Why habit forming is more important than doing your thing every day

The buzz you get from a row of Xs

It’s a nice feeling to get a row of Xs across your calendar indicating that every single day for a week you went for a run, did your sun salutation, worked on calculus, meditated, or stuck to your healthy eating plan, wrote 1,500 words, or whatever it is you’re trying to do. It gives you a buzz. It makes you want to get another X tomorrow. If you’ve managed to stick to a new habit for several days in a row, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You might have other smaller but no less important goals: be kind to someone, smile, get out of bed, have a shower. Again, if those are your goals, seeing that row of Xs showing that you did it every single day is a good feeling. For a while.

The reason you decided to do those sun salutations

Here’s the thing. Why did you want to, say, do sun salutations or practice calculus every day? Unless you’re the sort of person who picks random goals for no reason – and that’s unlikely – you decided to do it because doing those sun salutations or working on your maths is IMPORTANT to you. In fact, your thing is so important to you that you set a goal to do it every day. Reason number two: NOT doing your thing makes you feel like you’re not being the best version of you. You’ve set this goal because the BEST VERSION OF YOU does sun salutations, or calculus, or meditates, or eats healthily, or writes, or runs, or practices kindness, or gets out of bed, or has a shower, or fill in your goal here.

That ‘get back under the covers’ feeling

Not all of us have experienced feeling you get from those Xs in a row on the calendar. Almost everyone has experienced the opposite of that row of Xs. The day we didn’t do our thing. If running is your thing, it’s the day you got back under the covers and didn’t go for the run because it was cold and rainy. Perhaps writing is your thing, and you let other people get in the way of your writing time. You didn’t protect it. You were exhausted and watched TV with a glass of wine or a big mug of tea instead.

I bet you know what I’m talking about. In fact, the idea of relinquishing our goals and hiding under the duvet / collapsing on the sofa instead is a cultural cliche. I can easily refer to it and you know what I mean. It’s easy to forget that everyone needs a duvet day or a bit of TV once in a while.

Let yourself off the hook

Here’s the difference between success and failure. The people who succeed in finding time to do the thing they really want to do are the ones who didn’t get a row of Xs but next time they got the chance – to run, to write, to meditate – they did it anyway. You’ll get demotivated if you try to do something every day and don’t actually manage it, so let yourself off the hook. Be kind to yourself.

Try this simulation experiment

If your thing is IMPORTANT and the BEST VERSION OF YOU does it regularly then it is far, far too special to let it drop because you didn’t get a row of Xs. Imagine yourself turning up to do fill in your goal here. Where do you do it? How do you do it? What does it feel like? What do you have to do to prepare? Try an experiment, just for a couple of minutes. Simulate actually doing it in your head – that is, walk yourself through it mentally. When you do this you’ll find that it is doing the thing itself that is fulfilling, not the row of Xs on the calendar.

Turn up regularly NOT every day

The best way to get this goal achieved is to turn up again and again. Turn up regularly, but you don’t have to turn up every day. If you want to find out how to create a regular habit read my free ebook Find Time to Do the Stuff You Love to Do.

Good luck,

Louise xxx


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