3 Hidden Reasons Habits Fail
I've had some good brainstorming sessions with a few friends lately about why, despite our best intentions some habits just don't stick . Here are some of the things the habits that haven't worked have had in common-
1. You’re trying to set too many habits at once.
Narrowing your goals for a season down to just one habit, one rhythm, and one project is, I think, the hardest part of the Pace & Pattern method. This is especially true when it comes to choosing just one habit. I’ve seen people (myself included) try to get around the one-habit rule by making their habit something like “morning routine,” which includes:
- Wake up at 5:30 am
- make bed
- stretch for 15 minutes
- unload the dishwasher, and
- make a to-do list for the day.
I get it. When you look at your life, it's easy to want to “fix” everything all at once. The problem is, trying to form 5 habits in one go is exhausting and nearly impossible to maintain long enough to actually be sustainable.
Real change takes time. Spend three months focusing on one small change and you are much more likely to actually see it happen.
2. Another habit needs to happen first.
Don’t skip ahead. Handle foundational habits first. For instance, I have a friend who wanted to get in shape, but was struggling to establish the habit of running every day. When I chatted with her about her habit everything sounded good: she was trying to do it every day at the same time; she had a nice little reward and tracking system figured out; there was no obvious reason why this habit wasn’t happening. Then as we continued to talk, I found out she was only getting roughly five hours of sleep at night. There wasn’t anything wrong with her habit formation plan; her problem was having enough energy to feel rested enough to form her exercise habit. She had to handle her sleep habit first.
Gretchin Rubin says, “From what I’ve observed, people who get their basic Foundation habits under control find it easier to add additional good habits, even if those habits don’t seem to relate."
Figure out what habits are what my friend Megan calls, “linchpin habits:” the ones that if you really put the work into establishing, would serve as a foundation for all the other habits that follow. Usually these aren’t glamorous- it might be something simple like running the dishwasher every night or waking up 15 minutes earlier. One good starter habit might be setting aside time to plan your day before it starts.
3. The time slot doesn’t work.
The last hidden reason habits fail is all less about the habit and more about when the habit is (or isn't) happening. If the time slot you’ve allotted for your habit doesn’t match your natural energy levels, that can throw things off, like if you are trying to memorize scripture right before bed and fall asleep every time.
The other time related issue is the time you’ve given to your habit isn’t consistent. My husband Joseph was trying to form a habit during his lunch break, but ended up having lunch meetings some days or working through lunch other days, making the habit spotty at best and nearly impossible to do on autopilot.
Choose a time that 1) matches your habit in terms of your energy levels, and 2) is as consistent as possible.
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