I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men. And, alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a machine. Plus, the intelligence of man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am Habit.
– Author Unknown
We all have habits, even if we’re not aware of them. Your habit might be that you leave your socks in the crevices of the couch after work, or that you drink your cream with a little coffee, or that you smoke a pack a day (but you’re trying to quit.) Habits usually sneak up on us, and one day we realize we’re trapped in a routine doing things we don’t even like.
They say (whoever “they” is) that it takes 21-30 days to build or break a habit. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve got to know what you want, and want it really badly. While we aren’t usually intentional about developing “bad” or “nasty” habits, building “good” habits takes a lot of work.
We don’t have to think too hard about building habits like cracking our knuckles or leaving our towel on the ground, but how many times do we say phrases like: “I’m going to give up cream in my coffee,” “I’m going to start working out three times a week,” “I’m going to read more books,” etc? These goals are not yet habits; they’re just wishes until we follow through.
So many of us struggles with things like good note-taking, sticking to a budget, eating a balanced diet, and so on. It’s hard at first; it’s not only not much fun but sometimes it actually sucks. It’s easy to give up, and difficult to keep going. The rewards for sticking to it are vast, but in the moments of hardship we forget the end goal and often just say, “forget it.”
If there is something that you really want in your life (such as a good exercise regimen, more fruits and veggies, less sugar, more time for meditation or relaxation, or even something like less cussing,) you’re going to have to work at it day after day, hour after hour, until it becomes natural and normal. This could take 21 days, or two months, or 10 minutes. You’ve got to set yourself up for success though, with good preparation and planning. Think about the pitfalls and temptations that are likely to get in your way.
Some tips for sticking with it: tell everyone about your plans. The more people who know what you’re trying to do, but more they can support you and keep you accountable. On that note, also find a good friend or two who will do it with you, or at least keep checking on you every day while you’re getting used to your new habit. Social media is a great way to keep track of your success and get help and motivation from your friends. Keeping track visually helps, too. I keep track on my monthly calendar of all the days I work out – that way I can see at a glance how many days I’ve been successful, and how many days I missed. You can also reward yourself for each time you succeed with your habit, thereby building immediate results into the process even from the beginning. Make tally marks or something and when you hit a reasonable number (5 or 10 maybe) you can reward yourself with a rest day, a healthy snack, or shorter study session, a nap, etc.
Another important tip for making a new habit part of your life (or getting an old one to leave you alone for good:) Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t start off on day one and immediately freak out about the next 20 days. Don’t even focus on the next 24 hours. Do one moment at a time. Every moment you’re successful gives you strength for the next, and so on. Breathe. Smile. You can do this.
For more on why building new habits (or breaking old ones) can be so hard: check out these sites: