After reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, I was utterly convinced that habits were the way to go! It is all about the journey, not the destination, and habits are what the journey is all about.In a nutshell, habits ensure consistency over a long period of time so we can reach our goals swiftly. So far, so good.
Where does this all go wrong?
We falsely assume that because we build a habit, it will be easy! We believe that if brushing our teeth is a habit, then exercising will become as easy and as simple as our daily self-care practices.
This is where habits are not enough: they do not make things magically happen! Though they ease the process and are useful in building some momentum and consistency, you still have to put in the effort.
Say you want to start writing a book. By building a daily habit of writing at the same time, it will ensure that you create space & time for writing but it will not make writing an easier process.
The effort is always there, especially when it comes to meditation, exercising, writing, etc.
Also, what we are not considering when looking at habits is how our circumstances change. If you decide to write every day when you wake up: Will this still be the same when you are traveling? Or if you are sick? Or if you have an early train to catch? Etc.
So: how can we reach our goals then and still have some great habits?
Here are 3 key principles that help:
- Progress tracking
To stay motivated along the way, you can track your progress. Whether you choose to use a weekly review system, have an accountability partner or coach, is your choice! Some type of tracking is essential for several reasons: it helps you to understand where you are getting stuck; to have some flexibility about the way you reach your outcome; to think creatively and outside of the box of structure.
- Emotional Management
The trickiest part about sticking to habits, and about reaching your goals in general, is to deal with the emotions that come up: boredom, anxiety, fear of failure, frustration, impatience…
Creating a habit won’t rid you of these emotions. It’s important to keep in mind that habit-building does mean that there is less resistance in general, so it is still worth doing – but you also need to manage your emotions when they show up!
To deal with your emotions, you can: raise awareness of how you are feeling, accept it, and let it go by processing it (through journaling, talking, breathing, walking, or any other mindful activity).
- Build resilience
In the sticky patches or the plateau of latent potential (as James Clear calls it), resilience needs to be your best friend – the asset you turn to in times of trial and difficulty. To build this resilience, you can use a stoic approach: the dichotomy of control or strengthening the inner citadel. In other words, you can use your strengths to help you to move forward. A great combination of strengths and self-acceptance is the key to a more resilient self!
On a final note, yes habits are fantastic and will help you to reach your goals! Noticing where habits fall short and what you can do about it – through tracking progress, managing your emotions and building resilience, will be the counterbalance to the brilliance of habits!
Thank you for reading,