Establishing Meaningful Habits

In focusing life, you will notice the sudden creation of more time after reducing your commitments and activities to the essentials.

But you don’t mindlessly use this extra time doing meaningless things or laze around all day.

You replace it with meaningful habits.

We are what we do every day. Our human existence is based on our habits. Even our thoughts are habitual. Studies say that 95% of the thoughts that fill our minds and shape the way we see the world are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before that.

Unfortunately, habits have two faces: positive and negative. It’s therefore important to watch, examine, build, or change our habits according to our values and to the benefit of those around us. If we fail to do this, our habits will break us.

Here are a few tips on how to successfully create or change a habit.

5 Simple Tips for Habit Creation

1. Renew your mind and just start. 
It begins with your thoughts. The mind is like a locomotive driving the whole train. When we change our thought pattern, our habits will change, then our behaviors, then our character.

When I was establishing the habit of running, I merely took the first steps of getting up from bed, lacing on my shoes, and going out and starting to run. I tried to be mindful in every step.

2. Start small. The first day, I ran for only 2 kilometers, and gradually increased a kilometer a day. That way, my muscles didn’t become sore, and I enjoyed the activity.

No matter how much enthusiasm we have in creating habits, when we don’t start slowly, it is doomed to failure.

3. Make a plan and log your progress. It is not enough to say to yourself “I will eat healthier starting next week.” Good intentions are not enough. You must make a plan. Write it down.

When I decided to eat healthier, my wife and I talked about our weekly menus and the food she would cook and how she would cook it. We agreed on everything. I even made a log on what I eat every day so that I would be conscious and accountable.

4. Enjoy the habit. It’s basic: we won’t last long if we don’t enjoy what we are doing. Learn to love the habit you are creating, not by reprogramming your mind to love something you hate, but by appreciating the good things that come from your new habit and finding the things about the habit that you enjoy.

I try to be as mindful as I can through each activity. I notice my heart beat while I run. I let go of all worries while meditating. It’s liberating when you are in the moment.

5. Be consistent. Finally, we should repeat, and repeat, and repeat what we are doing. Habits are born that way. If you miss a day, do it the next day. If you miss again, do it the day after that. Don’t quit.

Habits are things that we do over and over again, and the great thing about repeating and repeating is that, eventually, you won’t really have to make yourself repeat it. It becomes a part of you, of your lifestyle and who you are.

As in all things worthwhile, effort is important. Nothing beautiful comes easy. I try my best to be as consistent as possible. If I miss a day, which sometimes I do, I don’t make it an excuse to miss again the next day.

Writer's Note: This is an excerpt from my book "Simplify Life... and Make it Count." Get it in Kindle.