#9 - The Power of Habit

Let’s talk about habits for a minute. Habits define who you are as a person. The habits you’ve had throughout your life have made you who you are today, and the habits you have going forward will shape the person that you become.

So yeah, habits are really important.

For most of my life, the majority of my habits were completely unconscious. With the exception of brushing my teeth.

The part of me that suffered the most from this was my mind. Whereas sports had required me to have physical habits that kept me strong and healthy, no such activity existed for my mind.

School was not adequate for building the mind that would make me happy. Memorizing facts and cramming for tests wasn’t exactly the golden ticket to understanding stress, emotions, or much about myself at all.

It was through meditation that I found the pathway to a happy mind. Once I found meditation, I knew it was the key to figuring out my internal issues.

As I got into meditation, I started doing it more and more. But it wasn’t a habit in those early years. I did it when I could. Luckily I had a few classes and groups that created some accountability. Without that structure, I wouldn’t have made much progress.

For the first 5 years into my practice I meditated when I could, which usually meant a few times a week. Then, as a 22 year old young professional living in Atlanta, I was listening to a podcast one day when I heard about the importance of having a morning routine.

And this was the turning point. I created a morning routine that had 15 minutes of meditation. I started doing it every day, and quickly realized I was seeing much more benefits from a shorter, daily, practice then a sporadic practice of longer sits.

This was the first habit I ever consciously created in my life. I powered through it, but it was certainly hard to make it stick. And that’s because I wasn’t aware of the psychology of habits.

Shortly thereafter, a friend sent me the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and I realized I had been going about it all wrong. I had been trying to force this habit into my life without rewarding myself for doing the meditation afterwards.

And that was the key to really making the habit stick. I decided that after my morning routine each day I would reward myself with some delicious breakfast. Then, all of a sudden doing my morning routine became easy because I knew a reward would be coming.

It’s just like how you train a dog using clickers or a treat. You reward good behavior. When your brain receives a reward after taking an action, it starts to associate that action with a positive outcome (i.e. the dopamine hit my brain gets after eating breakfast).

Have you ever struggled to make a routine stick? If so, I recommend using the psychology of habits to your advantage. This knowledge has helped me to build daily routines into my mornings that legitimately sometimes make me feel like I’m the happiest man on earth.

Also, I used rewards to motivate myself to write this post tonight. I gave myself permission to have a second dinner (don’t judge, I’m still hungry) once I finished this post.

You can build whatever habits you want into your life. And if you want to do great things, this is a must. Use psychology. Read The Power of Habit. Most importantly, always reward yourself.

What habit could you build into your daily life starting today that will help you achieve your dreams?