Creatures of Habit
You hear all the time that “humans are creatures of habit”—maybe you make your coffee the same way you’ve made it every morning since college. Maybe you always slightly adjust the mirrors in your car before pulling out of the driveway. Whatever it is, habits are all around us: woven into the fabric of our daily lives more than we may even realize. Habits are effective, because they allow us to put our brain on autopilot, and quickly and efficiently accomplish what we are trying to accomplish.
Some habits can be good and helpful, some can be quite the opposite. This phrase itself, while true, is not always used in a positive context. As much as you hear a lot of positive mumbo jumbo about habit forming, you probably hear just as much negative mumbo jumbo about how difficult they can be to break.
We could write an entirely separate blog about breaking habits, but today the focus is habit forming. We are here to offer you some perfectly reasonable mumbo jumbo all about forming habits - and positive ones at that! If you want to dive deeper into the psychology of habits, how to create them and why they’re so pesky, then keep on reading.
Habit or Routine?
First things first, what is the difference between a habit and a routine? Those are two concepts which seem to be used interchangeably, but are actually markedly different.
A “habit” is defined as a behavior which becomes automatic; they can form without a person intending to acquire them, and they can also be deliberately cultivated or eliminated to suit ones needs.
A “routine” is defined as a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
So, you may have certain habits built into your daily routines - which is part of the reason that they stick! There are probably things you’ve been doing so long that you don’t even need to think about them. Like checking all your mirrors before you back your car out of the driveway, or always sitting on the same side of the couch.
Psychology Today describes it like this:
“While a routine involves repeated behavior, it’s not necessarily performed in response to an ingrained impulse, like a habit is. You might routinely wash the dishes or go to the gym without feeling an impulse to do so because you feel you need to do those things.”
Now how do you work new habits into your life?
What’s The Number?
Ever heard the saying “it takes 21 days to form a habit”? Bannish this from your mind! This statistic is unfortunately bogus, and has probably led a lot of people to believe that habit forming is much easier than it should be. So if you’ve ever tried to build a habit and didn’t have it down in 21 days - don’t feel bad!
The 21 day myth was started by Dr. Mazwell Maltz, in his book “Psycho-Cybernetics”, first published in 1960. The number was based on the situational observation of himself and some of his patients at the time. The book became very popular, and the 21-day-phenomenon was born.
The truth is, there is no magic number for how long it takes to form a habit - everyone is unique, and functions on their own unique timeline! Plus, some habits may be easier to form than others. Reading a few pages before bed every night may be much easier than waking up an hour earlier to meditate. There is no right or wrong, and when trying to build a new habit, focusing on keeping consistent and realistic is the best course of action.
Habit How To
If you’ve committed to forming a new habit, try some of these steps to make the process more effective. And remember, everyone is different! Some of these techniques may work for you, and some may not. The important thing is to not give up.
Find a way to track your progress, so that you can see it. Try dedicating a notebook, calendar or planner to tracking your new habit. Write down every day that it's completed, or track it by filling in a chart, posting stickers or crossing your habit off for the day. Pinterest is a great place to get ideas for habit tracking.
Rewards can be a powerful motivator! Set a goal for how many days in a row you want to stick to your habit, and pick a small reward at the end of the timeframe. It doesn't have to be big, even something as simple as getting a coffee from your favorite coffee place can be a great positive reinforcement.
Have a Habit Buddy
Friends are a great resource! Especially in today's digital world. See if anyone you know is looking to form a habit of their own - start a text thread, schedule weekly calls, or commit to getting together and encouraging each other. Outside accountability can go a long way!
If your goal is to make daily exercise a habit, start by committing to a 10 minute walk a day. Or doing 10 sit ups. Starting with baby steps will make you more likely to complete the task, foster your sense of accomplishment, and leave you feeling confident enough to take on more!
Habits and Declutter Go!
While all these methods are helpful, finding a way to add FUN to your new habit goals may be the most effective method yet! Luckily, we can help with that. When it comes to clutter, taking care of a space consistently is key to making sure clutter doesn’t build up over time and become overwhelming. Getting in the habit of decluttering once a day, one a week, or however often suits you can make a huge difference.
If you’re looking for motivation to declutter, try playing Declutter Go! on a regular basis! The game comes with a built in reward, a built in timer so that you can get it done in short periods of time, and acts as an inanimate accountability buddy. And if you want to share your success with our community, you can join our Facebook group: The Clutter Conquerors, upon purchasing a game!
Once you have your copy, try placing it in the room you want to declutter the night before, to remind yourself of the goals you set, and kick start your habit journey.