I’ve been working on building positive habits now far more proactively than ever before. In the past, you could say that my desire to form certain habits was similar to the efforts of most people, in that there was desire but it was certainly not matched by enough follow through.
I used to think that one could stay still and that would be neutral ground. I now believe that there is no such thing as staying still. Whether you choose to act , react or simply do nothing, something is happening. If it’s not you, then it’s happening around you. And it is this that means that you are either moving forward or moving backward.
When it comes to building habits, you’re either moving toward reward or running from pain. In my case, I am running from pain. The pain of seeing the yawning gap between the person I want to be and the person I see myself as.
I’ve taken this problem apart and put it together on so many occasions. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t and most times, the solutions I crafted were shortlived. No matter what the intent, the pain or the drive, things always fell through. And I was left to wonder. If the desire is there, why do the efforts simply not match up? Where was this going wrong? Slowly, things began to dawn on me.
Firstly, solutions do not present themselves to you with neat packaging or some sort of sign screaming what it is. Consequence : you can’t always identify it as such when you see it.
Secondly, solutions do not always surface immediately. Time needs to be on your side and add a dollop of patience. And distance too.
So, here’s the thing. If the solution is not easily recognisable and if it doesn’t present itself in a timely fashion, what exactly do you do? Time, desire and patience. That’s the combo you need. If you are hellbent on solving something, if you desire something so much that nothing gets in your way, you will get it eventually.
And so the penny finally dropped.
I was looking at the myriad number of changes I needed to make. There weren’t always unifying factors between these different problems. When I decided to tackle each challenge individually, I didn’t have much success.And then, l realised that perhaps, the solution was not in solving each challenge individually.
I needed to find a system instead. An approach that, once devised, would tackle each challenge at its roots. In other words, I didn’t want to deal with symptoms; I was interested in the root cause. And it was here that I realised the true value of building habits.
If I focused not on solving one challenge but instead, developed a habit that addressed that challenge (and perhaps many others, in the process), I would not only solve the current challenge but I would be sure to resolve any future challenges simply by developing an approach, rather than creating a one-off solution.
Herein lies the beauty of habits. They start out hard and then get easy with time and practice.
And so, down the road of habit building I went. I started with a public statement that I would work on writing more regularly. It was a hard ask early in the day. I failed often but never saw the point in giving up. Once you decide on a goal – and a concrete one at that – and you match that with a public announcement, something switches over in your head. It is as if it’s cemented a place for itself within you.
It took a few months to get to the point where I was writing regularly and I was feeling pretty happy to see these results finally. For starters, I thought that things were moving pretty well. Then, at the point that I believed I was getting this well under way, I hit a major snag. I had a baby. It’s been two months now and it’s wonderful to have this new addition to my family. But I have to say, I did wonder if the long hard slog to build the habit would be washed away very shortly. It has not.
I have not written as often in the last few weeks. I’ve lost precious time I once had at my disposal. I’ve had to seriously tweak my work commitments and schedule a greal deal to make way for this new change. But building the writing habit – it’s firmly there. I can say the habit has been formed and I just need to keep at it to strengthen it further.
So, I am now considering working more thoroughly on the second habit I’d like to focus on – a greater degree of mindfulness.
Perhaps I am taking on more than I can chew at this juncture. I have yet to fully build on the one habit, hit a snag and yet I feel compelled to establish another new habit. But again, its the battle between running from pain or moving towards pleasure.
The quest for a greater degree of mindfulness is driven by the disparity between how I see myself in my mind’s eye and who I am in reality. Of late, I notice that the me I see is not always the me I present to the outside world. And that’s scary on many levels. Which I will leave for another post.
What do you think?