How I (finally) found a way to be more consistent with building good habits
Why should you care about forming the right habits?
Here’s a familiar scene: You watch a YouTube video on the benefits of meditation, and before you know it, a spark lights up within you. “I’ll start meditating for 10 minutes everyday, starting tomorrow” . You might actually start meditating the next day, and even carry on for the next few days. But eventually, something breaks our routine — perhaps it’s work, or late night parties. Meditation practices become infrequent, and stop eventually.
Let’s dive into the reasons why forming new habits can seem like a daunting challenge. But before we do, let’s ponder over this fundamental question: Why should we even bother?
Clinical Psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson, offers an answer that hits the nail on the head:
So you don’t suffer any more stupidly than you have to. If you don’t organize yourself properly, you’ll pay for it (sometime in the future)
It’s easy to overlook the power of our everyday habits. They might seem inconsequential, but its the things you repeat every day shapes who you are.
Why then do we struggle to form good habits?
I write from a place of self-introspection. I was too ambitious. I set many goals for myself (learning a language, learning tennis, learning to code), and most of it don’t come to fruition. It was a huge waste of time, and I ended up not achieving much.
I took a step back to ask myself 3 crucial questions:
- What type of habits should I be forming?
- What traits do I want to develop and improve?
- Why do I want to develop these traits? (A deeper guiding question to this: What kind of person do I want to be?)
Start with the “Why”
Start with question 3, and work backwards from there. Because, without a clear “Why”, you might be prioritizing the “wrong” habits, habits that you do not care much for, which makes it difficult to develop and/or sustain a habit.
In tackling this question for myself, I asked yet another guiding question: “how do I want to be remembered at my funeral?” (Things got real pretty fast, huh).
This is what I came up with: I want to be remembered as someone who takes good care of those around me, which entails being extremely capable, dependable, and a good problem solver for anything I put my mind to.
But what has this got to do with me trying to simply live a healthier lifestyle?
My Pentagon Framework
What traits do I want to develop and improve, to become the kind of person I wanted to be (remembered for)?
I listed out the top 5 traits I think I need to have in order to achieve this. I call it “the Pentagon Framework”, just because it sounds cool.
- Mental clarity: Ability to to think sharply, and absorb and synthesize information
- Clarity in speech: Able to translate thoughts in my head and confer it to others in a clear, articulate manner
- Depth in capability: Ability to perform skill sets that add economic value
- Empathy: Be present and a whole-hearted listener to have opportunities to connect with people at a level at a deeper level
- Self-confidence: Intrinsic belief in my own capabilities
Back to Habits
Now that I have a clear direction in the traits I want to develop, there is a clear path on what I should be focusing on. Remember, the things you repeat every day shapes who you are.
Oftentimes, it is difficult to develop ideal self without some regard for physical and mental health. In my case, I’ve formed my diet habits with a focus on ensuring good gut health. Good gut health is correlated to improved moods and cognition. Recall that one of my key development area speaks to mental clarity. Better gut health seemed to have a positive impact on my mood and energy levels, which help with my self-confidence, and increases my capacity to listen more presently when connecting with others.
I’ve essentially convinced myself that good gut health is almost essential to becoming my ideal self, which helped me stick closely to my daily routine for a healthier gut.
The stronger the “Why”, the easier it is to stick to your habits.
More Tips and Tricks
Note that it is normal for you t o break away from your ideal routine from time-to-time, so don’t feel to bad when you do. The key here is to catch yourself when you break away from your ideal routine, and find a way back.
I found that journaling at the end of every night helped me stay consistent to my habit. Recording how you feel when you adhere to your habits, as well as how you feel as you break away from your habits serve as a strong reminder. It is also a good way to remember why you decided to focus on these habits in the first place.