Good habits *can* be easy to start and even return to.
It’s about perspective.
Here’s a simple change of view…
Trying to lose weight, trying to get the project done, trying to establish that hygiene routine…
Ah, good habits! That’s what I need…
Good habits sound great, offering the promise of completing work, staying on top of things, and keeping healthy.
But as lovely as they sound, habits may have been quite difficult to establish.
There are a number of approaches. James Clear’s Atomic Habits does a nice job of outlining the components of habit and their benefits over time.
Another way is “Don’t Break the Chain” described by Jerry Seinfeld’s method of writing comedy. The idea is to continue doing something every day without ever breaking the chain.
But, these may not be enough.
Thinking through details of a habit and the day can feel exhausting. “Breaking” a chain can feel awful, not to mention fueled by a negative motivation, a fear that only grows larger as the chain grows longer.
I often find that a shift of perspective can make an enormous difference.
Perhaps musically biased, I like the word “rhythm” rather than “habit”.
This change might seem to only be a change of word, semantics. However, there are vital differences:
- A beat is created by a single tap. Just like a tap on a drum, you don’t need much to create a sound. Your tap is tiny, the drum does the rest. For a life rhythm, you only need to pay a visit, being with the work, and consider what it would take to gently nudge it forward.
- A rhythm is established with two beats.
- If you miss a beat here or there, a rhythm still carries. There is no “chain” to break.
- When rhythms come together, you get a syncopation of beat. When sounds come together you get a harmony. Different things happening at the same time create a new thing. They tend to support each other.
- A rhythm is a part of a phrase. It can come and go. You can put one aside for a while, and return later, or not–as you decide. In music, the chorus generally shouldn’t always be running.
So in practice, the load of creating a rhythm is much lighter than that of a habit. You only need to visit twice and you’ve started something. If you notice it has drifted away, you can always begin the phrase again. And like a musical phrase, it will mean something different based on the sounds and rhythms surrounding it.
Creating a rhythm is much easier than a habit. Do something twice, then actively decide if you want to continue. You’ll have built up the momentum to carry you forward and you maintain the agency to decide what you want to do with it.