Habitually Bitchin’; How Habits Can Change Your Life

habit logo

Ever wanted to try to find the time for something, but every day you’re forced to concede that ‘it’ll have to wait’? It could be anything; self-improvement, language learning, reading, exercising, or even gardening. Finding the time to shoe-horn in a new activity to an already busy day can sometimes be frustrating. But it’s not impossible. It’s about turning actions into habits.

The FreeDictionary.com states that a habit is “a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition”. Turning actions into habits removes the biggest restriction on productivity – procrastination – from having a say. You literally just move from action to action in a state of habitual bliss, never stopping to consider whether you want or need something. It merely happens.

I’m not here to talk about the tedious bad habits we all hide away in the darkness of our homes; the nose pickers, the toe-nail biters, the toilet-seat-leaver-uppers. I am instead talking about the benefit of habitual action.

Not the ones that'll kill you...

Not the ones that’ll kill you…

It’s Easy!

Think about how we do the stuff we do now. Do you actively make a choice to do everything that you do? Hopefully not. Most daily actions are done on autopilot. You think to yourself ‘brush your teeth’ and then BAM! there’s a toothbrush in your hand and your scrubbing away at your gnashers. It’s a habit you’ve been doing twice a day for practically your whole life. You don’t need to think about it any more. You just do it.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could hack your mind to think like this about other things that benefit you? You wake up, put a pot of coffee on, and sit down to do the days writing. Without any distractions of decisions needing to be made, you just know that the first three things you do every day are wake up, put on coffee, and sit down to write.

Not a writer? You can substitute any other action in there; practice the sitar, juggle, play chess, lion tame, do karate, morris dance… you decide. The difference is, by not thinking but merely doing, you remove the chance to change your mind or get distracted, and this helps you build a consistent platform of action on which to build upon. If it’s done every morning, it puts your habitual action into your ‘done tray’ before anything else has a chance to sap your energy or will power.

“Boom!”

The Logistics

There are various ways to go about this, but my favourite so far comes from JamesClear.com. He’s a behavioural psychologist who writes about ways to adapt your daily life to fit your long term goals.

He puts the process into five easy steps:

  1. Start with a small habit – Write 100 words a day.
  2. Increase the habit in very small way – Add ten words a day every week
  3. As you build up, break habits into chunks – Write half the words before coffee, half after
  4. When you slip, get back on track quickly – Never miss two days in a row
  5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you sustain – Don’t expect too much of yourself

This format can be tweaked for nearly any activity. It’s all about keep the pace at a sustainable level, suited to your timetable and your level of progress.

For more information, the original blog post can be read here on JamesClear.com

The trick seems to be keeping the habit going as long as possible. The best advice I can give is make sure you commit to thirty days, and adjust your expectations on how this works out. If you can get through thirty days, it will be much closer to being a part of your routine, and you’ll have shown yourself a small landmark of what you can achieve.

It's nice to measure your achievements

Yours after 30 days (figuratively)

Stuck For Ideas?

So, what do you think might be a good habit to have? For some, merely taking thirty minutes every day to be mindful and centre themselves with some positive thought would be enough. Others feel they would benefit from regular exercise, or the posture enhancing wonderment of a morning’s yoga.

Some ideas:

  • Hobbies; sewing, carpentry, painting, practising an instrument
  • Keeping a journal
  • Reading
  • Writing Letters to Friends
  • Working Out
  • Meditation
  • Language Study
  • Research on Interests

If there is something you feel would improve your life, or a skill you want to make time to get better at, then habitual practice should be a must.

“Hey mum, dad. I’m a better person now. I have habits! No… good ones”

I started trying to form a habit of reading every day, and from that I pushed into regular practice with Chinese, regular exercise, regular writing and taking the time to keep a journal. A year ago, I didn’t do any of these things, and yet now my life is richer for all of them. There is far less wasted time in my day, and as I expect to have most of these done before lunch, it leaves me the chance to enjoy the rest of my day without the pressure or worry in the back of my mind that I still had things I need to do.

It’s freeing and empowering, and it costs nothing to do.

What will be your new habit?

Anyone?

Anyone?

For other ideas, this great post here from Scott H Young at LifeHack.Org has tons of ideas on tricks to make habits stick.

Special thanks to Feelart, gameanna, olovedog, scottchan and stockimages @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

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Why You Should Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You

scary title

Fear gets a bad rep these days. Its mere mention conjures up images of Disney Villains, monsters and worst case scenarios. Some of us may have fears so strong that they have become phobias.

Fear can take control. This can be the biggest problem of all. In moments when you would personally rather act differently, fear grabs the wheel and puts the car in turbo mode, making you jumpy, anxious and edgy purely on instinct, robbing you of the ability to control yourself and maintain a front. Silly fear. Often this can be in moments where it is totally unnecessary, and actually self-deprecating to do so.

