We operate from our habits more than fifty percent of the time. Oftentimes each day I realize that I don’t consciously remember completing a task, but I was still able to get it done because …
We operate from our habits more than fifty percent of the time. Oftentimes each day I realize that I don’t consciously remember completing a task, but I was still able to get it done because I’ve created a habit out of it. There are also many times a day I catch myself participating in habits that are not so great, such as scrolling through my phone or picking at my skin. The same concept applies here, even though I don’t love the result of these habits.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the idea of habit stacking, which is performing a new habit before or after one you already do every day. This method helps us create habits that stick because we have strong neural pathways in our brains, and it’s easier to attach a new habit to a strong pathway than it is to create a new one.
An example of a habit stack could look like this: before I have my first sip of coffee, I will drink eight ounces of water. If you’re a coffee drinker, you probably have a routine around your coffee that is automatic. This is the perfect place to stack a new habit because you know you’re going to have coffee every day. I personally created a habit of remembering to take my vitamins by placing them in the same cabinet as my protein bars. Each morning before I go to the gym, I open the cabinet, get my protein bar, and take my vitamins.
Although creating habits that benefit us is crucial to living a healthy life, we cannot expect the mere act of creating them to solve all of our problems, nor can we expect a new habit we implement today to work forever.
What if I decided to stop going to the gym in the morning and went in the afternoon instead? My vitamin habit would no longer work and I would have to find a new way to remember to take them each morning.
As we change and move through different seasons of our lives, our habits will need to change too. This is why we must master not only the creation of new habits but also the reflection and evolution of them. In order to move smoothly from one habit to another, we must actively reflect on how they are working right now, how they make us feel, if they are making our lives easier or more stressful, and how we can tweak and evolve them into a habit that moves us closer to our current goals.
I believe our habits are most beneficial to us when we understand that those we implement right now will help us take the next step toward our ultimate goal, and may not get us all the way to the finish line. If we aim to create habits today that will work forever, we will repeatedly come face to face with frustration and disappointment. Our habits should be able to evolve and change as we change. We will never find the perfect answer and we must always be willing to adapt.
Once we can accept that our habits are not permanent and dive fully into them as if they were, then we will see the results we are looking for.
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