good at falling in to but it seems like such an easy thing to accomplish that it’s hard to imagining failing at it (though I technically had failed before).

If anyone is out there, what are your stumbling blocks for goal formation? How can you help yourself get past them?

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