Habits: can’t stop, won’t stop

Back in March, I wrote about Building Better Habits. I had just started a new daily plan to incorporate some good habits into my life and maybe get rid of some bad ones. My concern being that this plan would fizzle out and I’d be back to my old ways before I knew it. Then, two weeks into my new daily schedule, I missed one of my habits, breaking my string of perfect days. In the past, that one miss may have been the trigger telling my brain that I should go ahead and give up now.

But this time, things were different.

The day after I broke that first streak, I had to have a talk with myself. Even though I did miss doing one of my habits, I didn’t break my streak for any of the other habits. I just missed the one. So I saw no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Instead, I’d start fresh the next day and redouble my efforts. 60 perfect days later, things are going pretty well.

You don’t know what will stick

When I first started this… project… this journey… I don’t know what to call it, but, when I first started, my main focus was related to working out. I had the idea that I wanted to build up to the point where I’m doing 100 pushups, 100 situps, and 200 squats every day. I started out super slow, adding a couple reps each week. I’m at roughly 45% of my goal and by sticking to my slow growth plan, I’ll reach my goal near the end of summer.

While I’m excited for the workout progress, I’m not really surprised by it. I enjoy working out (yes, honestly), and I knew that if I started off easy and built up slowly, progress would follow. That part isn’t rocket surgery. I am, however, surprised by how one of my other habits have grabbed hold of me. Reading.

While I have always enjoyed reading, for quite a few years now, I simply haven’t made time to do it. So, when I started with the daily habits, I added “Read for 15 minutes each day” to my list. Honestly, I figured if there was one habit that would end up breaking my streak and that I’d eventually remove, it was this one. I had no idea this would be one that would really sink its hooks into me.

A habit leading to more habits

When I first started my reading habit, I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to read. There were two main reasons for that; 1) I don’t think I really expected it would stick as a habit, and, 2) I didn’t think 15 minutes a day was going to amount to very much reading.

I was way wrong on both accounts.

My daily reading habit got a big boost early on when I read two books back-to-back; Why People Fail and Atomic Habits.

I had had Why People Fail saved on the Kindle for a few years. It had been recommended by a couple colleagues so I bought it, but never read it. That’s something I’ve done with a great number of books, btw. What I find funny, had I read the book when I first purchased it, I don’t know that I would have benefited from it as much as I did by reading it this year. I’m in a better headspace and was open to the ideas and concepts in the book.

When I finished WPF, I couldn’t wait to dive into Atomic Habits. By that point, I was about a month into my daily habits and my brain was ready to take what I had been doing already, add in what I had just learned in the previous book, and skyrocket it by reading more about habits. It couldn’t have worked out better. There are so many great concepts in the book, the biggest challenge is figuring out which ones to apply. For me, the one that really stuck out is the idea of Habit Stacking. It’s the idea of stacking a new habit you want to start doing onto a habit you already do daily. For example, you might say “After I brush my teeth, I will do 10 pushups.” You already know you’re going to brush your teeth, so now you just go right from that habit into the new habit you’re trying to build. Do yourself a favor and go read this post about it.

A habit leading to a goal

Since starting my reading habit, I’ve finished 8 books. I can’t think of a single year in my adult life where I’ve read 8 books. While I’m riding high on the success of the habit, I decided that I wanted to set a lofty goal for the rest of the year. I already had a handful of books on my To Read list, but I wanted a few more. I reached out to my buddy Todd who is a veracious reader and always ready with some great suggestions. When I put it all together, my reading list for 2019 tops out at 22 books. That number boggles my mind a little bit.

I have a pretty solid mix of fiction and non-fiction books and they cover a pretty wide spectrum of genres. Some of the best books I’ve ready have come from colleague or friend suggestions. Even though my list for this year is already full, I am already looking for books to add to next year’s list. If you have a book you think I should read, please let me know. If you’d like to get an idea of the types of books I like to read, you can check out the 2019 Reading List page where I am writing a few sentences about each book I read and giving them a quick rating. Drop a comment below and let me hear your recommendations.

Photo by Aperture Vintage on Unsplash

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