Amonth ago, I resolved to publish an article every week no matter the odds. Since then, it has been anything but a smooth sail. There have been nights when I could write four articles in one sitting as well as others when I keep staring blankly at my voiceless keypads until one of us gives in to the creative process.
Also, a week ago, I set a challenge for myself to make my bed every morning and that too has been gruesome. Sticking to this challenge has seen me miss the bus to work, trip on my shoelaces while rushing out the door and squash bananas on my already-made bed while trying to multitask.
While the two scenarios I described above could not be any more different from each other, one truth threads finely through them both.
“Building a habit takes discipline.”
Very many of us make thoughtless remarks about how we want to start doing a couple of things and make them a habit. January 1 is probably the date when we hear a lot (too much, actually) of such statements. We kick off nicely for the first few days or weeks but begin to falter afterwards only to then completely abandon trying to develop that habit.
But the truth is that developing a habit is both easy and difficult. It is easy in concept, but difficult in its application and even more so in its sustenance. But there’s a hack!
“The key to developing or losing a habit lies in its exception.”
Here’s what that means.
Developing a habit requires you to do the same thing repeatedly over a set period of time and remain consistent with it even beyond. Making an exception (i.e. an excuse to skip it for just once) disrupts that rhythm. Once the rhythm is disrupted, the habit is lost even before it forms.
I learnt that the hard way when I had earlier wanted to make journalling every day a habit. Everything was going well until I made an exception. Until I missed that one day. Then it became two days. Then another day. Then a week. Then it was all gone.
Losing a habit always begins with you making one exception.
“Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.” — Paulo Coelho
Making one exception is not the end of that habit you are trying to develop. It only marks the beginning of the end. You can still avoid completely ruining that embryonic habit and realigning to the narrow path. But once you make the second exception, you’re bound to make the third; and we know how it all ends.
So this is why I have been missing buses, tripping on shoelaces, and leaving buttprints on my chair as I strive to build new habits. What I am really fighting is making that first exception.
Winning that fight is the hack to building new habits. Never make that first excuse!