A few days ago, I was trying to figure out why I succeeded at building some habits and failed at building others. Why had some goals been practically effortless and others excruciatingly difficult until I gave up?
For instance, this blog. In March of 2014, I wrote the first post and was very idealistic about it all. I wrote a few more and fizzled out until June, when I did about the same thing: a few posts, then nothing. Then December came, when I randomly decided to write a post and then happened to feel inspired to set out to continue blogging again. And now we are here, 38 weeks later, and there has been a post every Friday since the New Year. None of you will understand how strange that is for me. I am (almost) never consistent in doing, well, anything. Wanting to find out how I could carry this success over to other habits, I’ve tried repeatedly to understand how it happened. But before I give my theory, I’d like to show some other examples.
For a long time, I have made my bed every day. It’s a simple habit, but one that is (supposedly) a “keystone” habit, meaning it has a ripple effect through your life and tends to change other habits. I didn’t try to make it a habit, I just started doing it. I didn’t write out a plan and then check it off with a bunch of X’s, and I didn’t download an app. I just did it. Which, you know, would be expected with that kind of habit.
Now for a more recent example: I decided I was going to start running (really jogging, but running sounds cooler). So one day I just ran around the block, and I really liked it. So I did it again, this time listening to a podcast. Then I decided to run farther. Then I ran so far that I had to walk back to the house. Then, just yesterday and this morning (I am writing this on Wednesday), I ran more than a mile, and walked the rest of the way home. I know, a mile isn’t crazy long, but I’m improving. This is a strange thing for me. Usually, to begin a habit like this, I had to get a special app or write out a plan or listen to a podcast or read online about it. At least I thought that was needed. In reality, the obsession killed the growth. It was like shining bright sunlight through a magnifying glass at a tiny sapling. It couldn’t handle it, and ultimately was destroyed. Something that it needed (in small doses) killed it.
Not all people are “prone to obsess” like I am, but if you are, or if you get close to it sometimes, then this idea will be especially helpful to you.
Just do it.
Yeah, Nike was right. If you want to build a habit or work on a goal, then just start!
If you want to start blogging, then just write your first post! The next week (or month), write another post. Just keep doing it, but don’t hyper-focus on it.
If you want to start reading aloud to your kids, then just grab a book, gather them around, and read for a few minutes. The next day, just do it again. No calendars. No plans. Just daily action.
If you want to start spending time in prayer and Bible reading every morning, just lay out your Bible one night and decide to read it the next morning. Don’t pat yourself on the back for success, and don’t shame yourself for failures. Just remember that we (as Christians) are holy and blameless in Christ, and that anything you do should just be because of interest in the things of God and thanksgiving towards God. (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 8)
If you want to stay hydrated, just start by drinking a glass of water at each meal. Then use some kind of simple reminder system (like leaving a cup out) to drink a glass of water along with something else you do, like reading or watching TV.
Not that I’m an expert, but if you want to lose weight, start eating more vegetables and slowly reduce how much other food you eat. Doing things like drinking more water, exercising (of course), and using a smaller plate can also help too. The point is to just start.
If you want to start running, don’t download a couch-to-5k app. Just go run! Put some ear buds in, walk out the front door, and run. Then keep setting out your shoes every night and running the next morning. After a while, you might find that you have a new habit.
I’m not saying plans aren’t ever necessary. Obviously that’s not the case. But here’s my theory: plans aren’t necessary near as much as we think they are, and if a habit or goal is difficult, it may just be because you’re making it out to be more difficult, and if you just start, it will be a lot simpler.
Thanks for reading, I hope this has helped you and inspired you to go tackle your goals!