Sound familiar? Do you hear yourself saying ‘I really want to do that BUT…’ and adding an excuse? I hear myself saying it from time to time especially when it comes to writing. My best guess is that we are all guilty of wanting to do things during our lifetime but we just don’t get around to making it happen. We tell ourselves that the reasons why we haven’t are legitimate and unavoidable (like running out of time, or that other things have taken priority). And, that may be true.
When something is important to us, we make time for it. Don’t we? Writing is important to me BUT I don’t make enough time for it. I am sure this is the same for you too. So why is this?
There may be one word that helps explain why…
Our habits have a lot to answer for and are usually the reason why we are not doing the things we want to do. We have all heard someone say ‘well if it is important to you, you will make the time or you will make it happen’, and as much as that makes sense, it’s not always true. We can’t just expect that if we want something enough it will just happen, to leave finding time for those things to chance. Nope. We need to have a good system. We need support. We need a strategy. Why? Because most of the time the things we want take time, energy, focus and motivation. Things don’t just turn up because we want them to. We need habits that help us make the time.
For me I love to write and do so by posting to this blog and writing a book but I can go a month without writing a single word in either of those spaces. Why is that? I am motivated to write, I love to write, writing makes me happy yet I just don’t do it often enough. My BUT would be that I don’t have time, or I am too tired or I am exhausted mentally from work. All of those reasons are valid but I am not helping myself as I don’t have a system. I write when I have free time… which is… well not very often!
Let’s look at habits for a minute. They are funny things. Some habits just seem to create themselves without a conscious thought and others take all our might to create! Habits that don’t end up serving us well are the ones that seem to just appear out of nowhere because our human nature has taken an easy path and those habits that we need to live the life we want, well, they are the ones that take a special effort to create.
Let’s get one thing straight though, habits are essential to achieving what we want! When our habits are serving us well, life is easy and we achieve all sorts of wonderful things.
Creating mental shortcuts… now that is a good strategy!
How to create a new habit?
According to James Clear, there are 4 stages to a habit: Cue, Craving, Response and Reward. There is a cue, which makes us crave something which then we respond to and receive a reward. Every habit works this way. So to create a new habit, we need to start by creating a cue.
Taking a look at my own desire to write on a more regular basis, I realise that I don’t have a solid cue that brings me to my computer to write. A cue needs to be specific to work. If I say ‘I want to write 3 times every week’ and leave it at that, it won’t happen. Life gets in the way, there is no specific cue to prompt me to write and before I know it, it is the end of the week and once again no pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). However, if I say ‘I will write before work Tuesday morning between 6:30 and 7:30am, after work Thursday between 5-6pm and Sunday at 3pm’ I am more likely to be successful. This is a ‘time’ cue. When those days and times come around, my mind will associate that time with the action of writing. And the more I stick to it, the easier this schedule will be as it becomes a habit.
Creating habits require the cue, the craving, the response and the reward. It is not complicated but it requires us to place a little bit of effort in at the beginning to gain massive rewards. If learning how habits can serve you is of interest, I highly recommend getting your hands on James Clear’s ‘Atomic Habits’.
What ever is important to you, you can do it by creating a habit that serves you well. Don’t rely on willpower or chance to make it happen, create a really solid system, create the cue and start saying ‘I really want to do that and I AM!’
Are your habits aligned with your vision of you? It may be time to create new ones that serve you well.