Create routines to empower your habits.
Routines will supercharge your habits.
I read Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s a great read that I recommend.
I am going to share some insights from the book. Some ideas of my own. Along with new research and theories, I’ve come across.
My goal is to give some routines that empower habits that can create positive change.
Recent studies suggest focusing on routines is vital to forming habits. Scientists have said that actual habits are things such as brushing teeth or tying shoes. These are tasks that can be done unconsciously.
Which would move many items like practicing an instrument out of the habit category. At least until you can do it unconsciously.
Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life had this to say:
“Eyal explained that a habit is a behavior done with little or no thought, while a routine involves a series of behaviors frequently, and intentionally, repeated.”
There’s strong evidence tying intention to the creation of habit-inducing routines. But, first, we have to tackle some things.
Limiting Self Doubt
A significant challenge we often face is those ugly self-limiting beliefs. Usually, I’m in my way more than anyone else.
The chatter in my brain often feels like playing my video game playing days. Playing Splinter Cell on the greatest difficulty. Where you die as soon as the mission starts.
That’s my brain when I am aiming to change a routine or habit. It’s telling me that’s not you. Unfortunately, that’s our cognitive focus, to go after the path of least resistance. It’s not just negative chatter; it’s moreover the brain’s thirst for comfortability.
So how can we fight against those self-limiting beliefs? One thing that stuck out to me from Atomic Habits was its focus on identity. Changing a view of yourself can be vital to overcoming negative chatter.
It’s a different conversation going from, I’m going to try to be healthy too I am a healthy person. It’s a dynamic shift in perception.
Identities Dictate Habits
I have spent most of my life steeped in the belief that I’m not a morning person. You know what, I’m not. It’s been dug deep, and it’s a struggle to wake up.
I know I can change this habit, and I am working on it.
This is where things take shape before we dive into habits. If we aim to make a routine, habit, or reach a goal, we have to connect it with who we are.
You want to exercise more. It’s time to see yourself as a gym rat. You want to lose weight, see yourself as healthy and fit. You want to pray more, look at yourself as a person who prays.
If we align our habits with a new identity, we can connect a habit with a more profound sense of purpose. Our why.
This understanding makes creating new habits more attainable and gives some added firepower.
Mini Habit Ideas to Consider
I put a list of micro habits together, which can be a good starting point.
- 5-minute prayer.
- 5-minute Bible reading.
- 5-minute journaling.
- 5 to 10-minute meditations.
- 5-minute reading.
- Take stairs instead of elevators.
- Before eating, ask yourself what would a healthy person eat.
- Cook meals for the week.
- 5-minute walk. Can start with putting your workout shoes on daily, even when not working out. Remember, we are showing up.
- 3 item grateful list. Can start smaller to master showing up.
- Show gratitude to a loved one daily.
- Wish love on three people.
- Nightly routine to prepare for the next day. Put your clothes out. Less thought, more habit formation.
- Break big tasks into micro-steps. Writing a book starts with outlining goals then moves on to the next steps.
- You wanna start a business, make micro-steps each day. Ask yourself: what makes me uncomfortable? Do those tasks first.
As I spoke of earlier, it’s essential to change your identity to make a habit stick and be part of your life.
After you do that step, other things can be done.
Find an application that will allow you to track your habit progress.
If you are a low-tech type of person, you can focus on making a list and writing down your progress.
I bought a small journal for critical tasks. Which isn’t necessarily for habits but can keep track of patterns.
This minor hack has had a significant impact on habit formation. Often, I would procrastinate specific tasks on my to-do list and push them out. After utilizing a pocket journal for critical tasks, I have lowered procrastination.
I might not complete everything in its entirety, but I make progress.
A big help to making a routine stick is accountability. I benefited from this when I would meet with a friend to work out. It got me up early and provided great motivation.
In Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, Tim spoke about joining a group with the identity you are adopting. Joining a fitness group can be great if trying to get in better shape.
Meeting with a group focused on working out or eating right creates almost an osmosis effect.
The Pleasure Principle
When we reach the point of creating pleasure in our minds from a good habit. We have the potential to change. Likewise, it’s vital to develop pain in our minds from bad habits.
It’s possible to trick our brains into latching on to new habits while letting go of old patterns.
Risks to your adoption of habits can be pretty straightforward. The biggest obstacle to me is usually myself.
If I allow my past identity, for example, the belief that I’m an overeater, it’s easy to revert to old habits.
We must move on from old identities and allow a new identity to take shape.
Friends and Acquaintances
Another risk is your friends and family. Often you live with a particular identity in your group. For instance, many of my social groups know me as a heavy eater. At times if someone wasn’t going to finish something, they’d give it to me. (Only if they hadn’t eaten off of it, I wasn’t an animal.)
So it reinforced a view of myself as the person that could eat well. I wore it as a badge of honor. But it causes some level of conflict when I cut back.
Those around me are used to me filling a specific role. It’s somewhat minor but fascinating when you think about it.
My social circle tends to reinforce a bad habit as part of my identity. But, it’s not on my friends because this is an identity that I chose to embrace.
Moving forward, I have to break this identity and choose to say no when it comes up.
Habit change can be hindered by your social group. Yet, it’s possible to change your identity.
5-second rule — Mel Robbins
I came across this awesome video from Mel Robbins about how she was able to change her life. She began creating habits using the 5-second rule. Waking up, she would count down, and it helped her get out of bed to start the day.
When faced with hard decisions or conflict, she’ll use the countdown to clear her mind and act. The concept is that the countdown creates a cue in your mind that helps get you to work.
It’s an excellent way to start a habit and can be used to safeguard the good practices you have begun.
The Hard Stuff
Safeguarding a habit might be more profound than the habit. I have heard many times, you are a subtotal of your 5 best friends. It may come a time that you have to change friends and limit family members. The reason, it will be necessary to reinforce the new identity you have created.
It can be challenging. People won’t always understand. But, it’s part of the process.
Breaking bad habits
When we look into breaking bad habits, there’s more to it than stopping one habit and starting a new one. Likely a bad habit is linked to a routine. A woman goes around the same donuts in the break room. A man goes to the same area every day for a break which makes smoking easier.
If we focus on creating intentional routines that push us toward new habits. We have a better chance of seeing actual change.
Atomic Habits stated the importance of utilizing 1% gains for continuous improvement. The strength of our routines will provide the power to lock in these small habits.
Focusing on habits can lead to shortcuts instead of locking-in consistent routines. Which can lead to long-term change. The goal isn’t to create a short-term change but something lasting.
- I got some great insights from the Harvard Business Review.
- PsyPost has some remarkable insights on the neuroscience behind habits.