Habits are the foundation of greatness. Well, at least that is what is being shared. “Habits will make you successful” is another one of those quotes that catch on. They are amazing and have been the reason that I have been productive for the last year or so. But what if habits won’t stick? This might be one of your greatest agonies. It was mine too. I just couldn’t seem to stick to them. For some reason, my body couldn’t handle the routine. It got tired or bored from them pretty quickly.
For almost half a year, maybe more my morning routine looked like the following. Getting up at 7 or 8 am, going downstairs eating breakfast, and switching on the tv scrolling through the YouTube feed. First started watching my subscriptions which at that time were a lot of people. Most of them doing daily, or by daily videos. So there was always something to watch for me. I did this for about an hour, then get up wash my plate, and grab me a cappuccino. I watched the coffee and the foamed milk dance with one another and then moved back to the couch. Maybe grabbing a little snack on my way back. I would sit down again and continue watching until about 10 or 11 am. Sometimes until lunch break and then moving on to Netflix watching an episode of chefs table. I highly recommend you watch it by the way! But of course at moments that don’t interrupt our entire productivity.
After that, I would most of the time to one or two things that were on my to do list and stop. Then continued watching different YouTube video or twitch streams. Weirdly enough at this time of my life, I felt incredibly useless and demotivated. I knew I wanted to write more and create a blog, but it just never got off from the ground. I had my website and it was all ready to go. The only thing I had to do was, start. So I tried to get up at 7 and create a morning routine for myself. And oh man was this rough for me. The first day of getting up at 7 was fine. I just got up, but what next? I hadn’t planned out anything, I didn’t know what the next part of my routine was. So the easy answer would be to get back into bed. So most of the time did till 8 or 9 am. Then again watching YouTube videos like normal. This continued for a while. Still getting up at 7 but just getting back into bed. Slowly but surely I started to cut down on the YouTube time. Now only watching an hour a day and then doing something like write or create something for Instagram. After about half a year of doing this YouTube morning routine, I got back into school. This was the switching point. Knowing what to do again. Having that clear sense of meaning again. No, it wasn’t school itself but the school gave me that drive again to focus on what I wanted to do all along.
That was the breaking point of making habits stick one by one. Habits seem to be easy but if you do not have a clear sense of why you do it, they won’t stick. There is no reason for them to stick. So here are 5 reasons why they won’t stick.
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5 reasons why your habits won’t stick
- A clear sense of why
This is the most important one. Without this, you will not stick to any habits that you want to stick to. You see in the story I shared with you my sense of why was just watching YouTube videos. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I knew I wanted to write but if that’s all you know you will not make money with it, set aside that you will get to do it. A clear sense of why is essential to stick to these habits. This for me happened when I got back into school. I don’t like the study I am currently following, I did love this part though. I chose to learn about creative writing and this was the best decision I made in the past two years or so. It has impacted my drive and sense of why so deeply that it will not be shaken off quickly.
During this next half year, I had to write, almost every day, at a project that was close to my heart. My very own book. It’s called embrace grace. It’s not finished yet, but I hope to finish it somewhere in this year or the beginning of next year. This required me to stick to a habit. So I did. I got up early, meditated, had breakfast, read a book for about an hour, and then started writing. This habit has stuck with me to this very point. Only letting it go for about two weeks this summer. It was not that I didn’t know how to do these habits, but that I didn’t know why to do them. If I had known that if I’d stick to a series of habits in the morning, I would be able to write three entire chapters of my book in just three weeks I would have already done it.
The point is, I didn’t know. I just didn’t. I kept my vision towards writing but never thought about why I wanted to do it or what I wanted to write. If you do not have clear what it is you want to do or where you want to go these habits you want to acquire will not stick. There is no purpose for them to be there. For example, if you want to become a barista. What would you do? You would find a masterclass or something like a course to follow. The key to this masterclass is that you go there for two weeks each day. This way you learn to be a barista. But if you have a goal to just make coffee you could do that at home. It doesn’t require you to get up and out early in the morning. It just requires a coffee and something to make it with. You can get out at noon and then make a cup of coffee. Whereas the barista had to get up at 6 and drive to the masterclass to learn how to make the right coffee. That’s the difference. The barista had a clear sense of what she wanted to attain and why.
There are two books I would highly recommend you read. These have nothing to do with habits but have everything to do with finding a why. Meaning or purpose. This is the foundation of any successful and creative person. They all act upon the notion of a clear sense of why. So, if you can pinpoint your ‘why’, you will be off to the races. The books I would recommend you read are:
- Start with why An explanation on why starting with why is so important. This is a must-read if you want to start a business or find your passion.
- Find your why This is the practical guide to finding that clear sense of why. With exercises and questions to give yourself.
