After reading so many motivational blogs about waking up at 5 AM, I had to try it once.
My eccentric character didn’t allow me to let go of this. So, I tried.
On the night of 13th March 2017, I set my alarm for 4 AM and turned off my room’s light at 10 PM. Guess what?
On 14th March 2017, I woke up at 4 AM sharp.
There wasn’t anything going well with me in that phase, so I decided why not take charge of my life?
I woke up and started watching a movie. What a productive activity!
The focus for the first day was to wake up at 4 AM. That’s it. I knew I’m not going to be a habit-master in just one day.
I spent that day yawning and searching for some more good habits that I can try out before sunrise.
So, the next day, after waking up at 4 AM again, I had a cup of green tea and spent an hour reading a good book. Once the sun was up, I went out for a morning walk.
That’s how I started developing new and productive habits, and a life-long chase of my self-care journey.
Understanding the science behind habits
First of all, what’s a habit?
A habit is an action that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought. The power of habit lies in the second part of the definition- the bit about no required effort or thought.
You unlock the door of a room, and the first thing you do is to turn on the light. It’s a habit.
You brush your teeth every morning, that’s a habit.
How long does it take to make a new habit?
A lot of studies confirm that it takes 21-days to completely develop a new habit, while other studies state that it takes 66 days.
The truth is, it depends from person to person and is subjected to the new habits you are trying to develop.
The key is to start today and repeat tomorrow.
As simple as that.
Don’t chase motivation. Make habits.
Motivation is a temporary boost in your willpower.
Do you want to start reading books? Pick up a book and read 1 page right now.
Do you want to lose weight? Get ready and go out for a brisk walk.
Do you want to save more money? Note and track down all the money you spent today.
Many People think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.
Creating new habits with goals in mind
What do you want to do? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to become?
Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement.
(~James Clear, Atomic Habits)
There are two types of people: those who can add any new habits easily, and those who can eliminate the old bad habits easily.
Like, some people may find it easy to add healthy food articles in their diet, and some people can find it easier to stop eating junk.
Let’s say you want to be a better writer or a better singer or maybe you want to get six pack abs. Or maybe you want to read more books.
Your habits would be to write regularly, practice singing regularly, and hitting the gym and eating healthy regularly.
Don’t target results, target processes.
Getting six-pack ab is a result oriented approach. Working out every day is a process.
Getting 1 Million followers on your social media profiles is a result oriented approach. Creating quality content every day is a process.
Most of the times, results are not in our hands. Showing up to work and doing our end of the task is in our hands.
Tracking your habits
If you can’t track your progress, it’s better not to do it all.
How are you going to keep a track of your habit?
Commit to a number.
If you want to develop a habit of writing, make a commitment that you’ll write X amount of words every day or every week.
That being said, you have to start small and develop mini-habits.
You can’t, (in fact, you can, but you shouldn’t) commit to an unrealistic goal on day one.
Your commitment should too small to say no to.
We don’t notice small changes because their immediate impact is negligible.
If you are fat today, and you run for 1 hour… you’d still be fat tomorrow.
But if you repeat running daily for half an hour, over a period of time, you’ll see visible changes in your body.
Repeating the same activity over a period of time brings tremendous changes.
Rather than starting with reading 1 book a day, start with the commitment to read at least one page a day.
Rather than starting with finishing one unit of your course book, start with studying one topic a day.
Don’t skip twice.
Skipping twice means you have to start with the habit all over.
Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all-time and has co-created one of the best sitcoms “Seinfeld”.
His extraordinary success is effectively a result of his tremendous consistency in producing great content year after year.
He writes a joke every day. Every single day.
He has a calendar set up on his wall. After writing his joke of the day, he marks a cross in his calendar. A big cross on the date. This way after a couple of days, the calendar starts showing a chain of marked cross signs. And all Jerry Seinfeld has to do is not to break the chain.
Start today. Repeat tomorrow.
Try and try, and just don’t break the chain.
Allow yourself to create shitty first drafts.
Remember when you see a baby who has just started speaking?
Bla bla ,,, ula lo,,, maa paaa, mapapababa…
None of the kid’s words makes sense. But do the parents interrupt the kid and discourage him? Nope. They allow him to speak shit at first.
Eventually, that kid grows to speak and write and use perfect language.
Allow yourself to fail and create junk, at first.
If you are going to the gym for the first time, chances are you’re going to cry with pains in a day or two. It’s alright.
“People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts… For me and most other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. If fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”
—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.
Be Accountable for your new habit
My resolution for this year is to write at least 1 blog post every week. The moment I skip my habit, I am going to punish myself by donating 1000 Rs to an NGO.
You need to be accountable for your habit too.
Sign a cheque of 1000 Rs in the name of a donation. And give it to your friend. Tell him that you’ll send him a gym selfie every day. The day you don’t send me a selfie from the gym, implying you missed your gym, ask him to deposit that cheque.
Plan for Variance.
Let’s say you have a habit of going to the gym daily. But you can’t go to the gym while travelling.
So, you need to plan for a variance.
For example, you can plan on doing push-ups or crunches during the day.
Create Identity-based habits.
Creating Identity-based habits is the recipe for sustained success.
Instead of aiming to do something, try and ‘be’ something.
If you want to develop the habit of writing, be a person who writes 100 words every day.
If you want to develop a habit of networking, be a person who keeps in touch with people, who calls someone every day.
At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it (~The War of Art)
You may also like to read:-
Bear in mind that the links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I’ll totally blow on buying and reading more books.
Best Resources to read more about habits:
- Superhuman by Habit (Buy here | Read Summary here)
- Atomic Habits (Buy Here | James Clear Habit blog)
- The Power of Habit (Buy Here)