The Road to Making and Keeping Positive Habits

I sometimes feel like I am the world’s biggest hypocrite. I speak about creating daily routines and reverse engineering our goals to create daily tasks to work towards, and yet, I don’t always practice what I preach. For example, content is key to marketing, and I advise clients to write, share or engage with value added content everyday to help build their personal visibility yet, the last time I wrote a blog before last was in 2016! Thus, this blog is set out to outline why habits are important, how we should approach creating habits, and what has worked for me in my mission to create and continue positive habits.  

Doing something everyday, or habitually, helps us dedicate less energy, time, and will power to completing it. Consequently, this helps increase time and energy for everything else we face. Moreover, positive habits increase overall productivity and energy levels. Thus, if you are like me and often heard saying “there is just not enough time in a day”, then positive habits are a worthwhile pursuit. 

It is a sad reality to accept that we all know what we should do everyday, for a better body, better relationships, better work or spiritual well-being, yet most, if not all of us don’t do what’s required on a regular basis. In trying to create positive habits for myself, I’ve come to appreciate that before we plan what we should be doing, we need to reflect internally to better know and/or accept ourselves. Understanding what motivates us, discourages us, and we are at greatest output during the day can help us plan habits we are more likely to keep.

I came to learn this principle of habit setting from, Gretchin Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better than Before, where in the latter book she studied human psychology in relation to setting habits. What she discovered is that there are 4 types of people in how they respond to expectations, both set by ourselves and others. While reading the book and reflecting, I easily identified myself as a ‘questioner’, and this helped me tremendously reevaluate how I planned my own habits. For years I tried every few months to wake earlier and run in the morning, and hated myself when I couldn’t keep it up, turns out I was lying to myself to think I am a morning person. Thus, though this part of habit setting can be the toughest, as we have to face ourselves and be honest, it in turn, will be the most instrumental to the success of keeping a habit going. 

At a further rudimentary level, everyone is moved to action based on two primary factors - fear and success. Personally, success moves me greater than fear, but this has helped me realize planning future goals, can help motivate me in my daily tasks towards them. In creating positive habits that help align with my future goals, I have began trying to implement new habits. Together, the following three practices have helped me along the way. 

Firstly, write it down. We are 80%+ more likely to complete a task if it’s written down. Every morning I have a book and I write out in bullet form what I want to accomplish for the day. Following, I take that list and take the top 3 and write them out on my whiteboard. I read recently that narrowing your task list to 3 or less has three positive effects: it increases the likelihood of completion as it's harder to rationalize lack of completion, it mentally affirms your priorities and increases your productivity as you feel confident when completed. The third crucial step for me is to block the time needed for each task in my calendar. I have used a calendar for work for years, however, I have started to put EVERYTHING in there. This helped not only with reminders, but psychologically it was a mental shift that helped me understand that my mind, body and soul are as important and deserves dedicated time each day as well. 

Another factor to consider when breaking or making a new habits are what Psychologist call  ‘anchors’.  Essentially, it means detaching or attaching a habit to another one. This is a great place to start, because if you already have habits in place, adding to them is easier that changing a routine completely. For example, adding flossing each morning to your teeth brushing habit. Twelve years ago, I started saying what I am grateful for before eating, as to help remind me many times a day I have reason to give thanks and now this practice is second nature. 

In my journey to break and make habits, I can honestly say, it hasn’t been easy. However, I have come to understand that we make and break habits all the time, without even knowing it. So rest assured it is possible and with the right intent a very beneficial endeavour.