What are your habits? What actions have you practiced so much that they are now a regular, perhaps even a mindless, part of life?
Some habits are deliberate; we’ve consciously initiated them. For example, perhaps you practice the beneficial habit of exercising every day. Previously, I have suggested writing three new things that we’re grateful for every day and found that to be a surprisingly useful new habit.
Habits can also be a little less beneficial. Maybe you have the habit of a cigarette after a meal or a big bowl of ice cream whenever you watch TV. Even if you don’t want that habit, it can be so engrained that it could feel as if you have no control over it.
And some habits are neither beneficial nor detrimental. Perhaps you always put your socks in the drawer in exactly the same way, or you always get your groceries on Saturday morning. Those habits can help keep life running smoothly without having to think about them. You always know where to find your socks, and you don’t have to think about when to shop.
A few decades ago, Stephen Covey wrote, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” The habits that Dr. Covey promotes are principles for effective living.
For example, “Put first things first” is a principle to consider as you choose how to spend your time. Or, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is a very effective communication mindset, especially in situations of misunderstanding or conflict.
Covey’s work is a helpful guide if you are struggling with trying to figure out your priorities and want to be more effective in your life. But it requires a considerable level of introspection and self-examination. And frankly, not everyone is keen on that.
A simpler question about habits, attributed to James Clear, asks, “Does this behaviour help me become the type of person I wish to be?”
This self-evaluation question is very similar to Choice Theory questions about choosing our behaviour in relationships—“Is what I am doing bringing me closer to the people who are important to me? Or is it driving me further away?”
Each of those questions presents an opportunity for us to pause and think before we act. Will this habit—this repeated behaviour—take me in the direction that I want to go?
James Clear wrote “Atomic Habits,” and says it’s important to make good choices about which habits to practice. Some habits lead you toward great results. Others, not so much.
Some of Clear’s habit suggestions are pretty straightforward, such as, get 8 hours of sleep every day. Read a few pages every day. Leave your phone in another room while you work. Drink more water and less of everything else.
We already know the value of those types of habits. We know they have positive effects, and we know that we can do them. Of course, knowing we can do something is different than actually doing it.
I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who has delayed a change, waiting until I have more time, when things calm down, etc.
However, doing is the critical part, isn’t it?
Clear offers suggestions for changing behaviour. Very briefly, he suggests making your new behaviour choice obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. For example, say you choose to drink more water. Make it obvious (put a reminder where you’ll see it), attractive (use a glass that you love), easy (have water right there in front of you) and satisfying (keep a record of how much water you drank.)
Clear suggests that our habits create our identity. First, decide who you want to be. Then become that person through your choices of habits.
Do you consciously develop habits for your life?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom