A habit is a routine that you keep repeating without really thinking about it. But when does a routine become a habit? And when is a habit a good habit?
1. You are consistent.
You wake up every day at 8:30 am. That’s a habit. Even if the alarm does not go off, you still wake up at that time.
True, sometimes you might oversleep or wake up earlier. But those days are the exceptions that make the rule. The rule is your good habit of waking up at 8:30 AM.
Consistency is how you get results. Imagine exercising for two months, and then stopping. Sure, you got stronger and leaner during those two months. But what’s going to happen once you stop? Bye-bye flatter belly and leaner legs.
Build the habit so that you get to keep everything you get.
2. Doing it moves you closer to your dream life.
How’s the image of you in your dream life? Are you, say, healthy and fit?
If it is your dream, for example, to be healthy and fit, exercising now is a good habit to have–it gets you closer to the fit image of you in your dream life.
At the same time, sinking on the couch for hours while drinking beers might be a bad habit for you–it definitely doesn’t move you closer to your dream life of a healthy and fit you.
With everything that you do, ask yourself: “Does this move me closer or farther away from my dream life?” The answer might surprise you!
3. You don’t have to use willpower to do it.
When you get in the car and put your seat-belt on, you hardly have to persuade yourself to do it. You just do it.
Now compare this to exercise. Most people have to fight with themselves to get off the couch and do it. Why? Because exercise is not yet a habit. If exercise was a habit, then these people would also just do it. Exercising would come naturally for them.
Habits don’t require willpower, and if you think they do, then that’s a sign that what you’re doing is not a habit yet.
4. When you don’t do it, you feel “strange”.
You get in the car. You’re about to put your seat-belt on when your phone rings. You answer the phone. You then go ahead and drive, skipping the “put your seat-belt on” step.
Yet, after a few hundred feet, driving feels strange. It’s as if there’s something missing, but what is it?
Oh, right, the seat-belt!
When a behavior is a habit, it’s so ingrained in you, that if for any reason you don’t do it, it feels really weird.
That’s awesome for a good habit like exercise. When it comes to skipping a workout, you might actually feel strange and inclined to actually work out. Yet, that’s bad for bad habits like smoking; you skip a cigarette and just feel like something’s missing, so you go have a smoke.
Habits are powerful in making you act, and they’re hard to resist. Take care of what becomes a habit and what doesn’t.
5. You take pride in doing it.
You are proud of your daily writing routine, just like writer Jeff Goins is for his. Daily writing is such a good habit to have. That’s what makes you a writer. You’re writing day in, day out. Your daily writing is what makes you who you are.
6. You find it hard to help others do it, because it’s so natural to you that you don’t know how to explain it.
Because habits can be unconscious, it might be hard to help others do what you do so naturally.
So if you’re a writer, and have the good habit of writing daily, it might be hard to help others also develop a writing routine. The reason? You don’t really know what makes you write daily. You just do it.
Sure you might come up with tips like “make writing a priority,” but your tips are generic. (Admit it!)
Yet being a bad teacher shows one thing: Writing is a very well established habit! Good for you!
Now having established good habits doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a bad at helping others create a routine. If you have struggled in developing this habit, then your chances of being a good teacher go up dramatically!
But if writing, or exercising, or eating right, or whatever your good habit is, was natural for you to start with, then sorry, you might not be the best teacher.
7. You don’t realize you’re doing it.
A habit might be so well-established that you might not even know you’re doing it. Here’s an example. Have you noticed that some people smile when given a compliment, while others say “thank you”, while others look down because they’re shy?
All three behaviors are habits.
These individuals don’t know they have the habit of smiling, or saying “thank you”, or looking down when given a compliment.
Yet they do it, each and every time.
Similarly, do you remember putting your seat-belt on today? No?
That’s totally normal. Putting your seat-belt on is such an ingrained habit that you just do it without thinking about it. It’s almost unconscious. A good, well-established habit that shows you have done a good job training your brain to make you wear your seat-belt when you get in the car. Nice!
So what habit do you need to work on? What is it that you want to do that makes you think you need more self-discipline, when in fact, you need to focus your attention on building the habit?