Habits are something I think about a lot. One thing I know better than a lot of people is that we as humans have a set amount of willpower. It isn’t unlimited.
Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to get everything we want to get done, done. You may wake up in the morning and create a long list of awesome things you want to do during the day, but end up getting tired after a few of them and ditching the rest for a marathon of The Office. The willpower you used at lunch to avoid eating three cookies is now unavailable to help you get through the workout you promised yourself you’d do after class.
I’ve found that we can get over this willpower limit by forming good habits. The things we do every day that don’t lie on the path of least resistance are done because of forces and influences – both internal and external.
“Achieve success in any area of life by identifying the optimum strategies and repeating them until they become habits.” – Charles J. Givens
Willpower is an internal force; it involves consciously thinking about the things we have to do and use actual brainpower to make ourselves do them.
Habit is another internal force (for the most part), but it’s much more effective because it doesn’t really “run out”. Humans are simply creatures of habit; we tend to do the same stuff today that we did yesterday. Doing so doesn’t require much thought.
“Habits change into character” – Ovid
Now, while habits are easily to follow, their formation can take varying degrees of effort. Habits that do fall on the path of least resistance are easy to form; these habits are usually detrimental – habits like eating easy mac and frozen pizza, doing jack after your homework is finished, and driving everywhere.
More beneficial habits can be much harder to form. Doing so isn’t impossible, and I’m going to lay out some ways to make it easier; however, I’d first like to ask this question…
Have you analyzed your own habits lately?
Do the things you do on a daily basis match up with your goals? (do you even have goals?)
If they don’t, you may want to take some time to think of some habits that do match up with your goals. It’s a pretty simple process: just take a day to consciously think about the things you do, and write them down at the end of said day. Then, decide whether or not each one fits with your current goals. If some of them don’t, it’s time to replace them with newer, better-er habits.
“Good habits are worth being fanatical about” – John Irving
Forming better habits is hard, but you can recruit help from the more reliable external forces. These are forces outside of your brain that influence you to keep your new habits.
Accountability is one of the best external forces – simply telling a friend that you’re forming a new habit and asking them to hold you to it can increase your chances of success greatly.
Another great external force to leverage is the checklist – for some reason, we humans don’t like leaving boxes unchecked. Creating a daily checklist for your new habit can make it much easier to follow.
I recently used a checklist to form a nightly exercise habit consisting of:
- 30 body weight squats
- 30 body weight lunges
- Push-ups until failure
- 50 sit-ups
- Pull-ups until failure (I use a door-frame pull-up bar for this)
This routine is a good supplement to my regular workouts and, as an added bonus, gets me more Fitocracy points 🙂
You can use external forces to form habits of any kind – you just need to be a little creative. Just remember – forming habits takes time. It’s something you have to work at, little by little, until it’s fully formed. Will Smith’s wall-building experience provides a good metaphor:
So, what are you waiting for? Go out and form some good habits!