There is more I want to tell about yesterday’s blogpost on how I stopped with some bad habits. It’s not that I’m constantly trying to change myself or that I always succeed when I want to end with a (in my opinion) bad habit. But when I succeed, it usually has to do with the following three simple rules:
- Begin now.
- Make it a new habit by embedding it into a plan.
- Don’t give up.
The first rule is related to fairness. To myself. Do I really want to change something or is it just that I want to show my better side to other people? In many cases I plead guilty for that last reason. How easy it is in certain situations just to state firmly that it is time to change yourself for the better. And right away! That is, tomorrow. Or after the weekend. Or when a new year has started.
Why not begin right away? If you cannot or don’t want to answer this question then something is seriously wrong with your motivation. Even if you right before bedtime think that it would be good for you to start with running several times a week, you can start right at the same moment. Maybe not by putting on your running clothes and go for a first run in middle of the night (although there is nothing really against it). But you can already lay aside those same running clothes, prepare a simple breakfast and set your alarm clock a half or full hour earlier. As you know, a good preparation is half the work.
Once started the next step is to make it part of your routine. When you ask me I would say that this is only possible by putting up a schedule and stick to it. For sure in the early stages. Again the example of running: reserve two or three days on your calendar when you want to start with your training. Explain at your work why you leave early or arrive later so that your colleagues are aware of this and will not be surprised when you decline for some meetings. My experience is that a few weeks are enough for a new habit to become part of your routine.
The final rule is that of perseverance. Keep going. Do not give up too soon. And I am referring now to the activity itself. Again running: once you succeed to work out several times a week, try to improve in these sessions. Hold on to the next bend in the road. Only slow down at the roundabout. And so on. But this is of course also applicable to any other activity like for example reading a book. Do not stop too soon. Read to the end of a chapter. Or to a particular page number.
This all crossed my mind when I was reading a blogpost from Leo Babauta at his Zen Habits site1. It’s about procrastination, but the positive side of it. How often is it that you read that people tend to postpone things. Apparently this is deeply ingrained in us. Instead of picking up that book for further reading we continue surfing on the internet. Why not turn this around to something positive? When you are reading and feel the urge to check your twitter account, wait for a while. Instead read on. Until you feel that urge again. And delay a second time.
It is a kind of reversal of the ‘Hold on, don’t give up’ rule. Keep running. Delay slowing down as long as you can. You finally want to write that book? Do not start things which don’t not contribute to finishing your first draft. Eat more healthy? Wait as long as you can with eating unhealthy foods.
Delay delay delay.
It seems so simple but is powerful at the same time. At least when you’re really motivated to change.
So, beginning today with postponing all of your bad habits of which you want to get rid of is the first thing you need to do. And focus on the good habits that you want to learn.
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A nice interview with Leo Babauta is available at the site of Natasha Oosterloo. ↩