Fear can lose you face. As anyone who has run screaming from a wasp screaming can tell you, fear has the potentially to rob you of any suave or calm exterior you’ve managed to craft over the years, and in a moment have you socially branded as a sissy, wuss or coward. Not, what you might call, desirable nicknames.

Fear stunts us. That’s right, it truly does. How many times have you turned away from a new experience because it fell outside of your comfort zone? I spent the best part of my early twenties saying ‘yes’ to everything that I possibly could, and now have legion memories to glance back over and be proud of. Regret what you didn’t do, not what you did.

Fear will make your rue the fact you didn’t overcome it. Every opportunity missed or chance passed up in the name of fear is another potential memory or step of progress that you have missed.

Fear has a purpose. I’m not here to knock fear. It can be a great thing. There is a good reason that the instinct to fear kicks in when we see a giant spider on the wall or hear an explosion close by. This is the healthy mind’s way of giving us the impetus we need to save ourselves; the body’s way of reacting to potentially dangerous situations. This is the rational side.

Fear is not always rational. Of course, the main reason for the bad rep of fear is the other side of the coin. As the world we live in becomes gradually safer, we hang on to these fears and allow them to embed themselves within us. We jump at thunder, hunt sharks to make the seas ‘safer’ without realising they are much less dangerous than cars, and obsess over plane crashes when we are more likely to die falling out of bed.

Pictured; Danger

Murderer

What can you do?

Ok, so fear is scary, right? Only if you let it.

Remind yourself that fears are often irrational.

Take control in the moments when it feels like fear is grabbing the wheel. Ask yourself what you can do to fight it.

Think again about what fear actually is. It’s a survival response, so it is trying to help you. Politely thank it, but then remind the fear it is not necessary today.

Assess the risk consciously to decide for yourself whether the fear is grounded. After all, taking ownership in this way can be a really self-empowering way of regaining a control on your fear, and on your choices in life.

Be bold and do things that are brave. Actions can define mentality, and any actions can become habits with enough practice. Change your nature with carefully considered activities.

“carefully considered”

Why is this good for me?

Fortune favours the brave is one example, but truly only those willing to take the risks to get it deserve the highest forms of success. Whether that is measured in health, wealth, happiness or love, often the greatest prizes will be gained only by those brave enough to take a chance to get them.

It breeds confidence. Not that we are claiming you will be an oozing mass of arrogance, but your confidence will gently increase as you keep challenging yourself to do things that scare you, and seeing that you are actually fine.

It will open doors that previously would have been locked and bolted to you.

It snowballs activity in the best way possible. Once you have said yes enough times, you will see a snowball effect as direct, decisive action leads to further actions and eventually you are in a perpetual state of new experiences and a more rounded, enriching life.

It’s tried and tested by some of the greatest people throughout history. Teddy Roosevelt is one such man who never let fear shirk him from his ambition. “The most effective way to do it, is to do it,” was once famously uttered by Amelia Earhart. You will be amongst great company, so go ahead and do it!

Your mental health is so important. Many sufferers of depression, riddled with confidence and identity issues after facing personal breakdowns will use facing little fears, one day at a time, to get themselves back on the road to recovery. Heed the advice, and keep yourself mentally strong by proving to yourself on a daily basis that you are strong enough to do anything.

It promotes flexibility by forcing you to adapt to new experiences. Just like training a muscle repeatedly—the same way makes it very good at doing that one task but poor at reacting to new movements—new experiences force us to learn how to fit into a new moment/environment/scenario and test our ability to survive.

satit_srihin

Where do I start?

It’s as simple as this; if it scares you (in any way) then do it.

  • Scared of the gym because you are scared you’ll be ridiculed? Good, go do it.
  • Scared of spicy food so you’ve never tried it? Excellent, get cooking!
  • You’ve never tried skydiving because you’re scared of heights? Fantastic, get booking that now!

There are a ton of different ways to challenge yourself, from public speaking to Taekwondo, and saying hello to a stranger to bunjee jumping. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture! You can live the rest of your life performing simple daily tasks that you never tried before due to fear of societal rejection or embarrassment. Why not sing on the subway? What is stopping you taking a cold shower? Have you finally read that 1,100 page behemoth by Dostoevsky?

Don’t let fear define who you are. You are you, and you only. There is nobody else who can take that away from you. Grab life by the whiskers and take a ride.

You’ll thank yourself for it!

Where will it take you?

Where will it take you?

Special thanks to Nerd Fitness for their article ‘Why you need to do s**t that scares you‘ and to The Art of Manliness for their post ‘How to be a better man… Conquer a fear‘ for inspiring this blog post.

Special thanks to Kiatying-Angsulee, phaendin, satit-srihin and Teerapun @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015