Have you ever tried to build a habit from scratch?
It's tough. I guess authors who write about forming habits are successful for a reason. Obstacles and pitfalls make giving up on our initiative a piece of cake.
Being an entrepreneur and working from home forced me to improve at building habits. Either to force myself out of the flat from time to time, or just to work when motivation eludes me.
I wasn't good at keeping up with my goal-requiring habits right from the start. I did a lot of reading about this very topic and took the time to analyse what works for me and what hasn't really helped.
The latter is a very important step that is often ignored by people trying to form habits.
From my experience, we're all different when it comes to habits. We don't all have the same sources of motivation to achieve what we decided to do. Some people need social pressure, while others are driven by their own objectives.
In this essay, I want to share two points to consider on your quest on forming habits.
Define a clear, reasonable goal
In my writing I mention quite often my passion for running and this will make one more post where I use it as an example.
When people decide to start running, they almost always have a goal in mind. They either want to lose weight, run a specific race, or be more healthy.
They make a commitment to themselves. Something that goes like: "I will run 5 kilometres every other day".
And most of the time, when I talk to them a few weeks later, they've dropped the ball.
Their explanation of why often obeys the following pattern.
It started by missing a few days of practice because they were busy at work or because they didn't manage to run 5 kilometres on their first sessions. And once they felt like they failed in honouring their commitment, they simply stopped.
The goal had became evidence of their failure instead of being an element of motivation.
The same happened to me with writing when I first decided to launch EntrepreneurLoop. I thought I would write 700 words every day and would choose my best essay once a week to publish.
I picked up this target of 700 words a bit randomly. I had read about these great writers who wrote every day and made a similar commitment.
But the truth is, this was too big of a goal for the padawan writer I am.
I ended up frustrated, not being able to cope with this impressive goal of mine. And every attempt at writing just felt painfully difficult.
Lesson learned. From now on, when I try to build a new habit, I make the goal specific, clear and reasonable.
From my point of view, you should avoid goals such as "being more healthy" or, more specifically, "losing 10 kilos". They make the process of tracking progress difficult, not to say impossible, and those aren't clear and directly connected to the habit.
Same applies to commitments like "I'll run 5 kilometres every other day". Avoid them.
If you're not sure you'll be able to run 5 kilometres from day one, give yourself a smaller, more attainable goal. And while we're at it, I find that setting a long-term goal works better for me. To be more clear, 400 kilometers the first year leaves more room for success. If you skip a few sessions, you'll still be able to make it for your yearly goal, therefore preventing it from becoming something negative (aka a failure).
Measurable and attainable goals, with room for unexpected events and mistakes, are the best.
Do it every day. With a twist
It can be so hard to force yourself to do something every single day. Even if you love said thing.
After all, when you're on vacation, or during a well-deserved weekend, we'll always be very tempted to skip.
Here is my twist on how to keep on running even during the weekend: I turn my routine upside down. Instead of running in the evening, I go in the morning.
This allows me to practice my habit without having the feeling of experiencing a regular week day.
This could also be achieved by running somewhere else.
If you're writing, maybe you could write something different on the weekend. Say, novels for instance.
If, like me, you're trying to build a habit of writing but never actually know what to write about, maybe I can help. Join the newsletter using the form below and let's discuss your passions, skills, and the audience you want to talk to. I'm sure we will come up with a list of topics you can start to write about TODAY.