“No habit has any real hold on you other than the hold you have on it.” — Gardner Hunting
Are you someone who forms habits easily, for better or for worse? I am. It only takes me repeating a behavior a few times before I do it by default. So much for 30 days or 21 days or 66 days or whatever the current research yields on the number of days to build a habit. I have an ingrained tendency to form habits and do so much faster.
This characteristic is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, this trait has helped me to teach myself things I wanted to learn rapidly in the past. It has helped me grow certain skills quickly. It has at times propelled me forward into territories that would have taken me longer to break into had my ability to form habits not been so strong.
On the other hand, this indiscriminate habit-forming ability has led me down some paths of destruction and caused me to fall into ruts. Some ruts become so well-worn I wonder if my bad habits have control of me. With great power for good comes great power for destruction as well.
Imagine what life could be like if this powerful ability never swung like a pendulum to the dark side. Bad habits never form. Creative, productive habits propel you forward, unhindered by heavy habits yanking at your leg as you climb toward your goals.
Impossible? Scott Young of 99u says Nay.
“My obsession came from a simple idea: with the right conditioning, you could automatically do what you normally need willpower for…with habits, you don’t need willpower, [good behaviors] just happen.”
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to fight yourself to get things done, or to not engage in negative habits? Hone your habits to the point of auto-pilot and that’s what you get. It’s kind of like passive income – reap the benefits with little effort.
But how do you get to that point of automation? Young describes the
tortuous first steps of forming or breaking a habit the “conditioning period”.
“A good way to think of the conditioning period is like a rocket entering orbit. It takes fuel to escape gravity, but if you use the right trajectory, you can enter into an orbit, which prevents you from falling back to earth. The goal with creating a habit is to reach orbit (habit) before you run out of fuel (willpower).” – Scott Young
Young lists excellent strategies for building habits if you can keep your willpower tank from going dry. So how do you do that?
First, know that it’s never, ever too late to change. Or too early. No matter how old you are, no matter how long you’ve been engaging in a habit or not engaging in a habit, you can change it.
Second, recognize that tomorrow is another day. No matter how many times you’ve failed in the past to kill a habit or build the one you want, you can still do it. Forget the past. Don’t let it affect your ability to believe in yourself today.
Third, find a buddy to provide encouragement, accountability and companionship. Make a habit of communicating with your buddy every day, even if just to check in and report your progress that day. Feeling not so alone when you’re running on fumes can make all the difference between giving up and giving it one more day.
Lastly, don’t wait! Take action now. What do you have to lose?