“The chains of habits are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” -Samuel Johnson
To a large extent we are what we do every day. To an even larger extent, the human experience is a habitual one. This is why it isn’t that surprising that for the majority of us, even our thoughts are habitual. I have read that as much as 95% of our some 60,000 thoughts that fill our minds and shape the way we see the world are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before that. It takes a lot of energy and attention to think outside the box, especially our own box. Yet, most of us don’t even realize how stuck we are in old useless thought patterns that don’t serve us and even keep us from living the life we say we want.
If it takes a lot of intention to change our thinking, it should come as no surprise that changing our behaviors even by 5% is even more of a challenge. And staying with our changes takes active perseverance for months. I recently came to realize this in my own life. I started the year determined to re-engage with my daily writing practice, which had been so instrumental in shaping my positivity quest and helping me to know and understand my own thinking. I thought I was committed because for the first ten days of the month, I was on it.
I wasn’t being as zealous as the first time though, I gave myself a pass when I was exhausted and couldn’t focus on writing. In part this is an easy behavior to support because I am also committed to reforming my relationship to rest and honoring my fatigue. Yet, striking the balance in habits is a tricky affair and easily can slide into the insidious slippery slope of avoidance. It is hard to catch because it feels like tiredness but before long, days have gone by and I have not written a single page.
Here is the tragic and ironic truth about our habits: most bad habits are easy to make and hard to break, while the good habits that we would choose take more energy to make and are dangerously easy to break. I am not sure what it says about us as a species, but it does explain why so few of us are living the lives we intend and even more rarely recognize and act from our true greatness.
So here I am again, publicly declaring my commitment to writing every day. Establishing good habits is encouraged by sharing them with others and are maintained more easily when you make reasonable rules to follow. One of my earliest resolutions about picking up this daily writing again is to commit to doing it in the morning when my ideas are fresh from sleep and I am inspired by meditation. The recent stretch of failed writing days were all a result of trying to write at the end of a long day looking backwards.
This is not how positivity reinvents us. So here is my new rule. Write something every day before noon. Self imposed rules are a great tool to make good habits stick.
The payoff is how satisfying it feels to live the life you dream of.