- You don’t like them
The next one on the list is you don’t like them. A logical one, but I overlooked it. I just wanted to be successful and productive. That was the goal. But what if you are successful and productive? What then? Wasn’t the goal to be happy? It is, isn’t it? You should ask yourself with everything you do if it will bring you joy right now or in the long term. If the answer is no don’t do it. For most habits, you won’t get the instant gratification of happiness. Rather it is built over time. But that doesn’t mean habits should be an extreme drag for you.
Trying to get out of bed each morning at 5 am could be one of those things for you. Nobody said you must do that to be successful. 7 am or 8 am is fine too. Just know that there is more potential to be interrupted during the rest of your routine.
“Habits only stick if you like them”
Please keep that in mind. So next time you choose a habit, make sure you like it. Or make sure it will bring you more joy because it frees up time for the things you love. Like getting up early. It isn’t that much fun, but it frees up so much time for you to do what you love that it is worth it.
- Too much effort
Another one might be that the habit you want to start with is too much effort, or too big for you to stick to. For example, if I would want to write 6000 words each morning that would not stick. 6000 words every morning to start with is freaking hard. By now I write about 2000 to 3000 words in an hour if I have planned out a post well enough. But most of the time it will take me a few hours to complete one of these blog posts. So for me to finish something that is 6000 words long in just a morning would be absurd. This is way too much effort and I will not stick to it. The way out is easier and more rewarding than the way in. So start small.
Author of Automic Habits James Clear writes about this saying that if you only improve 1% a day you will grow exponentially. All you need is to be that 1% better than the day before. Just 1%? That’s it. Breaking down a habit into these small steps will quickly lead to your desired outcome. So instead of starting with 6000 words, I started with 1000 words a day. By now I won’t quit until I finished a blog post and that is about 3000 words. I write these in about 1.5 hours. This is all I ever wanted. Being able to write and create great long value content without having to hassle and sweat so much each day. Leaving plenty of room for more activities during the rest of the day.
That is really what habits are about. Making big tasks achievable by dividing them into smaller bits and doing them with clear devotion and focus.
- Too many at once
Next to doing too much is doing everything at once. It is an amazing feeling if you can stick to one habit for about a week or two but that initial spark is contagious. Maybe a bit too contagious. Instead of adding a new habit to the list, you might want to add three more. All at once. That’s a no go. Unless you’re a genius at sticking habits, but then why would you be reading this post, you would not be able to stick all of these habits at once. Habits just like plants and flowers need time to grow.
Most of the time a plant grows a leave or branch one at a time. It will never grow a branch and try to grow three new branches on that very same branch shortly after. If the branch is hardly developed it can not hold up the weight of the three new branches. So it will snap off leaving the tree with no branch at all. The same goes for your habits. If you can stick to one habit let it nourish a bit longer. Let me grow stronger before adding new habits to the list. This way the first habit you stuck to will not break and the next habits you add will be more successful leading you to a more peaceful and joyful life in my opinion.
- It needs time
I often break habits in the process of sticking to one. For example, getting up early has and still is, a struggle for me. I do not sleep in but I want to get up at 6 or maybe 5. I just can’t seem to stick to these habits yet. Instead of getting mad at myself for not sticking to them, I am content. There is no reason for getting mad at yourself. Forming habits takes time and trial and error. Maybe getting up this early is not the right move for me right now. So I try different tactics or try to slowly creep towards 6 am by slowly subtracting time from my alarm clock. There is no rush in sticking to these habits. They will stick whenever they want to stick. That process can’t be forced.
I wanted to force it but all it brought to me was watching more YouTube videos each day. Right now if something like getting up earlier fails or doesn’t work I don’t care. I just go on to the rest of my habits and complete those. One day I will stick to getting up at 6 am or maybe 5 am. For now, 7 am will do fine. That’s completely fine with me. Just don’t worry so much about instantly finding a habit that is perfect for you. This takes time and tweaking to fit perfectly into your life, your schedule, and lifestyle. This is an important one to remember.
“Don’t blame yourself if things don’t work out. If they don’t work out it is a reminder for you to tweak them to the point where they will work out.”
We are no machines
Habits can easily make us productivity machines but we should always keep in mind that we weren’t meant to be machines. We create machines, but we are humans. And humans should always remind themselves that it is about the experience, not the result. It doesn’t matter if some habits don’t work out for you, as long as you try and enjoy your life that is all that matters. Stay in your bed a bit longer if you like it, don’t write as much, or don’t do the dishes each morning. Rather try to be present and always ask yourself “If I stay in bed a little longer will I be happier?” The same goes for the other questions. If it makes you happier stick to doing it. If it doesn’t tweak it and make it better. We are all individuals that are differently wired.
Try to appreciate the process of sticking habits, even when they don’t work out. Habits can help us live a more peaceful, meaningful, and joyful life. Focusing on the task at hand and knowing that the rest will flow from that. We should strive to appreciate every habit we already have, even the bad once and try to get better once in place. But understand that as the most beautiful flower in your garden, it takes time to get to its most beautiful state. So do you. Take your time and in the end, you will reach that state. Because all that matter is, Today I Lived!