I used to think of habits as either good or bad. In other words, I thought of them as things that are good for me, or things that are bad for me.
Getting up at 6:00am sharp for a jog, eating my “five-a-day,” and passionately reciting positive affirmations in the bathroom mirror – those are all good habits, right?
On the other hand, staying up late, having a cold beer and a greasy pizza for dinner, and watching hours of Netflix – those must be bad habits, surely. Unless, of course, I’ve “earned it,” by eating well and working out all week!
Like millions of people, I used to think this way. I thought that I could feel good by choosing good habits. And that with enough will power, I could tick all the boxes and finally be happy.
But, even after successfully motivating myself to stick to my habits and achieve my goals, it still didn’t make me feel good; or at least not for long – but why?
The last sentence is kind of a hint. I had to motivate myself – which means I didn’t feel like doing those things. So, by doing them anyway, I had basically prioritised my goals over my feelings. I’d done this so often that it felt “normal.” So, without knowing:
I’d made a “habit” out of doing things that were “good,” but they didn’t make me feel good.
And to add to this, I thought that not sticking to those good habits made me a lazy quitter and that I just had to stop procrastinating and try harder!
But the truth is: It had nothing to do with the habits. Instead, it was all about me and my feelings. The “bad” habits felt so bad because I believed that they were bad and therefore, I felt bad about doing them. In fact, even the “good” ones didn’t feel good because I didn’t feel good doing them.
When I finally got this, my perspective completely flipped. I realised that it’s not about doing things that I think will make me feel good; it’s about doing things that do make me feel good! – including some of the things which I’d previously labelled as “bad.” And so:
I’ve made it my new habit to do what feels good.
In fact, this is now my top priority: I meditate in the morning – because it feels good. I listen to my favourite playlists in the shower – because it feels good. I take long walks by the canal – because it feels good.
I see these as my “external” habits, which I know will come and go and change along the way – depending on what feels good to me. But what doesn’t change is my one “internal” habit: To always choose what feels good. And since it feels good to feel good, it requires no effort!