The Power of Habit

I’ve been hitting the gym consistently for about six weeks now.

I’m getting to the point where I don’t even really give it a lot of thought, I just go.

Yesterday, I did my workout and all. Last evening a friend came over and she’d had a stressful day. She wanted to go for a walk instead of having a martini and growling about the troubles, so we did.

I was a little sore the next day, and my joints were a bit creaky. (Walking a lot does that to me. There’s a reason I’m a dedicated swimmer). But, I didn’t even consider blowing off my swim with the excuse I’d already gotten in some extra cardio. I had kind of an excuse — a photo shoot during my normal swim time. Yet, when I got home from the shoot, I packed up my gym bag and just headed to the pool without giving it a second thought.

That’s the power of habit. I didn’t spend time making a decision about whether or not to work out. I just did it because that’s what I do every day. Utterly without thought. Went to the gym and because it’s Wednesday, I swam my mile.

I only got to thinking about it while I was enjoying the fact that getting the blood pumping with no stress on my joints was making my joints feel better. It amused me1.  It also got me to thinking about habit in general and how it works for you or not.

I think the cool thing is that you can make it work for you. We talk “Bad Habits” all the time because they seem like chains that bind us.  The thing is, we don’t honor the good habits we have as the wonderful safety harness that they are.  I think that’s a mistake.  I also think it’s a mistake to look at habit changes in terms of the negative.  You know “breaking” a bad habit?   Because when you’re trying to change a habit, you’re also trying to build a good habit.

I find for myself I’m a lot more successful at going to than running from.  The exercise habit is a good example, but there are others.  I’ve developed mental habits over the years that are not as big and obvious, but my goodness they’ve been wonderfully productive.  In each case, they’ve been a case of “going to” rather than giving a lot of energy to the old, negative habit.  Instead, in the instances where I’ve been successful, I’ve had a replacement positive I was trying to build.  Focusing on that works a lot better for me.

Specific and measurable also works a lot better for me as well.

So, instead of “quit being disorganized”, you’d look at it as, “I spend five minutes every evening putting everything that’s collected on the counter by the entrance to the house in its proper place.”  At first you’ll concentrate on it.  At first you’ll get excited about racking up your string of successes.  And this is good.

But at some point, it’s just what you do and you kind of forget about it.

1 For the record, I don’t recommend laughing when you’re trying to take a breath doing the crawl. Just a little tip.

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