We all have habits, some of which are good and some we wish we could change. Whether we like it or not, we are all creatures of our habits, so it just makes sense that we should be trying to create more good ones and remove bad ones. Habits like going to bed early are good. Habits like hitting the snooze button three times in the morning are not. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear espouses that "Every action we take is a vote for the person we wish to become". So, in order to become "that" person, it is more important to decide the person that we want to become, and then start adopting habits that move us towards becoming that type of person.
What Are Right Habits?
Take for example, if we work in sales and want to be a better more disciplined salesperson, we might first determine what types of habits a disciplined salesperson might possess and start adopting those habits that reflect the type of salesperson we wish to become. A more disciplined salesperson may go in 15-30 minutes earlier in the morning so that they are fully prepared by the start of the business day. They might take that time to plan their day rather than letting the day take whatever path it chooses. They may also bring their lunch to work so they don't have to spend time leaving, eating, and coming back to the office which can free up more time to do something productive. What if we want to be in better shape? We may first need to see ourselves as a person who has the habit of exercising regularly. A person who eats good foods, gets plenty of sleep, etc. A person who is in good shape may get up early and go to the gym at least three to five times a week. (If you are not a morning person, do it on the way home from work). Even if it is to just go and walk on the treadmill for 15-20 minutes, by going regularly, (by habit), you are becoming a person who is getting into shape and prioritizing their health. Adopting these habits changes the perception of how we see ourselves and moves us in the direction of the person we are now becoming.
Small Habits Equal Big Changes
According to James, the mistake most people make is setting some very large goal, like New Years Resolutions. We have an attitude that we are going to be "Gung Ho" but then fail to make it past the end of the week, let alone evoke any lasting change. James recommends small incremental changes in habits over time. Remember, life is not a destination, it is a daily journey. As we continue to make these small incremental changes and are successful in cultivating new, good habits, these will compound into other good habits and although we might not see an immediate change in ourselves, we will look back at the end of a year and be amazed at how far we have come. As good habits begin to compound, you begin to see real and lasting change, bit by bit.
Good Habits Create More Freedom
Adopting good habits is also very freeing in that the reason something becomes a habit, is that we have done it so many times, we now no longer have to think about it. Take driving for instance. Our mind quite often wanders from problems, to solutions, to introspection, etc. all in the span of driving to or from work without us having to consciously focus on the mechanics of "driving". It has become automatic. It has become a habit. The more good habits we adopt, the more of our daily life activities we can do without even having to think about it. They become automatic. And when this happens, it frees us from having to focus on what has now become routine and allows us to enjoy thinking about the things in our lives that are truly important. To be able to imagine, dream, create, etc. simply because we have adopted good habits which have compounded over time.
So, even though by now the New Years resolutions may have faded into distant memory, starting everyday, you can take action towards becoming the person you want to become. It is never too early, and it is never too late. We become our daily habits, so start today and everyday by becoming a person of "good" habits and you will truly change your life!