I won’t get started on the what and why on habits. You can read books and articles, listen to podcasts and watch videos about habits, why you should have some of your own and how you create them.
Because in this blog post I won’t be talking about how habits can benefit you – but how they have benefitted me. This is because 1) I don’t think I’m that well-read to be qualified to tell you how to create your own habits or how they will benefit you, and 2) I feel that the best way to share inspiration is to tell one’s own story, and in this way create some depth to the topic.
So let’s get started!
Small Things Add To The Bigger Picture
Almost three years ago I was having a lunch with a friend when we were joined by two others I didn’t know from before (one of them is nowadays my partner and we still meet up for lunch with the other one almost every week – life, right?). Somehow, towards the end, the conversation steered into routines everyone had.
One at the table told that his life is pretty much structured by routines – he wakes up at 6.30 every morning, eats the same breakfast, goes to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday and in the evening he always eats the same meal.
I found his way of living more or less predictable and therefore boring. I also told him that, and explained that his routines made me think of my mother who was so predictable with her habits that I could tell quite precisely what she did a certain time in the afternoon after coming home from work.
I was sure I wanted live a life that was completely the opposite of the life my mother was living – because life that predictable seemed to me to be no life at all.
However, as I started to date this routine-based guy and learned to know him, I tried his habits to see how they would benefit my life. And slowly I found out that habits and routines that give structure to your day are actually useful in making rest of your life work. Small things affect the bigger picture more than big things do.
There’s a reason why it seems like habits and routines are one of the hot topics in self-development nowadays – they actually work! Creating habits to build a better life isn’t a sham, they won’t leave you hanging like a two-week-diet or a quick-fix-fit-body-workout might. Habits and routines help you reach your goals in the long run – if you just put your mind to it.
Magical Creators Of Time
I began by waking up at the same time as my partner did – at 6.30AM. Until then I had woken up sometime between seven and eight, most often without an alarm.
After a few weeks of that, I started to eat the same breakfast as he did – muesli with milk. And soon I switched my evening meals to the same he was having – crisp bread with a salty meat topping (a year ago we left out the topping and eat crisp bread with butter instead).
At the time it was a pretty easy thing to do, as we were simply synchronizing our lives. It felt natural and made the life we lived together under the same roof easier.
Now it’s been a few years that we’ve lived this way. We still eat muesli in the morning and crisp bread in the evening, and wake up at 6AM (the half-hour-switch happened a year ago). In addition to that, I have my own morning yoga routine and also own rules for when and where I use social media. I’ve also been able to add some habits to my partner’s life such as croissants and a smoothie as breakfast in the weekends (you know, just because you have habits doesn’t mean they have to be boring).
What I’ve realized is that habits give you structure and better structure gives you more time. When you wake up at the same time every morning and eat the same breakfast, you get more time because you don’t have to think about when is the best time to get up or what you’d like to eat that morning.
And because you eat the same muesli and crisp bread every day, your grocery list suddenly gets simpler and shorter and you save time in the store when you know exactly where you’ll find your food ingredients (the photo above shows what we have in our cabinet – that’s our breakfast and evening meal. The milk and butter are in the fridge, and that’s about all we have, on weekdays at least).
When you do the same yoga routine every morning instead of changing it every week, you’ll actually notice your own development and how you’re able to focus better on your breathing and getting deeper into the poses. You learn to listen to your body better.
Because of habits life gets simpler and easier – instead of having 50,000 thoughts every day (what do I want to eat, should I put tomato or cucumber on the sandwich, which comes first, the meat or the cheese, what should I put in my smoothie this morning, do I want to heat up the milk for my coffee or not… you get the picture) you can have 5,000 thoughts (muesli and milk – breakfast is ready!).
Think about it – suddenly, when you don’t need to think about every detail in everything, you’ll have so much more time to think about something else. Something that really matters, like, what do you want to do with your life? What is the next big goal you have and what are the small steps you need to take to get there? What things matter to you the most?
For me, habits also helped me to get rid of almost 20 kilograms of extra weight. Proper meal times, standardized breakfast and evening meal, regular physical training and self-discipline – those are the habits that helped me get there. The small things helped me reach a bigger goal.
Structure in my life that was created by habits helped me make one of the biggest lifestyle changes I had thought was impossible.
And that’s something, isn’t it?
The Lesson With This Blog Post
As I said in the beginning of this blog post, I won’t be giving you advice on how to create your own habits or how they will benefit you. But I would like to conclude with a few thoughts on creating and having habits, something that I’ve learned along the way.
Take It Easy
Don’t take too big a bite of the cake at once – build your habits one by one with time. If you heavy-introduce everything at once (three workouts a week, earlier wake-ups, standardized meals and so on), your system will overheat and you’ll probably collapse.
Instead, take it easy. Be gentle with yourself. And watch this video in case you’re unsure about what I mean by this.
Don’t just copy other people’s habits
It’s impossible to say which habits you will benefit from the most because only you know yourself and therefore you are the person who knows what you need. So, it’s up to you to think about what you need. You can try out other people’s routines to find out what suits you best – and in time, tailor-make your own habits.
Do you feel like you waste your time in the morning to this and that? Consider creating a morning routine that helps you become more productive.
Do you have trouble motivating yourself to work out? Consider creating a routine that makes sure you get on that running mill a few times a week.
And check out this video for tips on how to master your habits.
Give It Time…
I read somewhere that it takes 21 days to make a habit stick. I don’t know if it’s true but I do think that if you’ve done something for three weeks, it’s definitely easier to continue doing it than it was when you first started.
The most important thing is to keep on going – you probably won’t notice your progress in the beginning. Only now have I started to realize the effects habits have had on both my physical and mental health, two years after I introduced the first habits to my daily life.
… But No Mercy
And remember that creating a new habit takes both time and self-discipline. Even if you have been waking up at the same time for three weeks, it doesn’t mean you can let go of your alarm or give yourself ”a morning off”. Habit is a habit no matter what day it is. You stick to it. Because you’re awesome, you know you can do this. You know this is good for you, so hold on to it.
I’d like to hear what habits you have in your life? Have you tried out any habits that you realized didn’t suit you?